U.S. Announces Syria Democracy Program

In a meaningful step, the U.S. has decided to aid Syrian democracy groups through its Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) established by President Bush in 2002 to promote reform in the Middle East.

I can read this move as a qualitative step in the U.S. policy toward the Syrian Ba'athist regime, which got furious by this move.

This U.S. offer, I believe, has symbolic nature rather than practical. It has been intended to be a clear message to the Syrian regime and a reminder of the many U.S. options still unemployed. The regional implications and context must not be absent in reading this U.S. step.

The U.S. has successfully applied the isolation and pressure policy toward the Syrian regime for long months. In spite of the short period, this policy was effective and fruitful at many fronts including the "semi-liberation" of Lebanon. Nevertheless, the U.S. policy toward Syria, in general, is alike a crisis management rather than a comprehensive, integrated and coherent policy based on defined goals and available means.

In the current complicated regional situation in the Middle East through the conflict between the old regional system before the Iraq liberation, backed by totalitarian and authoritarian forces, and the new geopolitics of the Middle East after the liberation of Iraq and the continuing liberation of Lebanon, backed by the change in the American policy and vision of the region derived from the Bush's Forward Strategy of Freedom. I do not think that the same U.S. policy toward Syria would be productive and constructive as regards the U.S. and the Syrian people's interests and the regional wellbeing and stability.

At this stage, the intentions and inclinations of the U.S. policy must turned into definite goals in a coherent and deliberate policy. The continuation of the current deal by the U.S. would cause counterproductive results through more regional instability and insecurity besides the destructive consequences inside Syria -- think carefully about the post-Gulf War ΙΙ Iraq.

For the United States, it is decision time. The U.S. must define what is required from the Syrian regime or from/for Syria and should work seriously on that. The choices of the U.S. are limited now to the showdown or the compromise if possible. For settling the Syrian issue, the current regional and international situation is appropriate and I doubt that the regional situation would be more suitable in the future.

While the U.S. is waiting for prospective events and results, we are loosing our country, which is already ruined enough. Moreover, if the current ambiguous and incoherent U.S.-Syria policy persisted for some years, we will see another Iraq we could avoid, I believe.

May history teach us?

Here is the related information on the Syria Democracy Program Announcement:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

State Department To Grant $5 Million to Syrian Reform Projects

Grants administered through Middle East Partnership Initiative

The State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) announced February 17 that it will award $5 million in grants to Syrian reformers seeking to promote the rule of law, government accountability, free access to information, freedom of speech and free, fair elections.

"The people of Syria deserve the opportunity to build a better future and to live in freedom,” said the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Cheney.

Applications for grants may be submitted through the “Current Opportunities” section of the MEPI Web site. The Syria Democracy Program Announcement with further details is available on the State Department Web site.

Following is the text of a State Department media note on the program:

(begin text)

Office of the Spokesman
February 17, 2006

Media Note

U.S. Investing $5 Million to Support Reform in Syria

To support freedom and democracy in Syria, the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) announced today it will award $5 million in grants to accelerate the work of reformers in Syria.

The grants, which are expected to range from $100,000 to $1,000,000, will build up Syrian civil society and support organizations promoting democratic practices such as the rule of law; government accountability; access to independent sources of information; freedom of association and speech; and free, fair and competitive elections.

"The United States stands firmly with courageous men and women struggling for their freedom across the Middle East, including in Syria," said Elizabeth Cheney, principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau. "The people of Syria deserve the opportunity to build a better future and to live in freedom."

President George W. Bush launched MEPI in 2002 to promote positive reform in the Middle East and North Africa. The initiative has received more than $293 million to support more than 350 programs in 14 countries and the Palestinian territories.

To see the request for grant applications for Syria, go to www.mepi.state.gov and click on Current Opportunities and Syria Democracy Program Announcement. The deadline for concept papers is March 30.

