U.S. ‘mixed success’ in assistance to Arab Spring transitions

POMEDREPORTThe United States “has largely failed to adapt U.S. assistance or policy toward the Middle East and North Africa in response to the dramatic political changes in the region over the past few years,” a new analysis suggests.  

“In general, it is remarkable how little the structure and objectives of U.S. assistance to the region have changed since before the 2011 uprisings,” according to The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2015: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, a joint publication of the Project on Middle East Democracy and the Heinrich Böll Foundation of North America.

“The percentage of U.S.  assistance devoted to supporting military and security forces has actually increased since 2010 while the percentage devoted to programming dedicated to democracy and governance has decreased, despite frequent rhetoric from the administration and Congress in 2011 suggesting that the opposite would take place,’ the reports notes:  

Three years after the uprisings of 2011, the administration has had only mixed success in regularizing its assistance to countries in transition. In 2012 and into 2013, the administration mobilized large amounts of aid to respond to the democratic upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria through significant reprogramming and reallocation from multi-country accounts. Such a response was necessary at that time, when funds had not been budgeted ahead of time.  

By now, the administration should be working to move a greater percentage of assistance to those countries into bilateral accounts to establish a more permanent aid relationship. The administration has just this year made moves in that direction in both Yemen and Syria, but has failed to do so in Tunisia and especially in Libya. 

Support for democracy and governance programming in Syria in this year’s request is dramatically increased to $80 million; if granted, democracy assistance to Syria will be the highest bilateral level in the region. Democracy practitioners have complained for some time that the administration does not have a clear strategy for supporting democracy and governance activities in liberated areas of the country. The administration moved a substantial amount of Syria assistance into a bilateral account this year, including a large request for democracy assistance, which may signal a step in that direction. This new request, coupled with increasing coordination of Syria assistance by Mark Ward, could bring increased clarity to U.S. democracy programming strategy in the country.



Request for Proposals: Democracy, Human Rights, and Rule of Law in Nicaragua

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) invites organizations to submit proposals outlining program concepts and capacity to manage the following project in Nicaragua 

Strengthening the Capacity of Nicaraguan Women to Engage in Civic Advocacy (approximately $500,000 available for an 18 to 24 month-long period): DRL’s objective is to strengthen the capacity of women in the North Central Corridor of Nicaragua to engage in civic advocacy initiatives that are aimed, at least in part, at diminishing root causes of generalized violence in their communities. Proposals should identify one or more particularly underserved areas within the designated region in which the program will operate.

Illustrative activities may include, but need not be limited to:

  • strengthening the capacity of women to identify and advocate for measures to reduce violence in their communities;
  • increasing the capacity of female civil society representatives to push for transparency and accountability on issues of concern to their community, including but not limited to effective provision of state or social services or enforcement of legal rights under domestic law;
  • providing generalized training, capacity-building, and technical or legal assistance to female civil society leaders in underserved areas.

The program may also include a component to increase the organizational capacity of partner CSOs in Nicaragua.