Request for Statements of Interest: DRL FY20 Iraq Programs

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

I. Requested Objectives for Statements of Interest

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI) outlining project concepts and capacity to manage programs in Iraq that will: strengthen effective governance; increase political participation and civic activism; promote fundamental freedoms; and support atrocity prevention, accountability, and reconciliation.

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/key-topics-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/open-solicitations-and-proposal-submission-instructions/open-solicitations-and-proposal-submission-instructions/proposal-submission-instructions-psi-for-statements-of-interest-updated-september-2018/.

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 Iraq will be tailored to promote governance based on democratic principles, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and peaceful coexistence.  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, and mitigate the impact of conflict on Iraqi communities.

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 Iraq.  Programming should also contribute to and support Iraqi efforts where possible.  Helpful resources for applicants include the annual Iraq 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:

EFFECTIVE GOVERNANCE, POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, AND CIVIC ACTIVISM.  Programming should promote inclusive, transparent, and responsive governance and should focus on one or more of the following areas.  Elections-related programs should consider not only the anticipated general/national elections, but also promote the establishment of best practices and inclusive institutional policies for future elections, including provincial and regional elections:

I. Promoting Effective Governance

  • Empower officials at the national and local levels to engage on and be responsive to human rights concerns, including the rights of marginalized communities. Increase the capacity and awareness of non-traditional and community leaders to adequately, inclusively, and effectively represent their communities/constituents in governance mechanisms, and to engage with and address the needs of diverse segments of Iraqi society in formal governance processes.
  • Enhance the accountability and responsiveness of the Government of Iraq (GOI) and/or Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to demands for anti-corruption efforts. Program activities may include: supporting advocacy and watchdog NGOs to collaborate with and/or encourage government transparency and responsiveness to anti-corruption efforts; supporting journalists to further their engagement and reporting on corruption; and supporting independent and citizen media outlet oversight and integrity in reporting, including fact-based reporting and independent media reporting on corruption and transparency.
  • Address the spread of disinformation, particularly where disinformation campaigns target electoral processes and civic activists. Program activities should strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders to address vulnerabilities in information security; identify and report on bot activity and other disinformation tactics targeting electoral processes and civic activists; and raise awareness of disinformation threats designed to hinder political participation and citizen engagement.  Programming should also facilitate the adaptation of tools to the Iraqi context.
  • Address labor concerns within Iraq and increase access to improved employment by promoting adherence to Iraqi labor laws and international labor conventions. Programs should assist worker organizations or worker-focused institutions in representing worker interests in Iraqi democracy and in advocating for decent and safe jobs, free from discrimination and harassment, the ability to collectively bargain, and freedom of association.  Programs may also assist democratic worker organizations in improving their operations to better represent their diverse operations to better represent their members, sustain outreach to Iraqi workers, and ensure accountability to Iraqi laws in order to prevent labor exploitation.  Programming focused on supporting women workers, workers with disabilities, or other traditionally marginalized groups is encouraged.

II. Increasing Political Participation

  • Strengthen Iraqi citizens’ ability to engage their representatives at the local and national level on social, political, and economic issues, with a particular focus on increasing civil society engagement with the GOI. Applicants should facilitate and sustain locally-driven coalition-building efforts within Iraqi civil society where possible to aggregate and more effectively vocalize citizen concerns.
  • Promote the participation and leadership of women and minorities in decision-making institutions, including federal, provincial, and local government, as well as cross-cutting institutional bodies and political parties.
  • Promote full participation in Iraq’s civic processes, such as elections, particularly addressing barriers to access resulting from specific vulnerabilities (i.e., internally displaced persons, those lacking civil documentation, those with low literacy or mobility issues, etc.). Applicants should facilitate the outreach, education, and championing of IDP-specific interests in elections, particularly as they relate to electoral districts, ID requirements, and voting ability.
  • Promote increased transparency and accountability in electoral processes by preventing voter intimidation and electoral violence – especially against traditionally marginalized populations – and supporting legal efforts that enfranchise voters and compel adherence to electoral laws. Programs should focus on supporting transparency in the pre- and/or post-election environment ensuring a peaceful and inclusive transition of power and demonstrating that elections processes are free, fair, and transparent.
  • Engage workers and worker organizations in strengthening freedom of association initiatives and democracy best practices. Programs should clearly demonstrate links between community demands and worker-derived solutions for feeding into public policy and advocacy.  This may include linking worker groups and rank-and-file workers to tripartite dialogues, supporting worker-centered approaches to problems of national importance, and assisting worker organizations in upholding or advancing human rights and democratic norms both inside their institutions and at the governmental level.  Programs should include traditionally marginalized worker voices like those of women, young workers, unemployed workers, or people with disabilities.

