East Asia and the Pacific: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Statements of Interest: Land Rights Programs in Cambodia and Vietnam

Department of State

Public Notice

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Statements of Interest: Land Rights Programs in Cambodia and Vietnam

I. Requested Proposal Program Objectives

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI) from organizations interested in submitting Statements of Interest (SOI) outlining program concepts and capacity to manage projects that will support the bureau’s policy priorities of fostering marginalized populations’ community mobilization, documentation and advocacy skills to promote accountability and address land tenure issues and forcible displacement in Cambodia and Vietnam. DRL will invite select organizations that submit SOIs to expand their ideas in full proposals at a later date.

PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly encourages applicants to access immediately www.grantsolutions.gov or www.grants.gov in order to obtain a username and password. GrantSolutions.gov is highly recommended for all submissions and is DRL’s preferred choice of receiving applications. For more information, please see DRL’s Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in October 2014, available at: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c12302.htm.

DRL invites organizations to submit SOIs for programs to conduct the following:

Land Rights Programs in Cambodia and Vietnam, approximately $495,000, pending availability of funding

DRL seeks programs to support land rights reformers in Cambodia and Vietnam. This program should take a regional approach, identifying successful strategies to resolve land disputes that can be replicated, and connecting activists to share these strategies to increase their influence on land-use decision-making and successful dispute resolution processes in the Lower Mekong.

Long-standing tensions around land rights have been exacerbated across Southeast Asia over the last decade. In Cambodia, legacies of the past, corruption, large infrastructure projects and ongoing weak rule of law and conflict resolution institutions have resulted in significant conflict over land rights. While Cambodia’s laws are relatively well developed, there are weak implementation and enforcement mechanisms. Specifically, a weak judiciary enables private companies and politically-connected individuals to secure land rights over large swaths of the arable land in Cambodia. This is often times in violation of Cambodia’s land law and related regulations, and at the expense of communities living on that land who are often forcibly evicted with little or no consultation or compensation. In Vietnam, pressure to support the State’s plans on land acquisition along with localized incentives for development, exclusion of the public from decision-making, lack of transparency in processes related to land distribution and compensation, and few opportunities for redress, all result in significant land-related conflicts.

To address these concerns, DRL seeks statements of interest for innovative strategies to promote the below objectives, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Bringing key stakeholders together (civil society, government partners, and private investors) to resolve land-related disputes, through both alternative dispute resolution processes and/or litigation. Effective programs would promote dialogue and improved understanding of interests, positions, needs, challenges and areas for mutual cooperation, compromise and collaboration within a safe and neutral environment;
  • Supporting strategic communication and community action between affected communities between Cambodia and Vietnam;
  • Supporting increased access to legal representation for those affected by land confiscation;
  • Encouraging transparency and inclusion in planning, development and post-resettlement processes, including for example, utilizing open forums within communities to engage relevant stakeholders in discussions; and
  • Training civil society organizations to produce quality documentation which allows for tracking of patterns of incidences and response as well as document effective processes of mediation and redress.

In addition, DRL seeks proposals that emphasis potential ways to strengthen regional dialogue on land-tenure issues and further develop regional networks, prioritizing inclusion of local NGOs. Activities may also include strategies to address regional implications for development projects in one country that involve companies from another, as well as creating linkages between human rights and environmental movements across the region. DRL prefers programs that incorporate rights-based approaches to these issues.

SOIs which solely rely on such strategies as “naming and shaming” and highly public media campaigns – which often results in adversarial relationships and little progress – will not be viewed by DRL as competitive. Concepts may include those that have proven effective on a smaller scale and could potentially be replicated. Programming concepts that focus on urban and/or rural land rights challenges are welcome, including those that seek to protect collective lands and traditional cultural and religious practices as well as address urban development challenges.

Successful statements of interest will also demonstrate a clear understanding of existing U.S. Government and donor funded programs working in the same or similar areas, clearly articulating how a certain geographic or thematic approach is complimentary to ongoing efforts.

II. Background Information on general DRL funding and Statements of Interest

DRL supports programs that uphold democratic principles, support and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, and build civil society around the world. Funds are available to support projects that have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms. Projects should have potential for continued funding beyond DRL resources. DRL prefers innovative and creative approaches rather than programs which simply duplicate or add to efforts by other entities.

The submission of a SOI is the first step in a two-part process. After reviewing SOIs, selected organization will be invited to expand their ideas into full proposals at a later date. The intention of requesting SOIs first is to provide organizations with additional time to focus on submitting creative and new ideas to foster marginalized populations’ community mobilization, documentation and advocacy skills to promote accountability and address land tenure issues and forcible displacement in Cambodia and Vietnam.

DRL will not consider SOIs that reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization, whether or not elected members of government.

The information in this solicitation and DRL’s PSI for Statements of Interest, as updated in October 2014, 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 submission does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. DRL reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program evaluation requirements.

This request for proposals will appear on www.grants.gov, www.grantsolutions.gov, and DRL’s website http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c12302.htm.

III. Eligibility Information:

Organizations submitting SOIs must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S.-based or foreign-based non-profit organization/non-government organization (NGO), or a public international organization; or
  • Be a private, public, or state institutions of higher education; or
  • Be a for-profit organization or business, although there are restrictions on payment of fees and/or profits to the prime recipient under grants and cooperative agreements, including those outlined in 48 CFR Part 30 (“Cost Accounting Standards”), 48 CFR Part 31 (“Cost Principles”), and 22 CFR 145.24(b)(3)(“Program Income”); and
  • Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic partners or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders including industry and NGOs; and
  • Have demonstrable experience administering successful and preferably similar projects. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal grant awards. These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.

