US offers funding to strengthen civil society in Sri Lanka

The US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) has announced an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects that advance and protect freedom of association and freedom of assembly in Sri Lanka.

Per the 2020 Human Rights Report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly noted that although the country had a comprehensive legal framework governing the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, it was “scattered in different sets of laws and regulations which seem to be interchangeably enforced.”

DRL seeks proposals for programs that utilize legal mechanisms and the judicial system to ensure these legal protections are enforced and these rights are respected in Sri Lanka.  Proposals should assess the use of policies, laws and programs on democratic political competition, civil society, and media freedom that are being put into place in Sri Lanka under the new government.

Additionally, proposals should provide legal and organizational support to organizations and individuals facing undue government restrictions, pressure, inspections, and censorship to ensure they can continue to operate, as well as foster civil society-led strategic litigation to advance the protection, fulfillment, and respect of human rights.

Program approaches may include but are not limited to:

  • Strengthening the role, status and capacity of defense lawyers and legal professionals;
  • Expand the capacity of judicial watchdog organizations to monitor, document, and advocate in support of fair judicial process and court decisions; Develop public-awareness and advocacy campaigns that can be implemented via multiple media and social platforms;
  • Assist small NGOs or informal advocacy organizations with innovative methods of civic engagement at the community level.

The proposed program must also address how it will ensure coordination with existing civil society networks, as well as ongoing civil society-led strategic litigation and advocacy efforts; all proposals must demonstrate that they do not duplicate existing efforts.

Proposed programming must be responsive to immediate needs on the ground, must be in line with the U.S. Government’s democracy, governance, and human rights goals in Sri Lanka; and should contribute to and support Sri Lanka’s efforts to strengthen democracy, governance, and human rights in the country.  Helpful resources for applicants include the annual Sri Lanka Human Rights Report (https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/sri-lanka/) and the International Religious Freedom Report (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/).

All programs should aim to have impact that leads to 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.  Programs should seek to include groups that can bring perspectives based on their religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.  Programs should be demand-driven and locally led to the extent possible.  DRL requires all programs to be non-discriminatory and expects implementers to include strategies for integration of individuals/organizations regardless of religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity. (Colombo Gazette)

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