III. Supporting Civic Activism

  • Build the capacity of Iraqi activists by: providing basic skills and training in democratic activism, including advocacy, community organizing, coalition-building, non-violence, conflict resolution, and accountability capabilities; providing ongoing mentoring, coaching, and networking opportunities to participating activists and organizations; developing sustainable tools and approaches to achieve impact on policy outcomes and political freedoms. Activities should focus on the design, organization, and implementation of public advocacy campaigns on specific topics rather than general training programs directed to basic organizational capacity.
  • Create and deepen linkages between emerging democratic activists and watchdog civil society groups towards the goal of building a national network of likeminded individuals and groups.
  • Respond to protestor demands to address corrupt practices and grievances around poor governance related to pollution and environmental issues. Activities should promote a culture of respect for the environment within Iraq with the recognition that a safe and clean environment is a fundamental human right, and that corrupt practices and lax regulations have served as a launching point for peaceful democratic protests. Activities should also focus on improving community awareness of pollution and environmental issues, support to communities advocating for environmental justice, and the passage and enforcement of environmental protection legislation.
  • Improve and enforce national social safety net programs and engagement between the private and public sector in line with Iraqi law. Advance multi-stakeholder partnerships that target cross-cutting issues of human rights. Examples may include advocacy by labor-business partnerships to reduce environmental degradation in Iraq or business’s adherence to legal frameworks regarding occupational safety, health, and taxation. Programs that bring diverse coalitions together to engage on common social issues or issues concerning renewal of the country’s democratic social contract are encouraged. Support civil society in Iraq via targeted small grants and technical assistance.
    • DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement. The applicant must demonstrate strong ties to local NGOs across Iraq that can serve as local partners, and demonstrate an ability to effectively manage sub-grants, sub-awards, and subcontracts.  DRL will negotiate with the recipient the conditions and criteria under which these small grants will be awarded.  Both DRL and the lead implementer may propose small grants and partners for activities under this program.  Successful candidates will demonstrate the ability to support a wide range of activities, from advocacy to direct assistance.  DRL may request that the recipient provide targeted assistance to other NGOs or individuals operating in Iraq, either through direct technical assistance or as financial support for these services provided through a small grant.   DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement.

FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS.  Programming should protect and advance fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:

I. Freedom of Expression

  • Build the independence of Iraqi media, including by strengthening professionalism, specialization, sustainability, editorial independence, advocacy, and/or management of regulatory relationships. Address problematic legislation, including interpretation and implementation of existing legislation that restricts the fundamental freedom of expression and promotes freedom of expression without fear of retaliation.
  • Expand and protect Internet freedom in Iraq by enabling civil society to safely access the open, secure, interoperable, and reliable global Internet through support for proven and next generation technical solutions that provide access to the uncensored Internet during periods of blocking and Internet shutdowns.
  • Empower civil society to engage in domestic and regional advocacy to support the development of laws and regulations that protect the exercise of human rights online. This may include building the capacity of local advocates to encourage policy reform; supporting regional advocacy networks to enhance coordination; and fostering like-minded coalitions to unite civil society, the private sector, technical communities, and other Internet freedom stakeholders.
  • Provide targeted digital security and safety capacity-building support to assist civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and journalists to stay safe online. This may include training for at-risk individuals; training of digital safety trainers; organizational security audits; public awareness-raising campaigns on online risks and harms; online and mobile training resources; and emergency response services to provide rapid assistance to human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders, who are attacked for their online activities.

II. Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly

  • Provide broad-based support to civil society groups and activists in Iraq’s southern provinces. Proposals should take into consideration both the difficult operating environment for CSOs operating in southern provinces pre-2019 as well as the increasingly difficult situation facing those organizations in the current context.
  • Address problematic legislation restricting fundamental freedoms through advocacy and reform efforts, and support implementation of existing laws that promote equitable status and rights. Programming should include raising awareness within communities on human rights according to Iraqi law.  Programming may also include support to lawyers targeted for their casework and advocacy on human rights issues.
  • Support government efforts to ensure equitable access to decent and safe work through skills training to formal and informal sector workers. Programming should include knowledge training for workers regarding key Iraqi legal frameworks like adherence to the labor law, social security law, and other statutes governing worker rights and obligations.  Programming may also work on barriers that prevent specific populations from accessing and participating in public life.  Examples may include barriers to women’s participation in certain types of careers or the ability of youth to access and exercise their fundamental right to peaceful assembly.

ATROCITY PREVENTION, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND RECONCILIATION.  Programming should support inclusive efforts to protect human rights, reduce and prevent violence, and rebuild trust within and between communities and between citizens and the state, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:

I. Atrocity Prevention

  • Provide personal safety counseling, psychosocial support, and digital safety skills to strengthen the self-protection capacity and resiliency of activists, journalists, lawyers, and civil society organizations.
  • Provide psychosocial support and awareness around violence and healing from violence. Programs may assess needs, plan treatments, and build referral pathways, and train community practitioners/community development workers to work with those affected by violence, either at the community level or in detention centers.
  • Support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including access to protection (e.g., shelters, either government-run or otherwise) and access to services; activities designed to change societal attitudes and address harmful gender norms that normalize gender-based violence (GBV) or stigmatize and shun survivors , prevent individuals from safely accessing assistance and reporting crimes, and relegate issues of violence against women outside of established justice processes; and promote survivor protection and dignity by providing sensitivity training and technical expertise to advocacy groups. Programs that engage men and boys and include family- and community-based approaches will be viewed favorably.
  • Establish a context-specific, flexible response mechanism to provide emergency support to survivors of GBV and technical support to organizations working to prevent and respond to GBV in Iraq. The mechanism must advance local solutions for addressing GBV and survivors’ needs, and be able to operate nationwide.  Applicants must demonstrate strong ties with local NGOs working on GBV issues across Iraq, and an ability to effectively manage sub-awards and direct cash assistance to individuals.  Coalitions of organizations with nationwide reach, who identify one organization as the lead applicant, will be viewed favorably.  DRL will award this program as a cooperative agreement.
  • Address the systemic, legal, religious, and cultural barriers preventing the safe, dignified, and voluntary return and reintegration of former ISIS captives and their children, including Turkmen and Yezidis. Programming should consider the needs and vulnerabilities of Iraqi women and children facing barriers to return and reintegrate safely into Iraq from outside the country.
  • Address issues that give rise to intercommunal conflict, including political and social marginalization, impunity and lack of access to justice, violence against women and girls, and other early warning indicators and risks that could potentially lead to escalation of atrocities. Develop and use innovative and sustainable methods to identify and map vulnerable communities and create early warning mechanisms for potential atrocities.
  • Enable Iraqi civil society and advocacy groups to engage constructively and collaboratively with security forces, particularly on inclusive security sector reform and/or oversight to ensure that all parties promote security in a manner that protects all civilians, minimizes the impact of conflict on communities, respects human rights, adheres to the rule of law, and facilitates accountability for atrocities committed against Iraqi communities.

II. Accountability

  • Advance accountability for atrocities committed in Iraq through available legal avenues for justice, including those in third countries, by providing legal, psychosocial, and other types of assistance to victims of abuses.
  • Monitor, track, and document the targeting of civil society organizations, activists, journalists, women human rights defenders, and other vulnerable groups, as well as politically motivated attacks including media incitement of violence.
  • Document and promote accountability for human rights abuses, with a focus on abuses committed by security forces. Combat impunity for human rights violations through legal advocacy and other channels, with consideration given to the unique needs of women and girls.
  • Monitor juvenile and adult detention facilities and judicial proceedings, including gender-sensitive documentation of treatment and anti-torture measures, as well as advocacy for access to information and legal representation. Programs that include activities in pre-trial detention facilities will be viewed favorably.
  • Support to national-level governmental bodies responsible for human rights monitoring, documentation, and reporting.
  • Build the technical capacity of GOI and KRG stakeholders focused on the search and identification of missing and disappeared persons based on international best practices; support the collection, standardization, and preservation of information and potential evidence on the missing and disappeared for a range of accountability and other transitional justice processes; create and manage public education and awareness-raising campaigns that also build trust with local communities, especially families of the missing and disappeared; map and secure mass graves; and support the recovery of victims’ remains and accurate victim identification for justice, truth, and accountability efforts.

