Department of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Statements of Interest:
DRL FY20 Burma Democracy and Human Rights Programs
I. Requested Objectives for Statements of Interest
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 capacity to manage projects in Burma that will: promote fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly; prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations; and increase political participation and protection for members of Burma’s religious and ethnic minority groups.
PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly encourages applicants to immediately access SAMS Domestic or www.grants.gov in order to obtain a username and password. For instructions on how to register with SAMS Domestic for the first time, please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions for Statements of Interest at: https://www.state.gov/proposal-submission-instructions/.
The submission of a SOI is the first step in a two-part process. Applicants must first submit a SOI, which is a concise, 3-page concept note designed to clearly communicate a program idea and its objectives before the development of a full proposal application. The purpose of the SOI process is to allow applicants the opportunity to submit program ideas for DRL to evaluate prior to requiring the development of full proposal applications. Upon review of eligible SOIs, DRL will invite selected applicants to expand their ideas into full proposal applications.
REQUESTED STATEMENT OF INTEREST PROGRAM OBJECTIVES
U.S. human rights and democracy assistance in Burma will be tailored to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, responsible business and development practices to advance human rights, and a broad and inclusive democracy that provides equitable representation and protection under law for all members of Burma’s religious and ethnic minority groups. It will also provide for the protection of and advocacy for the rights of the most vulnerable, including youth, women, and religious and ethnic minorities.
Proposed programming must be responsive to immediate needs in-country; flexible in its ability to respond to the shifting context; and in line with the U.S. Government’s democracy, governance, and human rights goals for Burma. Helpful resources for applicants include the annual Burma Human Rights Report, International Religious Freedom Report, and Trafficking in Persons Report (https://www.state.gov/reports-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/).
Applicants must clearly designate under which category the SOI is being submitted for consideration, in addition to organization name, proposal title, budget amount, program length, and point of contact.
With the above in mind, DRL invites organizations to submit statements of interest for programs in the following areas:
FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS. Programming should protect and advance fundamental freedoms, in particular freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and movement, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:
- Empower civil society to engage in domestic and regional advocacy to support the development of laws that protect the exercise of freedom of expression online and offline and the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and movement. This may include building the capacity of local advocates to encourage the reform or repeal of laws and policies used to criminalize and restrict free expression, association, movement, and peaceful assembly; supporting implementation of existing laws that protect and promote the exercise of free expression, association, movement, and peaceful assembly; enhancing domestic and regional advocacy networks to increase coordination; and fostering like-minded coalitions of civil society, the private sector, and other relevant stakeholders to advance fundamental freedoms.
- Expand public support and demand for the protection of fundamental freedoms. This may include raising awareness within communities of fundamental freedoms and protections under existing domestic and international law; strengthening community engagement with local and national government policymakers to advance freedoms of expression, association, movement, and peaceful assembly; encouraging public debate and attention on fundamental freedoms through increased media reporting and civic activism; designing and implementing public advocacy campaigns.
- Provide technical, tailored support to civil society groups and activists to advance freedom of expression online and offline and the freedoms of association, movement, and peaceful assembly. This may include providing basic skills and training in democratic activism, including advocacy, community organizing, and coalition-building; providing ongoing mentoring, coaching, and networking opportunities to participating activists and organizations; developing sustainable tools and approaches to achieve impact on policy outcomes related to freedom of expression online and offline and freedoms of association, movement, and assembly.
- Strengthening the resilience and security of civil society and human rights defenders promoting freedom of expression online and offline and the freedoms of association and assembly. This may include providing targeted digital security and safety capacity building support, as well as psychosocial support and assistance for activists; developing mechanisms and strategies to respond to imminent threats and opportunities to advance free expression, association, movement, and assembly.
BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS. Programming should promote responsible business practices to advance human rights and prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses committed in or resulting from investment, development, and other business operations. Programming should focus on one or more of the following areas:
- Empower civil society to monitor and address the human rights, labor, social, and environmental impacts arising from investment, development, and other business operations. This may include improving civil society watchdog and oversight functions; providing training and support to civil society and local communities to exercise their rights under domestic laws to influence business and investment practices such as participating in environmental and social impact assessments and other consultative processes; providing basic skills and training in democratic activism, including advocacy, community organizing, and coalition-building; providing ongoing mentoring, coaching, and networking opportunities to participating activists and organizations advocating for business and human rights issues; developing sustainable tools and approaches to achieve impact on policy outcomes related to business and human rights.
