Friday, January 8, 2016

$5.6 million in Cuba grants up for grabs

Department of State
Public Notice
Funding Opportunity Number: DRLA-DRLAQM-16-045

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Statements of Interest: Programs Fostering Civil, Political, and Labor Rights in Cuba

I. Requested Statements of Interest Objectives
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 project concepts and that have capacity to manage projects that will foster civil, political, and labor rights in Cuba.

PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly encourages applicants to access immediately or in order to obtain a username and password. is highly recommended for all submissions and is DRLs preferred method of receiving applications. To register with for the first time, click “Login to GrantSolutions” and follow the “First Time Users” link to the “New Organization Registration Page.” On the next page, click on “Continue the GrantSolutions registration process without a DUNS number” if you do not have a DUNS number and registration. Otherwise, select the option that best fits. For more information, please see DRL’s Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in July 2015, available at:

The submission of a SOI is the first step in a two-part process. Prospective applicants must first submit a SOI, which is a concise, three-page concept note designed to clearly communicate a project idea and objectives without requiring development of a complete application. Upon review of eligible SOIs, selected prospective applicants will be invited to expand their ideas into an application. The intention of requesting SOIs first is to provide prospective applicants the time to develop ideas to promote internationally-recognized individual, civil, political, and labor rights - as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments - in Cuba.

The Cuban government fails to respect freedom of speech and the press, limits internet access, maintains a monopoly on political power and media outlets, circumscribes academic freedom, and maintains 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 the capacity of on-island, independent civil society to further the rights and interests of Cuban citizens, and to overcome the limitations imposed by the Cuban government on citizens’ civil, political, labor, and religious rights. DRL strives to ensure its projects inter alia advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most vulnerable, marginalized or at-risk populations. In particular, programs should support the realization in Cuba of rights enshrined within Articles 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among others.

DRL prefers creative approaches rather than projects that simply duplicate or add to efforts by other entities. This does not exclude projects that clearly build off existing successful projects in a new way. DRL encourages applicants to foster collaborative partnerships with each other and submit a combined SOI in which one organization is designated as the lead applicant. The applicant should also demonstrate experience programming effectively within Cuba and/or within other closed society environments.

Projects should offer a specific vision for achieving change while acknowledging obstacles that would have to be overcome. Projects should include concrete initiatives that reflect recent developments on the island and consultative dialogue between the applicant and Cuban civil society. Activities should have potential for short term impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms.

Successful applications in the past have considered South-South exchange or reflected the linguistic needs and capabilities of target beneficiaries in the development of any off-island activities. Successful applications have also considered practical limitations of groups and individuals’ ability to participate in project activities and strive to ensure the beneficiary organizations will continue to function while certain of its members are participating in off-island activities.

All programs must comply with federal financial regulations and emphasize approaches to monitoring and evaluation that measure impact on the island.

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 such as labor groups, civil and political rights groups, and religious freedom advocates, and that encourage the participation of marginalized populations;
• Capacity building on and off of the island. Off-island activities sometimes include short-term fellowships;
• Access to software that would be easily accessible in an open society, or the adaption of said software for the Cuban technological environment;
• Monitoring and evaluation methodologies to assist in measuring impact on the island as stated in the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI);
• 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 typically are NOT considered competitive include:

• The provision of large amounts of humanitarian assistance;
• Initiatives directed towards government institutions, individuals employed by those institutions, or organizations controlled by government institutions;
• English language instruction;
• Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware;
• Purely academic exchanges or fellowships;
• External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;
• Off-island activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or that do not respond to security concerns;
• Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed primarily at research and evaluation that do not incorporate training or capacity-building for local civil society;
• Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives;
• Activities that go beyond an organization’s demonstrated competence, or fail to provide clear evidence that activities will achieve the stated impact;
• Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of Cuba.

Approximately $5.6 million in programming will be supported, pending availability of funds.

II. Eligibility Information:
Organizations submitting SOIs must meet the following criteria:

• Be a U.S.-based or foreign-based non-profit organization/non‑government organization (NGO), or a public international organization; or
• Be a private, public, or state institution of higher education; or
• Be a for-profit organization or business, although there are restrictions on payment of fees and/or profits under grants and cooperative agreements, including those outlined in 48 CFR 30 (“Cost Accounting Standards Administration”), 48 CFR 31 (“Contract Cost Principles and Procedures”); and
• Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders including industry and NGOs; and
• Have demonstrable experience administering successful and preferably similar projects. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal awards. These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.

Organizations may form consortia and submit a combined SOI. However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant.

DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited. For-profit entities should be aware that their applications may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process.