III. Reconciliation

  • Promote the rehabilitation, reintegration, and protection of conflict-affected youth, particularly children in detention centers. Programs may include community reintegration, protection of civil rights, provision of or access to legal assistance, psychosocial support, and advocacy with the government on juvenile detention issues.
  • Help restore the relationship between citizens and the state in areas where violence or mistrust has or continues to impact individual and community participation in democratic processes.
  • Support targeted, community-based dispute resolution, conflict management, and non-violent coexistence programs. Programs may include non-humanitarian assistance to help displaced persons integrate in host communities and/or reintegrate should they voluntarily return home; efforts to promote reintegration and non-violent coexistence with those who are negatively impacted by perceived affiliations based on family, tribe, religious or ethnic identity, and area of origin, or between citizens and the state; and advocacy for acknowledgment and recognition of atrocities.  Programs that leverage and support women’s participation are encouraged.
  • Engage tribal leaders and communities in the peaceful, gender-responsive, and sustainable reintegration of individuals and families with actual or perceived former ties to ISIS.

OTHER PROGRAM INFORMATION:

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.

Applicants should conduct program activities throughout Iraq, including within the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), and where security conditions allow, activities should take place within the beneficiaries’ communities. Travel outside of Iraq for civil society representatives in furtherance of a program’s objectives will be considered on a case-by-case basis.    Additionally, programs proposing activities inside IDP/refugee camps or targeting Syrian refugees in Iraq will not be deemed competitive.  Training or workshops may be used as a tool to a larger goal but should not be the main focus of a program.  Projects for which assessments have already been completed that support certain targeted activities or interventions will be viewed favorably.  Projects that have a strong academic, research, or conference focus will not be deemed competitive.

Activities that are not typically considered competitive include, but are not limited to:

  • The provision 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.
  • 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.

Applicants should request not less than $750,000 and not more than $4,000,000.  The target period of performance for projects must be between 18 and 48 months, but upon review of the SOI, DRL may request that the period of performance be extended to ensure safe and effective implementation of proposed program activities.  Applicants must develop unique objectives that speak to the categories outlined in this request.

A proven ability to implement programs in Iraq must be demonstrated.  All proposed program objectives must impact Iraqis inside the country, and working with local partners should be a central aspect of any proposed program.  Proposed programs should also thoughtfully and specifically address the participation and integration of women, persons with disabilities, ethnic and religious minority communities, and other marginalized populations in all program elements, where relevant and possible.  SOIs that utilize technology in safe and creative ways where possible to shape innovative program strategies will be viewed favorably.

DRL is conscious of the ever-changing security situation in Iraq.  SOIs must realistically address the challenges and limitations the applicant would likely face implementing this program, both within the current context in Iraq and in anticipation of a further evolving landscape.

Applicants invited to submit full proposals upon completion of the SOI process will also be requested to submit:

  • A security plan in order to demonstrate situational awareness and preparedness.
  • Contingency plans for proposed activities.
  • Lessons learned from past programs in Iraq that demonstrate how the implementer has safely operated and responded to challenges, learning from both successes and failures, in the operating environment.
  • A section in the proposal and budget to reflect appropriate resources and support for the psychosocial health of staff (i.e., activities can range from access to educational materials and training opportunities to counseling services to other contextually-relevant support).
  • A gender analysis that clearly articulates how the program’s design will address the different considerations for men, women, boys, girls, and the marginalized groups within these populations throughout implementation.

To maximize the impact and sustainability of the awards that results from this RSOI, DRL reserves the right to execute non-competitive continuation amendments.  The total duration of any award, including a potential non-competitive continuation amendment(s), shall not exceed 60 months or five years.  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).  Additionally, DRL may ask successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of a stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project.  DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase.

