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Call for Applications: DRL Protecting Freedom of Expression in Ukraine

Organisation: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL)

Status: Closed

  • Grant
  • Freedom of expression

Funding Size: Up to $987,650

Deadline: 24/01/2024

  • Eligibility Criteria:
    – DRL welcomes applications from U.S.-based and foreign-based non-profit organizations/nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and public international organizations; private, public, or state institutions of higher education; and for-profit organizations or businesses.  DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be some occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.
    – Applications submitted by for-profit entities may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process.  Additionally, the Department of State prohibits profit to for-profit or commercial organizations under its assistance awards.  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.
  • Type of funding: Programmatic
  • Target countries: Ukraine
  • Application language: English

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) is seeking applications for an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for programs that support the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Ukraine during wartime and in a postwar context.

In the aftermath of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, civil society actors have turned their efforts to document cultural destruction by Russia’s forces, protect journalists in combat zones, and ensure internet security and accessibility in conflict-affected areas.  With the stated goal of protecting national security and promoting unity during wartime, the Ukrainian government has enacted a series of restrictions on media operations, free speech, and assembly under martial law.  As the Ukrainian government and civil society plan ahead for post-war reconstruction and enabling European Union accession, there is a need to manage the careful balance between protecting national security and ensuring that freedom of expression (FOE) is broadly supported and defended, including discussions around media regulations, access to public interest information, cultural heritage and diversity, language policy, and expression online, among other issues.

Through this project, DRL’s goal is to bolster Ukrainian civil society’s ability to protect freedom of expression during wartime while also ensuring that Ukraine upholds its international commitments to FOE and strengthens its own legislation to protect free speech as it looks ahead to its post-war future.  Objectives may include, but are not limited to: 1) local champions in Ukraine are empowered to advocate for FOE, media freedom, and internet freedom, particularly at the local and regional levels, and 2) rights-respecting, constructive, and innovative FOE-related responses to information warfare are proposed and implemented.

Program activities may include, but are not limited to: advocacy training and mentorship for local civil society and media activists; strengthening existing networks of civil society, media, legal, artistic, and internet freedom groups working on FOE issues; documentation of the destruction of cultural heritage, museums, etc.; artistic and other initiatives for the purposes of restorative justice, truth-telling, memorialization, and promotion of culture and expression where they have been threatened; support for cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity; activities to promote convening events, forums, and public awareness campaigns to promote best international practices related to upholding FOE in a time of war; analysis of current and pending legislation, regulations, and policies related to FOE issues in the current environment, as well as advocacy with government interlocutors, at the local and national levels, on relevant legislative issues; support for lawyers and legal recourse as it relates to freedom of the media and FOE; providing recommendations on FOE issues and advocating for a rights-based government strategy, regulations, and legislation at the local, regional, and national levels for tackling these issues; and awareness raising campaigns explaining the importance of FOE and best international practices, particularly within the context of war and the implementation of martial law.

Proposal Content

When developing competitive proposals, applicants should consider the following elements:

  • Address FOE in an integrated way and its broadest sense, both online and offline, inclusive of media, internet freedom, the arts and culture, and human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • Take a holistic, inclusive approach to supporting the fundamental right to FOE through engagement of marginalized groups, taking care to include diverse communities outside of the capital.
  • Integrate a trauma-sensitive, do-no-harm approach into the program design and overall implementation. Such an approach will recognize the unique traumas affecting target communities, fully integrate knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seek to actively resist re-traumatization. In a practical sense, the program should also seek to build in mental health and psychosocial support for civil society partners and their beneficiaries, with an appropriate budget allocation to address these needs.
  • Substantively involve local civil society in activities, emphasize activities on the local and regional levels, and/or make grants or sub-grants to these groups where possible.

Funding Information

  • Total Funding Ceiling: $987,650
  • Total Funding Floor: $0
  • Anticipated Number of Awards: 1
  • Period of Performance: At least 24 months

See here to learn more and apply.

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