- Address the adverse effects on human rights arising from foreign direct investment and business activities of multinational corporations. This may include promoting corporate transparency and accountability; strengthening the capacity of civil society to document human rights and labor rights abuses arising from foreign direct investment and multinational corporations and advocate for remedies and reform; provide training and support to civil society to utilize corporate accountability tools, trade agreements, and other international and regional mechanisms to curtail human rights abuses, support internationally recognized labor rights, and strengthen responsible business practices to advance human rights.
- Advance legal and regulatory reform leading to sustainable, responsible, and inclusive development and investment. This may include supporting locally led advocacy efforts for legal reform that strengthen human rights and labor rights safeguards in business and development; improving civil society policy research and analysis skills to more effectively engage with policymakers and influence the development of public policy and legislation addressing business, development, and supply chain practices; strengthening community engagement with local and national government policymakers to address local concerns arising from business, development, and supply chain practices.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Programming should promote broad and inclusive democracy that provides equitable representation and protection under law for all members of Burma’s religious and ethnic minority groups. Programming should focus on one or more of the following areas:
- Strengthen legal protections for members of religious and ethnic minority groups. This may include pressing for changes to laws and policies that systematize racism and discrimination based on religious and ethnic identity; supporting strategic litigation to push for changes to laws and policies that allow for religious and ethnic discrimination; improving civil society policy research and analysis skills to more effectively monitor and collect data about both governmental and societal religious freedom abuses and engage with policymakers to influence the development of public policy and legislation addressing discriminatory laws targeting members of religious and ethnic minority groups; fostering cross-sectoral linkages between civil society, religious leaders, and government policymakers to facilitate dialogue that will advance legal and policy reforms addressing systematized racism, hate speech, and discrimination of members of religious and ethnic minority groups.
- Promote full participation in Burma’s political process for members of religious and ethnic minority groups. This may include addressing barriers to access and participation in the political process; strengthening the ability of members of religious and ethnic minority groups to engage local and national government policymakers on social, political, and economic issues; supporting targeted advocacy and locally-led campaigns to raise public awareness and support for inclusive politics and rights protections for religious and ethnic minorities.
OTHER PROGRAM INFORMATION:
Applicants should conduct program activities throughout Burma and prioritize working with a variety of local actors in program activities and fostering linkages between civil society and advocates in the core and peripheral areas of the country. Competitive projects will recognize the shifting opportunities and challenges inherent in Burma’s democratic transition, including following the 2020 elections and ongoing peace process, and demonstrate flexibility by discussing how proposed activities could adapt to changing political conditions. Projects should prioritize work with a variety of actors as part of any program activities and leadership opportunities, including religious and community leaders, youth and students, women, marginalized and underserved communities, and local authorities as appropriate. DRL seeks a program approach that prioritizes opportunities for sub-grants and other methods of support to address needs identified by local beneficiaries. If already working in Burma, applicants should address how their proposal application complements or expands upon existing work,
Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms, and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources. DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way.
To maximize the impact and sustainability of the award(s) that result(s) from this SOI/NOFO, DRL reserves the right to execute a non-competitive continuation amendment(s). Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and availability of funds. A non-competitive continuation is not guaranteed; the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not exercise the option to issue non-competitive continuation amendment(s).
Activities that are not typically considered competitive 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;
- Purely academic exchanges or fellowships;
- External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;
- Off-shore activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary due 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;
- Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of targeted countries.
II. Eligibility Information
Organizations submitting SOIs must meet the following criteria:
- Be a U.S.- or foreign-based non-profit/non-governmental 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 (noting 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”, and 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 private sector partner and NGOs; and
- Have demonstrable experience administering successful and preferably similar programs. 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.
Applicants may form consortia and submit a combined SOI. However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant with the other members as sub-award partners.
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 its application may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process, and that the Department of State generally prohibits profit under its assistance awards to for-profit or commercial organizations. Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs. The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures. Program income earned by the recipient must be deducted from the program’s total allowable costs in determining the net allowable costs on which the federal share of costs is based.