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/key-topics-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/open-solicitations-and-proposal-submission-instructions/open-solicitations-and-proposal-submission-instructions/proposal-submission-instructions-psi-for-statements-of-interest-updated-september-2018/.

Complete SOI submissions must include the following:

  1. 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,
  2. Program Statement (not to exceed three pages in Microsoft Word) that includes:
    1. A table listing:
      1. Name of the organization;
      2. The target country/countries;
      3. The total amount of funding requested from DRL, total amount of cost-share (if any), and total program amount (DRL funds + cost-share); and,
      4. Program length; and,
      5. SOI Category
    2. 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;
    3. A concise breakdown explicitly identifying the program’s objectives and the activities and expected results that contribute to each objective; and,
    4. 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 up to three (3) SOIs total for this solicitation.  Organizations may submit multiple SOIs within the same category.  Applicants must also clearly designate under which category the SOI is being submitted for consideration.  As a reminder these categories are: 1) Effective Governance, Political Participation, and Civic Activism; 2) Fundamental Freedoms; and 3) Atrocity Prevention, Accountability, and Reconciliation.  If your proposal addresses multiple categories, please designate a primary category.  Applicants must create separate applications for each SOI submitted.

SOIs that request less than $750,000 or more than $4,000,000 may be deemed technically ineligible.  Please also note that applicants who propose budgets of $4,000,000 must make a clear and compelling case for requesting the maximum amount of funding.  Organizations that do not provide adequate justification may be asked to reduce the amount of funding requested.   

Technically eligible SOIs are those which:

  1. Arrive electronically via SAMS Domestic or Grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on Friday, December 4, 2020 under the announcement titled “DRL Request for Statements of Interest: Iraq,” funding opportunity number SFOP0007345.
  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.

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.service-now.com/grants/portal_login.do) 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 Friday, December 4, 2020 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.

Review Criteria

Quality of Program Idea

SOIs should be responsive to the program framework and policy objectives identified 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.  Proposals 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 USG’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 supports program models that assess and address the barriers to access created by violence and discrimination targeting individuals and groups based on their religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.  Applicants should describe how programming affects all of its beneficiaries, including support that specifically targets communities under threat of violence and discrimination.  This approach should be an integral part of both the concept and explicit design of all proposed project activities and objectives.  Strong proposals will provide specific analysis, measures, and corresponding targets as appropriate.  Stakeholders shall identify the difference between opportunities and barriers to access and design programs that do not perpetuate these inequalities but rather enhance programmatic impact by including all people in society.  The goal of this approach is to bring communities and those in power together in support of stable and secure societies.

Program Planning

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/key-topics-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/open-solicitations-and-proposal-submission-instructions/open-solicitations-and-proposal-submission-instructions/proposal-submission-instructions-psi-for-statements-of-interest-updated-september-2018/.

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.

DRL may ask successful applicant(s) to incorporate coordination of an implementer and stakeholder meeting into the Scope of Work of the final project.  DRL will discuss this possibility with particular applicant(s) during the proposal negotiation phase.

Project activities that directly benefit foreign militaries or paramilitary groups or individuals will not be considered for DRL funding given purpose limitations on funding.

DRL requires U.S. government Risk Analysis Management vetting of all individuals programming in Iraq, which may include the board of directors from grantee and sub-award organizations, program staff, and any program participants receiving direct assistance through grant funds.  Depending on the type of vetting, the required information requested may include for each individual: full name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, a government issued ID number (drivers licenses are not accepted for any country; if the individual is a U.S. person, a SSN is required), and one piece of contact information (phone number, email address, or Skype account (if Skype is submitted an email must accompany it).  Please keep these vetting requirements in mind when designing your program.

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 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, program 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 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: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c72333.htm.

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.service-now.com/grants/portal_login.do) 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/reports-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.

Grants.gov Helpdesk:

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 support@grants.gov.  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-GP-Iraq@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.


