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New USAID procurement strategy targets increased work with religious groups

USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick at the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. Photo from: Twitter

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Agency for International Development’s new procurement strategy will help facilitate work with faith-based organizations in conflict and fragile settings, the agency’s Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick said Wednesday.

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USAID’s New Partnerships Initiative “is designed to lower the barriers to be eligible to receive our funding,” she said. “I don’t mean only faith-based organizations, of course, as a federal agency, our job is to find whoever is best qualified to get the job done. But it’s no secret that very often faith-based groups best fit that description.”

Glick, speaking at the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., outlined the agency’s strategy for working with faith-based groups in development and humanitarian contexts. The ministerial brought together religious leaders and civil society members from more than 100 countries for a three-day conference at the Department of State, aimed at expanding freedom of religion around the world.

Religious groups and affiliated NGOs often have the networks, relationships, and grassroots experience necessary to be effective on the ground, particularly following societal breakdown along sectoral, religious, and tribal lines, Glick said.

“The practical reality is that faith-based organizations are indispensable to most community mobilization efforts,” she said. “There is no substitute for your ability to get to and operate in places where we as a government agency often simply cannot.”

USAID’s NPI, introduced this spring, focuses on expanding agency cooperation with “new and underutilized partners.” Direct awards will be given to local organizations, nonlocal organizations with a “strong history” of work in a given country, and to partners that will leverage private funding. Sub-awards will be given to new partners, with prime awardees having “a limited mentorship role.”

Randy Tift, a senior adviser with USAID’s Office of Acquisition and Assistance, said organizations that received less than $25 million in USAID funding in the last five years would qualify.

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Global health is one area where communities of faith have had a particular impact on development efforts, he said, pointing to the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and work on tuberculosis and maternal and child health as demonstrating the “enormous value” of expanded engagement with faith-based organizations.

Inclusion of local religious leaders can strengthen humanitarian responses by reducing tensions along religious lines, enhancing the sustainability of humanitarian efforts and reducing risks of future conflicts, Tift said.

“In USAID’s humanitarian portfolio, we have also learned over the decades that assistance policies should more effectively encourage and facilitate the participation and partnership of local and national and international religious communities in meeting specific needs of vulnerable religious minority individuals and communities,” he said.

“The New Partnerships Initiative … is fully committed to increasing the scope and frequency of direct engagement with faith-based, faith-inspired, and civil society organizations to ensure their equities are fully represented in USAID’s programming,” Tift said.

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