DRL is committed to an anti-discrimination policy in all of its projects and activities. DRL welcomes SOI submissions irrespective of an applicant’s race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other status. DRL welcomes SOIs from organizations working to ensure that the most at risk and vulnerable communities, including women, youth, persons with disabilities, members of ethnic or religious minority groups, and LGBTI persons are included in project activities.
No entity listed on the Excluded Parties List System in the System for Award Management (SAM) is eligible for any assistance or can participate in any activities under an award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.”
Organizations are not required to have a valid Unique Entity Identified (UEI) number, formerly referred to as a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number, and an active registration to apply for this solicitation through However, if a SOI is approved, these will need to be obtained before an organization is able to submit a full application.

III. Application Requirements, Deadline, and Technical Eligibility
All SOIs must conform to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in July 2015, available at

Complete SOI submissions must include the following:
1. Completed and signed SF-424 and SF424B, as directed on or (please refer to DRL’s PSI for SOIs for guidance on completing the SF-424); and,
2. Executive Summary (not to exceed three [3] pages in Microsoft Word) that includes:
a) A table listing:
i. Any countries that would be involved in the proposed activity apart from Cuba;
ii. The total amount of funding requested from DRL, total amount of cost-share (if any), and total program amount (DRL funds + cost-share); and,
iii. Program length;
b) A synopsis of the project, including a brief statement on how the project will have a demonstrated impact, engage relevant stakeholders, and identify local partners as appropriate;
c) A concise breakdown explicitly identifying the project’s objectives and the activities and expected results that contribute to each objective; and,
d) A brief description of the applicant(s) that demonstrates expertise and capacity to implement the program and manage a U.S. government award.
An organization may submit no more than one SOI. SOIs that request less than $500,000 or more than $2,000,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.

Technically eligible SOIs are those which:
1) Arrive electronically via or by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 5, 2016 under the announcement title “Programs Fostering Civil, Political, and Labor Rights in Cuba” funding opportunity number DRLA-DRLAQM-16-045.
2) Are in English;
3) Heed all instructions and do not violate any of the guidelines stated in this solicitation and the PSI for Statements of Interest.
For all SOI documents please ensure:

1) All pages are numbered;
2) All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper; and,
3) All documents are single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. Captions and footnotes may be 10-point Times New Roman font. Font sizes in charts and tables can be reformatted to fit within one page width. and automatically logs the date and time a submission is made, and the Department of State will use this information to determine whether it has been submitted on time. Late submissions are neither reviewed nor considered unless the DRL point of contact listed in section VI is contacted prior to the deadline and is provided with evidence of system errors caused by or that is outside of the prospective applicants’ control and is the sole reason for a late submission. Prospective applicants should not expect a notification upon DRL receiving their SOI. It is the sole responsibility of the prospective applicant to ensure that all of the material submitted in the SOI submission package is complete, accurate, and current. DRL will not accept SOIs submitted via email, fax, the postal system, or delivery companies or couriers.  DRL strongly encourages all prospective applicants to submit SOIs before the due date to ensure that the SOI has been received and is complete.

IV. Review and Selection Process

The Department’s Office of Acquisitions Management (AQM) will determine technical eligibility for all SOI submissions. All technically eligible SOIs will then be reviewed against the same four criteria by a DRL Review Panel, which includes quality of project idea, project planning, and ability to achieve objectives /institutional capacity, and inclusive programming. Additionally, DRL will evaluate how the SOI meets the solicitation request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and the priority needs of DRL overall. Panelists review each SOI individually against the evaluation criteria, not against competing SOIs. To ensure all SOIs receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Panel will review the first page of the SOI up to the page limit and no further. DRL encourages organizations to use the given space effectively.
In most cases, the DRL Review Panel includes representatives from DRL and the appropriate Department of State regional bureau, which may request feedback on SOIs from the appropriate U.S. embassies. In some cases, additional panelists may participate, including from other Department of State bureaus or offices, U.S. government departments, agencies, or boards, representatives from partner governments, or representatives from entities that are in a public-private partnership with DRL. Once a SOI is approved, organizations of successful SOIs will be invited to submit an application based on their SOI. Unless directed otherwise by the organization, DRL may also refer SOIs for possible consideration in other U.S. government related funding opportunities. The Grants Officer Representative (GOR) for the eventual award does not vote on the panel. All Panelists must sign non-disclosure agreements and conflict of interest agreements.
The Panel may provide conditions and recommendations on SOIs to enhance the proposed project, which must be addressed by the organization when submitting an application. To ensure effective use of limited DRL funds, conditions or recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and project activities.
Review Criteria

Quality of Project Idea
SOIs should be responsive to the solicitation, appropriate in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy. DRL prioritizes creative approaches rather than projects that simply duplicate or add to efforts by other entities. This does not exclude projects that clearly build off existing successful projects in a new and innovative way from consideration. In countries where similar activities are already taking place, an explanation should be provided as to how new activities will not duplicate or merely add to existing activities and how these efforts will be coordinated.