For reference to international guidance, please see the following: Core Humanitarian Standard Commitment 8.9 (http://redirect.state.sbu/?url=http://www.corehumanitarianstandard.org/files/files/CHS-Guidance-Notes-and-Indicators.pdf); and IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings Action Sheet 4.4 (http://redirect.state.sbu/?url=http://www.who.int/mental_health/emergencies/guidelines_iasc_mental_health_psychosocial_june_2007.pdf.

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    Mission Capable Rates for Selected Department of Defense Aircraft GAO examined 46 types of aircraft and found that only three met their annual mission capable goals in a majority of the years for fiscal years 2011 through 2019 and 24 did not meet their annual mission capable goals in any fiscal year as shown below. The mission capable rate—the percentage of total time when the aircraft can fly and perform at least one mission—is used to assess the health and readiness of an aircraft fleet. Number of Times Selected Aircraft Met Their Annual Mission Capable Goal, Fiscal years 2011 through 2019 aThe military departments did not provide mission capable goals for all nine years for these aircraft. Aggregating the trends at the military service level, the average annual mission capable rate for the selected Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft decreased since fiscal year 2011, while the average annual mission capable rate for the selected Army aircraft slightly increased. While the average mission capable rate for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter showed an increase from fiscal year 2012 to 2019, it trended downward from fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2018 before improving slightly in fiscal year 2019. For fiscal year 2019, GAO found only three of the 46 types of aircraft examined met the service-established mission capable goal. Furthermore, for fiscal year 2019: six aircraft were 5 percentage points or fewer below the goal; 18 were from 15 to 6 percentage points below the goal; and 19 were more than 15 percentage points below the goal, including 11 that were 25 or more percentage points below the goal. Program officials provided various reasons for the overall decline in mission capable rates, including aging aircraft, maintenance challenges, and supply support issues as shown below. Sustainment Challenges Affecting Some of the Selected Department of Defense Aircraft aA service life extension refers to a modification to extend the service life of an aircraft beyond what was planned. bDiminishing manufacturing sources refers to a loss or impending loss of manufacturers or suppliers of items. cObsolescence refers to a lack of availability of a part due to its lack of usefulness or its no longer being current or available for production. Operating and Support Costs for Selected Department of Defense Aircraft Operating and support (O&S) costs, such as the costs of maintenance and supply support, totaled over $49 billion in fiscal year 2018 for the aircraft GAO reviewed and ranged from a low of $118.03 million for the KC-130T Hercules (Navy) to a high of $4.24 billion for the KC-135 Stratotanker (Air Force). The trends in O&S costs varied by aircraft from fiscal year 2011 to 2018. For example, total O&S costs for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Navy) increased $1.13 billion due in part to extensive maintenance needs. In contrast, the F-15C/D Eagle (Air Force) costs decreased by $490 million due in part to a reduction in the size of the fleet. Maintenance-specific costs for the aircraft types we examined also varied widely. Why This Matters The Department of Defense (DOD) spends tens of billions of dollars annually to sustain its weapon systems in an effort to ensure that these systems are available to simultaneously support today's military operations and maintain the capability to meet future defense requirements. This report provides observations on mission capable rates and costs to operate and sustain 46 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. How GAO Did This Study GAO was asked to report on the condition and costs of sustaining DOD's aircraft. GAO collected and analyzed data on mission capable rates and O&S costs from the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force for fiscal years 2011 through 2019. GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed program office officials to identify reasons for the trends in mission capability rates and O&S costs as well as any challenges in sustaining the aircraft. This is a public version of a sensitive report issued in August 2020. Information on mission capable and aircraft availability rates were deemed to be sensitive and has been omitted from this report. For more information, contact Director Diana Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov.
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  • VA Construction: VA Should Enhance the Lessons-Learned Process for Its Real-Property Donation Pilot Program