DRL is committed to an anti-discrimination policy in all of its programs and activities. DRL welcomes SOI submissions irrespective of race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other status.
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.” Additionally, no entity listed on the EPLS can participate in any activities under an award. All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the EPLS in SAM to ensure that no ineligible entity is included.
Organizations are not required to have a valid Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number—formerly referred to as a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number—and an active SAM.gov registration to apply for this solicitation through SAMS Domestic. However, if a SOI is approved, these will need to be obtained before an organization is able to submit a full application. Therefore, we recommend starting the process of obtaining a SAM.gov registration as soon as possible. Please note that there is no cost associated with UEI or SAM.gov registration.
III. Application Requirements, Deadlines, and Technical Eligibility
All SOIs must conform to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in September 2018, available at https://www.state.gov/proposal-submission-instructions/.
Complete SOI submissions must include the following:
- Completed and signed SF-424 and SF424B, as directed on SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov (please refer to DRL’s PSI for SOIs for guidance on completing the SF-424); and,
- Program Statement (not to exceed three  pages in Microsoft Word) that includes:
- A table listing:
- Name of the organization;
- The target country/countries;
- The total amount of funding requested from DRL, total amount of cost-share (if any), and total program amount (DRL funds + cost-share); and,
- Program length;
- A synopsis of the program, including a brief statement on how the program will have a demonstrated impact and engage relevant stakeholders. The SOI should identify local partners as appropriate;
- A concise breakdown explicitly identifying the program’s objectives and the activities and expected results that contribute to each objective; and,
- A brief description of the applicant(s) that demonstrates the applicant(s) expertise and capacity to implement the program and manage a U.S. government award.
An organization may submit no more than 2 SOIs. Funding requests less than $750,000 or more than $1,000,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.
Technically eligible SOIs are those which:
- Arrive electronically via SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov by 11:59 PM EST on January 11, 2021 under the announcement titled “DRL FY20 Burma Democracy and Human Rights Programs” funding opportunity number “SFOP0007458”.
- Are in English;
- 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:
- All pages are numbered;
- All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper; and,
- 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.
Grants.gov and SAMS Domestic automatically log 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 a system error caused by www.grants.gov or SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.servicenowservices.com) that is outside of the applicant’s control and is the sole reason for a late submission. Applicants should not expect a notification upon DRL receiving their SOI. It is the sole responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all material submitted in the SOI package is complete, accurate, and current. DRL will not accept SOIs submitted via email, fax, the postal system, delivery companies, or couriers. DRL strongly encourages all applicants to submit SOIs before January 11, 2021 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: quality of program idea, inclusivity of marginalized populations, program planning, and ability to achieve objectives/institutional capacity. Additionally, the Panel will evaluate how the SOI meets the solicitation request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and DRL’s overall priority needs. 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. All Panelists must sign non-disclosure agreements and conflict of interest agreements.
In most cases, the DRL Review Panel includes representatives from DRL policy and program offices. Once a SOI is approved, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposal applications based on their SOIs. Unless directed otherwise by the organization, DRL may also refer SOIs for possible consideration in other U.S. government related funding opportunities.
The Panel may provide conditions and/or recommendations on SOIs to enhance the proposed program, which must be addressed by the organization in the full proposal application. To ensure effective use of limited DRL funds, conditions and recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and program activities.
DRL’s Front Office reserves the right to make a final determination regarding all funding matters, pending funding availability.
Quality of Program Idea
SOIs should be responsive to the program framework and policy objectives identified in the RSOI, appropriate in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy. Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term, sustainable reforms. DRL prefers new approaches that do not duplicate efforts by other entities. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way. 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. SOIs that promote creative approaches to recognized ongoing challenges are highly encouraged. DRL prioritizes project proposals with inclusive approaches for advancing these rights.
Addressing Barriers to Equal Participation
DRL strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of all persons. As the U.S. government’s lead bureau dedicated to promoting democratic governance, DRL requests a programming approach dedicated to strengthening inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies. Violence targeting any members of society undermines collective security and threatens democracy. DRL prioritizes inclusive and integrated program models that assess and address the barriers to access for individuals and groups based on their religion, gender, disabilities, ethnicity, or sexual orientation and gender identity. Applicants should describe how programming will impact all of its beneficiaries, including support that specifically targets communities facing discrimination, and which may be under threat of violence.
