Open Call DRL Accountability for Religious Freedom Violations

u.s. embassy

Relevent Country: United States of America

The U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom (J/IRF), in partnership with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects that support increased accountability for human rights.

J/IRF’s goal is to increase accountability for human rights violations by leveraging the institutional knowledge and activities of civil society.  Documenters, human rights advocates, journalists, and survivors are key actors in providing first-hand accounts of state actors that promote gross violations of human rights. This program will aim to increase quality and quantity of civil society documentation of severe violations of religious freedom; increase civil society engagement with accountability mechanisms in the U.S. and abroad; and facilitate strategic advocacy within regional and international fora.

Severe violations of religious freedom are defined as systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom including violations such as:

  • Torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Prolonged detention without charges.
  • Causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons; other flagrant denial of the right of life, liberty, or the security of persons.
  • Proposals should justify why specific countries were selected.
  • Countries within the WHA region as defined by the Department of State are excluded from this solicitation due to ongoing efforts.

DRL requires all programs to be non-discriminatory and expects implementers to include strategies for nondiscrimination of individuals/organizations/beneficiaries based on race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, marital status, parental status, political affiliation, or veteran’s status.

Where appropriate, competitive proposals may include:

  • Opportunities for beneficiaries to apply their new knowledge and skills in practical efforts;
  • Solicitation of feedback and suggestions from beneficiaries when developing activities in order to strengthen the sustainability of programs and participant ownership of project outcomes;
  • Input from participants on sustainability plans and systematic review of the plans throughout the life of the project, with adjustments made as necessary;
  • Inclusion of vulnerable populations;
  • Joint identification and definition of key concepts with relevant stakeholders and stakeholder input into project activities;
  • Systematic follow up with beneficiaries at specific intervals after the completion of activities to track how beneficiaries are retaining new knowledge as well as applying their new skills.

Funding Information

  • Total Funding Floor:  $1,000,000
  • Total Funding Ceiling:  $1,000,000
  • Anticipated Number of Awards:  1-2
  • Type of Award: Grant or Cooperative Agreement.
  • Period of Performance:  24-36 Months.


Program outcomes could include but are not limited to:

  • Civil society documents several violations of religious freedom, consistent with evidentiary support standards relevant to accountability mechanisms in the U.S. and abroad;
  • Civil society organizations better leverage accountability mechanisms;
  • Regional and international bodies take action as a result of the documentation such as visa restrictions, sanctions, or other restrictions; and perpetrators of human rights violations related to religious freedom are held accountable.


Illustrative activities may include:

  • Support documentation of rights abuses consistent with the evidentiary standards needed for potential consideration by various international sanctioning bodies, including the United States (such examples could include credible, corroborating information for consideration of applicable human rights-related visa restrictions and sanctions authorities related to religious freedom;
  • Building upon ongoing documentation efforts and secure gathering of witness testimony;
  • Increased efforts to document under-documented violations, especially violence committed on account of an individual’s conscience, non-theistic views, or religious belief, identity, or practice;
  • Create a coordinated documentation platform and/or network building on and informed by existing documentation efforts;
  • Professionalization of documentation efforts via formal training and mentorship in human rights documentation methodologies; psychosocial frameworks for conducting interviews and taking witness testimony considering a do-no-harm approach, as well as the level of detail needed to bring accountability under various international mechanisms; and legal frameworks and accountability mechanisms available to hold perpetrators accountable;
  • Filing of cases/dossiers for sanctions packages and complaints in domestic courts under universal jurisdiction statutes for investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of atrocities, including genocide and crimes against humanity;
  • Small grants to local groups for advocacy and accountability efforts, based on opportunities identified within the documentation network.

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.