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has received one real property donation through a partnership pilot program authorized by the Communities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed for Veterans Act of 2016 (CHIP-IN Act) and is planning for a second. This Act authorized VA to accept donated real property—such as buildings or facility construction or improvements—and to contribute certain appropriated funds to donors that are entering into donation agreements with VA. Under VA's interpretation, its ability to contribute to such funds is limited to major construction projects (over $20 million). The first CHIP-IN project—an ambulatory care center in Omaha, Nebraska—opened in August 2020. Pending requested appropriations for a second CHIP-IN project, VA intends to partner with another donor group to construct an inpatient medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (See figure.) Other potential donors have approached VA about opportunities that could potentially fit the CHIP-IN pilot, but these project ideas have not proceeded for various reasons, including the large donations required. VA officials told us they have developed a draft legislative proposal that seeks to address a challenge in finding CHIP-IN partnerships. For example, officials anticipate that a modification allowing VA to make funding contributions to smaller projects of $20 million and under would attract additional donors. Completed Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Ambulatory Care Center in Omaha, NE, and Rendering of Proposed Inpatient Facility in Tulsa, OK VA has discussed and documented some lessons learned from the Omaha project. For example, VA officials and the Omaha donor group identified and documented the benefits of a design review software that helped shorten timeframes and reduce costs compared to VA's typical review process. However, VA has not consistently followed a lessons-learned process, and as a result, other lessons, such as the decision-making that went into developing the Omaha project's donation agreement, have not been documented. Failure to document and disseminate lessons learned puts VA at risk of losing valuable insights from the CHIP-IN pilot that could inform future CHIP-IN projects or other VA construction efforts. VA has pressing infrastructure demands and a backlog of real property projects. VA can accept up to five real property donations through the CHIP-IN pilot program, which is authorized through 2021. GAO previously reported on the CHIP-IN pilot program in 2018. The CHIP-IN Act includes a provision for GAO to report on donation agreements entered into under the pilot program. This report examines: (1) the status of VA's efforts to execute CHIP-IN partnerships and identify additional potential partners and (2) the extent to which VA has collected lessons learned from the pilot, among other objectives. GAO reviewed VA documents, including project plans and budget information, and interviewed VA officials, donor groups for projects in Omaha and Tulsa, and selected non-profits with experience in fundraising. GAO compared VA's efforts to collect lessons learned with key practices for an overall lessons-learned process. GAO is making two recommendations to VA to implement a lessons-learned process. Recommendations include documenting and disseminating lessons learned from CHIP-IN pilot projects. VA concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Tracing the Source of Chemical Weapons
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters Some governments are suspected of using chemical weapons despite international prohibitions under the Chemical Weapons Convention. For example, sarin and VX nerve gas have been identified in attacks. Most recently, Novichok nerve agent was used in 2020. Technologies exist to identify chemical warfare agents and possibly their sources, but challenges remain in identifying the person or entity responsible. The Technology What is it? According to the Global Public Policy Institute, there have been more than 330 chemical weapons attacks since 2012. Such attacks are prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention. A set of methods called forensic chemical attribution has the potential to trace the chemical agent used in such attacks to a source. A set of methods called forensic chemical attribution has the potential to trace the chemical agent used in such attacks to a source. For example, investigators could use these methods to identify the geographic sources of raw materials used to make the agent, for example, or to identify the manufacturing process Such information can aid leaders in deciding on whether or how to respond to a chemical weapons attack. Figure 1. Forensic chemical attribution process How does it work? Forensic chemical attribution is a three-step process, though the third step is being developed (see Fig. 1). First, a sample is taken from a victim or the site of an attack. Second, the sample's chemical components are analyzed and identified (see Fig. 2), either at a mobile lab or at one of 18 authorized biomedical labs worldwide. Common identification methods are: Gas chromatography, which separates chemical components of a mixture and quantifies the amount of each chemical. Mass spectrometry, which measures the mass-to-charge ratio of ions (i.e., charged particles) by converting molecules to ions and separating the ions based on their molecular weight. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), which can determine the structure of a molecule by measuring the interaction between atomic nuclei placed in a magnetic field and exposing it to radio waves. NMR works on is the same principle as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used in medical diagnostics. In the third step—still under development—investigators use the data from the forensic chemical identification and analysis and identification methods from step two to develop a "chemical fingerprint." The fingerprint can be matched to a database of information on existing methods or known sources to identify chemical agents (i.e., Source A matching Sample 1 of Fig. 2). However, a comprehensive database containing complete, reliable data for known agents does not exist. How mature is it? Forensic chemical analysis and identification (i.e., Step 2 of Fig.1) is mature for known chemical agents. For example, investigators determined the nerve agent sarin was used in an attack on civilians in 2017. The methods can also identify new agents, as when investigators determined the chemical composition of the Novichok nerve agent after its first known use, in 2018. Forensic chemical analysis and identification