A strong SOI will include a clear articulation of how the proposed program activities and expected results (both outputs and outcomes) contribute to specific program objectives and the overall program 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 program will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate. If local partners are identified, applicants should describe the division of labor among the applicant and any local partners. SOIs should demonstrate the organization’s expertise and previous experience in administering programs, preferably similar programs targeting the requested program area or similarly challenging environments.
For additional guidance, please see DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in September 2018, available at https://www.state.gov/proposal-submission-instructions/.
V. Additional Information
DRL will not consider applications that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization. Please refer the link for Foreign Terrorist Organizations: https://www.state.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations/. Project activities whose direct beneficiaries are foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.
In accordance with Department of State policy for terrorism, applicants are advised that successful passing of vetting to evaluate the risk that funds may benefit terrorists or their supporters is a condition of award. If chosen for an award, applicants will be asked to submit information required by DS Form 4184, Risk Analysis Information (attached to this solicitation) about their company and its principal personnel. Vetting information is also required for all sub-award performance on assistance awards identified by the Department of State as presenting a risk of terrorist financing. Vetting information may also be requested for project beneficiaries and participants. Failure to submit information when requested, or failure to pass vetting, may be grounds for rejecting your proposal prior to award.
The Leahy Law prohibits Department foreign assistance funds from supporting foreign security force units if the Secretary of State has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights. Per 22 USC §2378d(a) (2017), “No assistance shall be furnished under this chapter [FOREIGN ASSISTANCE] or the Arms Export Control Act [22 USC 2751 et seq.] to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” 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 through this funding opportunity 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. If a proposed grant or cooperative agreement will provide assistance to foreign security forces or personnel, compliance with the Leahy Law is required.
U.S. foreign assistance for Burma or Burmese beneficiaries is subject to restrictions. This includes restrictions, pursuant to section 7043(a)(3) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. G, P.L. 116-94)(SFOAA), on funds appropriated under title III of the act for assistance for Burma. Section 7043(a)(3) provides that such funds “may not be made available to any organization or entity controlled by the armed forces of Burma, or to any individual or organization that advocates violence against ethnic or religious groups or individuals in Burma, as determined by the Secretary of State.” In addition, funds cannot be made available to any individual or organization that has committed serious human rights abuse.
Organizations should be cognizant of these restrictions when developing project proposals as these restrictions will require appropriate due diligence of program beneficiaries and collaboration with DRL to ensure compliance with these restrictions. Program beneficiaries subject to due diligence vetting will include any individuals or entities that are beneficiaries of foreign assistance funding or support. Due diligence vetting will include a review of open source materials.
Organizations should be aware that DRL understands that some information contained in SOIs may be considered sensitive or proprietary 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 on DRL’s Resources page at: https://www.state.gov/resources-for-programs-and-grants/.
The information in this solicitation and DRL’s PSI for SOIs, as updated in September 2018, 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 program evaluation requirements.
This solicitation will appear on www.grants.gov, SAMS Domestic (https://mygrants.servicenowservices.com), and DRL’s website https://www.state.gov/statements-of-interest-requests-for-proposals-and-notices-of-funding-opportunity/.
Background Information on DRL and DRL Funding
DRL has the mission of promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally. DRL supports programs 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 egregious 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 the human rights report can be found on https://www.state.gov/bureaus-offices/under-secretary-for-civilian-security-democracy-and-human-rights/bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/.
VI. Contact Information
SAMS Domestic Help Desk:
For assistance with SAMS Domestic accounts and technical issues related to the system, please contact the ILMS help desk by phone at 1-888-313-4567 (toll charges for international callers) or through the Self Service online portal that can be accessed from https://afsitsm.servicenowservices.com/ilms/. Customer Support is available 24/7/365.
For assistance with Grants.gov accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please call the Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726 or email email@example.com. The Contact Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except federal holidays.
See https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/ for a list of federal holidays.
For technical questions related to this solicitation, please contact DRL-EAP-Programs@state.gov.
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.