(end text)

Syria Democracy Program Announcement

Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA)
Office of Middle East Partnership Initiatives (MEPI)
Funding Opportunity Title: Syria Democracy Program Announcement
Announcement Type: Pre-applications
CFDA Number: 19.500
Due Date for Pre-Applications: March 30, 2006
Federal Agency Contact: Anna Mary Portz
Email: nea-grants@state.gov
Telephone number: 202-776-8500

I. Funding Opportunity Description: The Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) announces an open competition for grant applications that support democratic governance and reform in Syria.

This represents a new MEPI funding initiative and submissions must outline activities linked to reform and demonstrate how the proposed approach would build on expertise that already exists in the MENA region to achieve sustainable impact in Syria. Submitting organizations (and any members of coalitions) must articulate capacity and expertise in civil society programming, and knowledge of local conditions and needs. Submissions must also demonstrate awareness of other ongoing reform programs in the region (MEPI-funded and otherwise).

Strengthening and multiplying the number of organizations engaging in democratic practices such as the rule of law, government accountability, access to independent sources of information, freedom of association and speech, and free, fair and competitive elections will increase the contributions of Syrians to their own futures and those of their society. MEPI has particular interest in supporting programs that are innovative and that meet needs and opportunities not already addressed by current donor funding.

Accordingly, this request seeks projects to broaden and deepen within Syria the means and modes of publicly expressed and responsible citizen views on reform in all its aspects. The range of possible themes and issues includes, but is not limited to:

  • freedom of association and the right of citizens to access independent sources of information; the right to advocate responsibly on important issues and debate ideas freely with other citizens and governments without fear of retribution, including through democratically organized and legal political parties;
  • the right to participate in local and national governance processes;
  • the right to transparent and effective government services, including regular public accountability for monies spent;
  • the right to speedy, fair, and transparent access to courts of law to settle civil, commercial, and criminal matters;

MEPI seeks to strengthen the community of Syrian reformers at the local and national levels, and support reformers with demonstrated commitment as they work to build broader alliances with new stakeholder groups around issues of core democratic values.

MEPI encourages local organizations to form coalitions that would work together on democratic reform issues and priorities, and share information and expertise with one another. Coalitions could include NGOs, trade unions, chambers of commerce, journalists, professional associations, and academic institutions.

MEPI supports programs that link reformers within and across national boundaries and use local organizational capacity to leverage opportunities to advance reform. When a U.S. or European based NGO proposes to leads a project, we require partnerships that will contribute to local organizations that are suitable, vibrant, and strongly led.

Background Information about MEPI: MEPI is a Presidential initiative to promote positive change in the Middle East and North Africa through diplomatic efforts and through results-oriented programs, both regional and specific to individual countries. Reform is of strategic, long-term importance to the national security interests of the United States and to the U.S. goal of ensuring that the people of the region experience the benefits that come with more open economies, greater educational opportunities, and political freedom. A key element of MEPI is creating links and partnerships with Arab, U.S. civil society, and governments to jointly achieve sustainable reform.

Electronic Link to Full Announcement: Go to http://www.mepi.state.gov/, click on Current Opportunities, click on Syria Democracy Program Announcement.

II. Award Information:

Funding Instrument Type: Grants

Anticipated Total Program Funding: $5 million in Federal Fiscal Year 2006

NEA expects to award grants ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000. Awards, initially, may be funded for up to two years, with an option to extend for up to one additional year based on the achievements in the first budget period, availability of funds, and the best interests of the U.S. Government.

NEA reserves the right to award less, or more than the funds described, in the absence of worthy applications, or under such other circumstances as may be deemed to be in the best interest of the U.S. Government.

Ceiling on amount of individual Awards: $1,000,000

Floor of Individual Award Amounts: $100,000

Project and Budget Periods: These funds are intended for start-up initiatives. Proposed project periods may be up to 3 years. The initial budget period may be up to 24 months. Applications for continuation grants funded under these awards, beyond the initial budget period, will be entertained on a noncompetitive basis, subject to availability of funds, satisfactory progress of the grantee, and a determination that continued funding would be in the best interest of the U.S. Government.