methods are also mature enough to generate data that investigators could use as a "chemical fingerprint"– that is, a unique chemical signature that could be used in part to attribute a chemical weapon to a person or entity. For example, combining gas chromatography and mass spectrometry can provide reliable information about the chemical components and molecular weight of an agent. To achieve Step 3, scientists could use this these methods in a laboratory experiment to match impurities in chemical feedstocks of the weapon to potentially determine who made it. In an investigation, such impurities could indicate the geographic origin of the starting material and the process used to create the agent. Figure 2. Example of forensic chemical identification and analysis, showing a match between Sample 1 and Source A. Opportunities An effective international system for forensic chemical attribution can open up several opportunities, including: Defense. Knowing the source of a chemical agent could help nations better defend against future attacks and, when appropriate, take military action in response to an attack.  Legal response. Source attribution may provide information to help find and prosecute attackers or to impose sanctions. Deterrence. The ability to trace chemical agents to a source might deter future use of chemical weapons.  Challenges Chemical database. Creating a comprehensive international database of chemical fingerprints would require funding and international collaboration to sample chemicals from around the world. Finding perpetrators. Matching a chemical to its sources does not reveal who actually used it in an attack. Almost all investigations require additional evidence. Samples. Collecting a sufficient sample for attribution can be challenging, as can storing and transporting it using a secure chain of custody—potentially over great distance—to one of the 18 authorized biomedical labs worldwide. International cooperation. Lack of cooperation can delay investigations and may compromise sample quality.  Cooperation is also essential for creating an international database. Standardization. Attribution methods are complex and require standardized, internationally accepted protocols to ensure results are reliable and trusted. Such protocols do not yet exist for attributing a chemical weapons attack. Policy Context and Questions The following questions are relevant to building an effective, trusted system for tracing attacks using forensic chemical attribution: How can federal agencies promote and contribute to the international standardization of scientific methods for forensic chemical attribution? Which agency or agencies should lead this effort? How can the international community create and implement a framework for cooperation and trust in forensic chemical attribution? What actions could promote or incentivize creation of an internationally accepted database of unique chemical fingerprints for attributing chemical agents to their sources? What can be done to fully identify and address the scientific and technological gaps in current capabilities for attributing a chemical agent to its source? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
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  • FY 2020 Excise Tax: Agreed-Upon Procedures Related to Distributions to Trust Funds
    In U.S GAO News
    The procedures that GAO agreed to perform on fiscal year 2020 net excise tax distributions to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) and the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and the results of those procedures are described in the enclosures to this report. The sufficiency of these procedures is solely the responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for certifying quarterly net excise tax collections to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF. The Department of the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis (OTA) is responsible for developing reasonable estimates of net excise tax collections to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF. These IRS certifications and OTA estimates are the basis of the net excise tax distributions to the AATF and the HTF. GAO was not engaged to perform, and did not perform, an examination or review. Accordingly, GAO does not express such an opinion or conclusion. The purpose of this report is solely to describe agreed-upon procedures related to information representing the basis of amounts distributed from the general fund to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2020, and the report is not suitable for any other purpose. IRS agreed with the findings related to the procedures performed concerning excise tax distributions to the AATF and the HTF during the fiscal year 2020. OTA stated that it had no comments on the report. GAO performed agreed-upon procedures solely to assist the DOT OIG in ascertaining whether the net excise tax revenue distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2020, is supported by information from the Department of the Treasury, including IRS's excise tax receipt certifications and OTA's estimates. DOT OIG is responsible for the sufficiency of these agreed-upon procedures to meet its objectives, and GAO makes no representation in that respect. The procedures that GAO agreed to perform were related to information representing the basis of amounts distributed from the General Fund to the AATF and the HTF during fiscal year 2020, including (1) IRS's quarterly AATF and HTF excise tax certifications prepared during fiscal year 2020 and (2) OTA's estimates of excise tax amounts to be distributed to the AATF and the HTF for the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2020. For more information, contact Cheryl E. Clark at (202) 512-3406 or clarkce@gao.gov.
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