Project Planning
A strong SOI will include a clear articulation of how the proposed project activities and expected results (both outputs and outcomes) contribute to specific project objectives and the overall project goal. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable, results‑focused, and achievable in a reasonable time frame.

Ability to Achieve Objectives/Institutional Capacity
SOIs should address how the project will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate. If local partners are identified, prospective applicants should describe the division of labor among the prospective applicant and any local partners. SOIs should demonstrate the organizations’ expertise and previous experience in administering successful projects, preferably projects targeting the requested project area or similarly challenging project environments.

Inclusive Programming
DRL strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of all persons, including women, youth, people with disabilities, members of racial and ethnic or religious minority groups, and LGBTI persons. To the extent possible, organizations should identify and address considerations to support inclusion of these populations in proposed project activities. Strong justifications should be provided if unable to incorporate the most at risk and vulnerable populations within proposed project activities. SOIs that do not include this will not be considered highly competitive in this category.

For additional guidance, please see DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in July 2015, available at

V. Additional Information
DRL will not consider SOIs that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization. No entity listed on the Excluded Parties List System in SAM is eligible for any assistance.

Project activities that provide training or other assistance to foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.

Restrictions may apply to any proposed assistance to police or other law enforcement. Among these, pursuant to section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA), no assistance provided may be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country when there is credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights. In accordance with the requirements of section 620M of the FAA, also known as the Leahy law, project beneficiaries or participants from a foreign government’s security forces may need to be vetted by the Department before the provision of any assistance.

Organizations should be aware that DRL understands that some information contained in SOIs may be considered sensitive and will make appropriate efforts to protect such information. However, organizations are advised that DRL cannot guarantee that such information will not be disclosed, including pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or other similar statutes.

Organizations should also be aware that if ultimately selected for an award, the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards set forth in 2 CFR Chapter 200 (Sub-Chapters A through F) shall apply to all non-Federal entities, except for assistance awards to Individuals and Foreign Public Entities. Please note that as of December 26, 2014, 2 CFR 200 (Sub-Chapters A through E) now applies to foreign organizations, and Sub-Chapters A through D shall apply to all for-profit entities. The applicant/recipient of the award and any sub-recipient under the award must comply with all applicable terms and conditions, in addition to the assurance and certifications made part of the Notice of Award. The Department’s Standard Terms and Conditions can be viewed at

The information in this solicitation and DRL’s PSI for SOIs, as updated in July 2015, is binding and may not be modified by any DRL representative. Explanatory information provided by DRL that contradicts this language will not be binding. Issuance of the solicitation and negotiation of SOIs or applications does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government. DRL reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the project evaluation requirements.

This solicitation will appear on,, and DRL’s website

Background Information on DRL and general DRL funding
DRL is responsible for promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally. DRL supports projects that uphold democratic principles, support and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, prevent atrocities, combat and prevent violent extremism, and build civil society around the world. DRL typically focuses its work in countries with serious human rights violations, where democracy and human rights advocates are under pressure and where governments are undemocratic or in transition.

Additional background information on DRL and its efforts can be found on and

VI. Contact Information Help Desk:
For assistance with accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please contact Customer Support at or call 1-866-577-0771 (toll charges for international callers) or 1-202-401-5282. Customer Support is available
8 AM – 6 PM EST, Monday – Friday, except federal holidays. Helpdesk:
For assistance with accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or email The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.

See for a list of federal holidays.
For technical questions related to this solicitation, please contact

With the exception of technical submission questions, during the solicitation period U.S. Department of State staff in Washington and overseas shall not discuss this competition until the entire review process has been completed and rejection and approval letters have been transmitted.


Rich Haney, Cubaninsider said...

I had the honor of being the fist to give your excellent Cristina Escobar video a "like" on YouTube. Why is it not posted on Along the Malecon? You remain the best investigative journalist regarding Cuba. I have watched your videos in which Cuban dissidents present their views, which is fine, but you also uniquely present both sides of the two-sided Cuban conundrum, via interviews with Marta Rojas, Cristina Escobar, etc., as well as your important Freedom of Information data on this blog. Ms. Escobar, the dynamic young Cuban television anchor, had 15 minutes of American fame this summer in Washington covering the last of the four Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic sessions. But her influence among the twenty-somethings in Cuba will, I think, continue to impact what is now already a transition to a fast-changing post-Castro Cuba, because it is her generation that will determine so much of Cuba's future. Thus, Ms. Escobar's heartfelt opinions, not to mention her talent, are well worth noting and worth watching. Thus, your Pulitzer help is being amply rewarded.

alongthemalecon said...

Thanks for the kind words, Rich. I wrote a story to go along with the Cristina Escobar video and am waiting for it to be published. I will cite it on Along the Malecón once it's out.