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Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) - Request for Proposals for International Labor Programs

January 14, 2013


Note: The deadline for this Request for Proposals has passed.

Department of State

Public Notice

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Proposals: Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law for the Lower Mekong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Colombia, and South-South Cooperation.


The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Proposals from organizations interested in submitting proposals for projects that promote democracy, human rights, and rule of law in the Lower Mekong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Colombia, and South-South Cooperation.

PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly urges applicants to access or immediately in order to obtain a username and password to submit your application. For more information, please see DRL’s Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI), updated in November 2012, available at


DRL invites organizations to submit proposals outlining program concepts and capacity to manage projects targeting the following issues:

Lower Mekong (Approximately $500,000): DRL seeks program proposals that build the capacity and raise the awareness of marginalized populations, with a particular focus on migrant workers, and allows them to enjoy fundamental labor rights. Target countries might include Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam. Well developed proposals may:

  • Utilize best practices from other country contexts to raise awareness on internationally recognized worker rights among vulnerable populations such as migrants and the informal sector;
  • Work with local labor organizations to develop training programs for vulnerable groups (including migrants and informal sector workers), applying host country labor laws and regulations, including the right to organize;
  • Encourage the sharing of lessons learned and promising practices across lower Mekong countries.

Vietnam (Approximately $300,000): DRL requests proposals for a program in Vietnam to promote the following internationally recognized worker rights: freedom of association and collective bargaining. Well-developed proposals will include any or all of the following groups: disabled persons, women, youth, migrants, and/or informal sector workers. Well-developed proposals may:

  • Support and reinforce initiatives to assist Vietnam in reforming and implementing its new labor code and new union law to more fully meet international labor standards;
  • Raise awareness among workers of the new labor code and new union law in Vietnam;
  • Provide technical assistance for trade union capacity building;
  • Facilitate bi- and tripartite social dialogue;
  • Focus on the role of the labor leaders and worker organizations;
  • Combat discrimination in hiring and employment, particularly regarding persons with disabilities;
  • Increase awareness about workplace sexual harassment and institutionalize safe complaint mechanisms for workers;
  • Provide legal aid or worker rights trainings to allow workers to utilize existing advocacy mechanisms to redress grievances in the workplace, with a particular focus on persons with disabilities.

Malaysia (Approximately $200,000): DRL requests proposals for a program in Malaysia that addresses the situation of migrant workers and leverages labor law related to migrants. Competitive proposals may:

  • Systematically collect and analyze reliable data on the migrant sector, and provide informed recommendations on ways to adequately remedy labor rights violations and promote internationally recognized worker rights among this vulnerable group;
  • Raise awareness among migrant workers, particularly domestic workers, of internationally recognized labor rights and relevant labor legislation.

Bangladesh (Approximately $500,000): DRL seeks proposals to strengthen the capacity of independent organizations representing workers in Bangladesh’s readymade garment (RMG) sector. Bangladesh is second only to China as the world leading exporter of readymade garments, yet workers receive the lowest industry wages anywhere in the world. Women comprise about 80 percent of the roughly 4 million RMG sector workers. Recent high-profile cases, including the November 2012 fire that killed 112 workers in the Tazreen factory as well as the murder of Aminul Islam, underscore the extent to which workers face enormous difficulty in exercising their basic rights. Proposals should address some of the following:

  • Training worker organization leaders and activists to organize and recruit new members, particularly women, through education programs and organizing campaign strategies;
  • Strengthening democratic practices and increasing the presence of women in leadership roles of worker organizations;
  • Improving worker organizations’ ability to advocate enactment and impartial enforcement of the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  • Assisting independent unions to form and register;
  • Building the capacity of worker organizations to constructively and effectively engage with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA), and the Bangladeshi government;
  • Assisting workers in their advocacy for improved working conditions, including fire safety;
  • Improving the capacity of worker organizations to participate in socioeconomic and legal policy debates at the national level, including developing a unified message;

Competitive and well developed proposals will:

  • Provide flexibility to incorporate how proposed activities can expand or contract based on changing attitudes and engagement from the Government of Bangladesh, employers, and other civil society organizations;
  • Prioritize working with local actors;
  • Create an output- and outcome-driven program with a strong monitoring and evaluation plan;
  • Discuss how this proposal complements or expands on existing projects, if the organization currently works in Bangladesh;
  • Coordinate with other actors working in the space

Colombia (Approximately $500,000): The proposed program should help build and strengthen tripartite social dialogue processes and related institutes in Colombia, with a particular focus on enhancing social dialogue. The program should support the goals of the 2011 Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights and work directly with tripartite partners (government, business, labor), while closely coordinating with current USG programs in Colombia. Social dialogues should take into account political, institutional, and technical aspects and should also be individually tailored to a variety of levels: national, sub-regional, and/or sectoral. In order to contribute to the creation of a culture of trust and ensure sustainability after the project ends, proposed activities should strengthen tripartite social dialogue institutions and may include (but are not limited to): the dissemination of promising practices among regions and sectors; the organization of planning meetings with participants prior to the implementation of capacity building initiatives in order to establish buy-in; and the utilization of a training-of-trainers approach to provide technical assistance and develop knowledge of core labor rights. The proposed program should include a component involving women and youth. Programs that support Afro-Colombian workers and leverage current labor programs in Colombia are encouraged.

South-South Cooperation (Approximately $350,000): Civil society organizations in developing countries have expertise that is often not present in U.S. or international NGOs. To take of advantage of this often underutilized expertise, DRL requests proposals for a triangular cooperation program to promote workers’ rights. Through knowledge sharing and technical assistance, the project should broaden the reach of innovative approaches to workers’ rights. Activities should focus on promoting the rights of migrant workers OR organizing workers in the informal economy. Target regions are Asia and Africa, inclusive of North Africa. Proposals should limit the scope of activities to either South-South cooperation around a particular sector or country and/or South-South knowledge sharing around a specific objective. Competitive applications will demonstrate a sound plan for achieving partner buy-in and the ability to facilitate substantive South-South networking. Applicants currently engaged in South-South cooperation programs should explain how additional funding will complement or expand ongoing activities. DRL will not select proposals centered on one-time conferences or a series of meetings.


Please refer directly to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI), updated in November 2012, available at

Faxed, couriered, or emailed documents will not be accepted at any time. Applicants must follow all formatting instructions in this document and the Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI).

To ensure all applications receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Committee will review the first page of the requested section up to the page limit and no further. DRL encourages organizations to use the given space effectively.

Technically eligible submissions are those which: 1) arrive electronically via or by Monday, February 18, 2013 before 11:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST); 2) heed all instructions contained in the solicitation document and Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI), including length and completeness of submission; and 3) do not violate any of the guidelines stated in the solicitation and this document.

It is the responsibility of all applicants to ensure that proposals have been received by or in their entirety. DRL bears no responsibility for data errors resulting from transmission or conversion processes.

Once the Request for Proposals deadline has passed, U.S. Department of State staff in Washington and overseas may not discuss competing proposals with applicants until the review process has been completed.

NOTE: In order to process final awards, approved applicants will need to register with


The Bureau anticipates awarding grants in the third quarter of FY 2013 (according the USG fiscal year calendar). Programs that leverage resources from funds internal to the organization or other sources, such as public-private partnerships, will be highly considered. Projects that have a strong academic, research, conference, or dialogue focus will not be deemed competitive. DRL strongly discourages health, technology, or science- related projects unless they have an explicit component related to the requested program objectives listed above. Projects that focus on commercial law or economic development will be rated as non-competitive. Cost sharing is strongly encouraged, and cost sharing contributions should be outlined in the proposal budget and budget narrative.

DRL will not consider proposals 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 is binding and may not be modified by any Bureau representative. Explanatory information provided by the Bureau that contradicts this language will not be binding. Issuance of the solicitation does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. The Bureau 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 or and DRL’s website,


Should you have any questions regarding the solicitation, please feel free to contact

Mitchell Alva at, Marissa Brescia at, or Once the deadline has passed, State Department officials and staff—both in the Bureau and at embassies overseas—may not discuss this competition with applicants until the entire proposal review process is completed.

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