III. Eligibility Information: Eligible applicants include any registered non-governmental organization.

MEPI encourages pre-applications from partnerships or consortia led by or including local organizations. In this context, NEA defines partnership as a negotiated arrangement among organizations that provides for a substantive, collaborative role for each of the partners in the planning and implementation of the project. Pre-Applications intending to represent a coalition of providers should be prepared to provide, if requested, a signed partnership agreement stating:

  • An intent to commit or receive resources from the prospective partner(s) contingent upon receipt of funds;
  • How the partnership arrangement advances the objectives of the project;
  • Supporting documentation identifying the resources, experience, and expertise of the partner(s);
  • Evidence that the partner(s) has been involved in the planning of the project;
  • Clarification of the role of the partner(s) in the implementation of the project, evaluation, and sustainability.

Additional Information on Eligibility: All Federal assistance recipients must have a Dun & Bradstreet Number prior to funds disbursement per a new U.S. Government policy (published in the Federal Register June 27, 2003) applicable to all grant recipients.

A DUNS number may be acquired at no cost by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS number request line at 1-866-705-5711 or by requesting on-line at www.dnb.com

IV. Pre-Application Submission and Deadline: Concept papers are not to exceed seven pages, may be submitted in English or Arabic, and must include an estimate of the comprehensive annual cost of tasks and activities projected in the pre-application. While a full budget is not required at this stage, one may be attached to the pre-application.

Selected pre-applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal in English for funding consideration and may receive technical assistance in this process.

Submission: Syria Democracy pre-application materials may be submitted to the U.S. Department of State, Anna Mary Portz by e-mail sent as an attachment to nea-grants@state.gov, or apply online via http://www.grants.gov, or to the mailing address: c/o Room 6258, 2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, DC, 20520. Submissions shall be considered as meeting an announced deadline if they are submitted before 4 p.m. on the due date.

V. Review and Selection Process: Submissions under this announcement should include information addressing the following criteria. Each pre-application will be evaluated and rated on the basis of these evaluation criteria that are designed to assess the quality of the proposed project, and to determine the likelihood of its success. The criteria are closely related and are considered as a whole in judging the overall quality of a pre-application. Only those pre-applications scoring highly enough will be invited to submit a full application for U.S. Government funds.

Results or Benefits Expected—The applicant clearly describes the results and benefits to be achieved. The applicant identifies how improvement will be measured on key indicators and provides milestones indicating progress. Proposed outcomes are tangible and achievable within the grant project period. (30 points)

Increased Local Leadership, Ownership, Innovation, and Sustainability – The applicant describes how the project will increase the skills and abilities of local leaders and their organizations to advocate effectively with citizens, civil society groups, business groups, media and government officials in support of reform. Innovative initiatives to build reform networks, improve the effective use of media and volunteer campaigns in reform outreach, and broaden the base of support for reform across the many sectors of society, including the religious community and religious leaders, are detailed. A key element of program design is sustainability, progressively achieved throughout the project, by innovative advances in local and regional leadership and societal ownership of reform efforts. (20 points)

Approach—The applicant must demonstrate that its strategy and plan are likely to achieve the proposed results; that proposed activities and timeframes are rapid, reasonable and feasible for Syria. The plan describes in detail how the proposed activities will be accomplished as well as how the proposed approach relates to other successful or on-going democracy initiatives in the region. (20 points)

Organization Profiles—Where collaborators are proposed, the applicant describes the rationale for the collaboration, each partner’s respective role, and how the coalition will enhance the accomplishment of the project goals. In all cases, the applicant describes joint planning consultation efforts undertaken. Individual organization staffs, including volunteers, are well qualified. (20 points)

VI. Award Administration and National Policy Requirements. Those applicants selected for award based on the pre-application and full proposal stages of competition under this RFA will receive grants provided that they execute a bilateral grant agreement containing terms and conditions prescribed by U.S. law and regulation.

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