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

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

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 Part 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR Part 1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.”

Organizations are not required to have a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number and an active SAM.gov registration to apply for this solicitation through GrantSolutions.gov. If a project is selected for further funding stages, these will need to be obtained.

IV. Application Requirements, Deadline, and Technical Eligibility

Applications must conform to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in October 2014, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c12302.htm.

Complete SOI applications must include the following:

1. Completed and signed SF-424 and SF424B, as directed on GrantSolutions.gov or Grants.gov; and,

2. Executive Summary (not to exceed three [3] pages in Microsoft Word) that includes:

a) A table listing:

i. The target country/countries;

ii. The total amount of funding requested from DRL, total amount of cost-share (if any), and total program amount (DRL funds + cost-share); and,

iii. Program length;

b) A statement of work or synopsis of the program, including a brief statement on how the project will have a demonstrated impact;

c) A concise breakdown explicitly identifying the project’s objectives and the activities and expected results that contribute to each objective; and,

d) A brief description of the applicant(s) that demonstrates applicant(s) expertise and capacity to implement the program and manage a U.S. government award.

An organization may submit no more than two applications. Applications that request less than the award floor ($300,000) or more than the award ceiling ($495,000) will be deemed technically ineligible.

Technically eligible applications are those which:

1) Arrive electronically via GrantSolutions.gov or Grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. EST on December 12th.

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.

Applicants should be aware that all awards made on or after 12/26/2014 will be made with terms and conditions subject to the OMB Uniform Guidance: Cost Principles, Audit, and Administrative Requirements for Federal Awards (2 CFR Chapter I, Chapter II, Part 200, et al.). Applications that are submitted before 12/26/2014 for Federal awards to be made on or after 12/26/2014 should be developed in accordance with the Uniform Guidance.

It is the sole responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all of the material submitted in the grant application package is complete, accurate, and current. DRL will not accept proposals submitted via email, fax, the postal system, or delivery companies or couriers. DRL strongly encourages all applicants, especially foreign or first-time applicants, to submit applications before December 12th to ensure that the application has been received and is complete.

V. Review and Selection Process

AQM will determine technical eligibility for all applications. All technically eligible applications will then be reviewed against the same three criteria by a Department of State Review Panel. Additionally, the Panel will evaluate how the application meets the solicitation request, U.S. foreign policy goals, and the priority needs of DRL overall. Panelists review each application individually against the evaluation criteria, not against competing proposals. To ensure all applications receive a balanced evaluation, the Department of State Review Panel will review the first page of the SOI up to the page limit and no further. DRL encourages organizations to use the given space effectively.

In most cases, the Department of State Review Panel includes representatives from DRL and the appropriate Department of State regional bureau, which may request feedback on applications from the appropriate U.S. embassies. In some cases, additional panelists may participate, including from other Department of State bureaus or offices, U.S. government departments, agencies, or boards, representatives from partner governments, or representatives from entities that are in a public-private partnership with DRL. At the end of discussion on an application, the panel votes on recommending the application for approval by the DRL Assistant Secretary. Once approved by the DRL Assistant Secretary, applicants of successful SOIs will be invited to submit a full proposal based on their SOI. Unless directed otherwise by the applicant, DRL may also refer SOIs for possible consideration in other U.S. government related funding opportunities. The Grants Officer Representative (GOR) for the eventual award does not vote on the panel.

Department of State Review Panels may provide conditions and recommendations on applications to enhance the proposed program, which must be addressed by the applicant before further consideration of the award. To ensure effective use of limited DRL funds, conditions or recommendations may include requests to increase, decrease, clarify, and/or justify costs and program activities.

Review Criteria

1) Quality of Program Idea/Inclusivity of Marginalized Populations

SOIs should be responsive to the solicitation, appropriate in the country/regional context, and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to DRL’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy. DRL typically does not fund programs that continue an organization’s ongoing work (funded by DRL or other sources), but prioritizes innovative, stand-alone programs. 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. Projects that have a strong academic, research, conference, or dialogue focus may not be deemed competitive. DRL strongly discourages health or science related projects unless they have an explicit component related to the requested program objectives in the solicitation.

DRL strives to ensure its programs advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most at risk and vulnerable populations, including women, youth, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. To the extent possible, applicants should identify and address considerations to support these populations in all proposed program activities and objectives as appropriate. Applicants should provide a strong justification if it determines it is not feasible or appropriate to incorporate the most at risk and vulnerable populations within proposed program activities and objectives. Applications that do incorporate the most at risk and vulnerable populations will be viewed favorably in this category.

2) 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.

3) Ability to Achieve Objectives

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 direct applicant and any local partners. SOIs should demonstrate the organizations’ expertise and previous experience in administering successful projects, preferably similar projects targeting the requested program area or similarly challenging program environments.

For additional guidance, please see DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI) for Statements of Interest, as updated in October 2014, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/c12302.htm.

VI. Contact Information

GrantSolutions.gov Help Desk:

For assistance with GrantSolutions.gov accounts and technical issues related to using the system, please contact Customer Support at help@grantsolutions.gov or call 1-866-577-0771 (toll charges for international callers) or 1-202-401-5282. Customer Support is available 8 AM – 6 PM EST, Monday – Friday, except federal holidays.

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 http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/snow-dismissal-procedures/federal-holidays/#url=2014 for a list of federal holidays.

For technical questions related to this solicitation please contact For questions related to SOI submissions please contact Riva Kantowitz (KantowitzRB@state.gov), 202-632-2063 or Adrian Mangiuca (MangiucaA@state.gov), 202-663-2893.

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 with applicants until the entire proposal review process has been completed and rejection and approval letters have been transmitted.