$11 million in Cuba grants up for grabs

News from Cuba | Monday, 29 December 2014

The blockade failed to force the 'regime change' successive US administrations wanted in Cuba, so now they will fund external organisations to achieve their "pragmatic objectives" through other methods, as this report by Tracey Eaton for Along the Malecon makes clear.

Along the Malecon, 25 December 2014:

The State Department on Wednesday 24 December announced that it is looking for U.S.- or foreign-based organizations interested in running programs aimed at boosting civil, political and labor rights in Cuba.

The department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor expects to award up to $11 million in grants, ranging from $500,000 to $2 million each.

Statements of interest from organizations hoping to receive funds are due Feb. 5, 2015.

The bureau's announcement says it will give priority to proposals that "emphasize the role of Cuban partners in developing and achieving programmatic objectives."

Perhaps that language was added in light of the Obama administration's Dec. 17 decision to pursue diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Excerpts are below:

"The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI) from organizations interested in submitting Statements of Interest (SOI) outlining programs that will foster civil, political, and labor rights in Cuba.

"DRL invites organizations to submit SOIs for programs that promote internationally-recognized individual, civil, political, and labor rights - as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements - in Cuba.

"The Cuban government fails to respect freedom of speech and the press, restricts internet access, maintains a monopoly on political power and media outlets, circumscribes academic freedom, and maintains some restrictions on the ability of religious groups to meet and worship. The government refuses to recognize non-governmental human rights groups or permit them to function legally.

"The government continues to prevent workers from forming independent unions and otherwise exercising their labor rights. Common human rights abuses on the island include those involving the abridgement of the right of citizens to participate in their government, including through periodic and genuine elections, as well as the use of government threats, extrajudicial physical violence, intimidation, organized mobs, harassment, and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly. In addition, the government continues to engage in or permit the following abuses: short-term, arbitrary unlawful detentions and arrests, harsh prison conditions, selective prosecution, and denial of fair trial. Authorities also interfere with privacy, engaging in pervasive monitoring of private communications without legal authority and with impunity.

"DRL programs in Cuba aim to strengthen on-island, independent civil society capacity to further the rights and interests of Cuban citizens, and to overcome the limitations that have been imposed by the Cuban government on citizens’ civil, political, and labor rights. In particular, programs should support the realization in Cuba of rights enshrined within Articles 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 19, 20, 21, and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among others.

"A highly competitive statement of interest would generally:

"Propose concrete initiatives that reflect ongoing dialogue between the applicant and Cuban civil society, as well as recent developments on the island;

"Demonstrate the applicant’s experience programming effectively within Cuba, or within other closed society environments;

"Prioritize South-South exchange, or reflect the linguistic needs and capabilities of target beneficiaries, in the development of any off-island activities;

"Reflect an effective, multi-dimensional strategy for confronting longstanding challenges;

"Offer a specific vision for achieving change, while acknowledging obstacles that would have to be overcome in order to achieve that change;

"Emphasize the role of Cuban partners in developing and achieving programmatic objectives.

Activities that are typically funded include, but are not limited to:

"Organizational assistance to Cuban civil society to improve management, strategic planning, sustainability, and collaboration of local civil society groups;

"Off-island trainings, short-term fellowships, or engagement;

Distribution of software that would be easily accessible in an open society, or the localization of said software for the Cuban technological environment;

"Baseline surveys or analyses for the purpose of facilitating implementation and improving monitoring and evaluation;

"Assistance mechanisms designed to provide independent Cuban civil society with tools, opportunities, and trainings that civil society counterparts in open societies can access.

"Activities that are not typically funded include, but are not limited to:

The provision of large amounts of humanitarian assistance;

English language instruction;

Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware specific to Cuba;

Purely academic exchanges or fellowships;

External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;

Off-island activities for Cubans that are not clearly linked to on-island initiatives and impact;

Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues in Cuba, including programs aimed primarily at research and evaluation;

Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives;

Activities that go beyond an organization’s demonstrated competence, or fail to provide clear evidence of the ability of the applicant to achieve the stated impact;

Initiatives directed towards the Cuban diaspora rather than current residents of Cuba."

"DRL encourages applicants to foster collaborative partnerships; applicants are invited to form consortia which submit a combined SOI, in which one organization is designated as the lead applicant. DRL also strives to ensure its programs advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most vulnerable or at-risk populations.

"Approximately $11 million in programming will be supported, pending availability of funds.

"An organization may submit no more than two applications. Applications that request less than the award floor ($500,000) or more than the award ceiling ($2,000,000) may be deemed technically ineligible."

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