FUNDED Articles

A Revolutionary Use for Grant Funding: The Role of Grants in Supporting Egypt's Transformation

May 15

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Sunday, May 15, 2011  RssIcon

By Christopher Haight
May 2011

The "Arab Spring" of revolutions and demonstrations across the Middle East began December 17, 2010 when street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in protest of political oppression. Since Bouazizi's self-immolation, two long-standing dictators, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunsia, and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt have been ousted, a civil war compelling international involvement has erupted in Libya, and brutal crackdowns continue across the increasingly volatile region.

The most profound change from the lens of direct U.S. interests and foreign policy occurred when former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt finally ceded control of the country he has led for nearly three decades. As a long-standing ally of the United States on peaceful terms with Israel and boasting one of the most powerful armies in the region, Egypt's path to revolution has been carefully handled by U.S. policymakers.

Now, with Mubarak gone, the United States is seeking to continue its supportive relationship with a critical ally by providing transition assistance in the form of grant funding.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced $65 million in new funding to support the political, economic, and social transition occurring in Egypt. The funding program, officially titled Egyptian Transition Support, focuses on five broad areas of reform: Civic Engagement/Awareness, Elections and Political Processes, Access to Justice/Human Rights, Transparency and Accountability, and Civic Participation. These areas are described briefly below:

Civic Engagement/Awareness
The purpose of this area is to increase participation among Egyptian citizens in the national discussion on the future of the country. In a country long-ruled by a dictator, one of the many challenges in a post-revolutionary era is to ensure all constituencies feel included in the process of establishing new political frameworks and institutions. Dissemination of information related to political rights and inclusion of grassroots efforts and organizations are particularly important.

Elections and Political Processes
In order to ensure that a new participatory democracy can thrive, this area seeks to support legal reforms, education and outreach efforts, and voting procedures in Egypt. Ensuring a high degree of credibility and trust in the electoral system, otherwise a new government will easily come to be dismissed as corrupt and invalid.

Access to Justice/Human Rights
This area aims to increase support for organizations offering legal services and resources in order to advance and protect human rights throughout the country. Support in this area may also be directed towards the media in order to protect such rights as free speech and ensure a higher degree of investigation into potential abuses.

Transparency and Accountability
This area provides support for efforts to increase access to information, oversight of governmental institutions and policymakers, and policies that ward against corruption. Similarly to
the Access to Justice/Human Rights area of funding, the Transparency and Accountability area seeks to support multiple sectors including civil society, media, and other public oversight agencies.

Civic Participation
USAID describes the purpose of this area as supporting "citizens in peacefully exercising their rights of expression, association, and civic engagement - including through participation in civil society organizations to congregate, formulate and advocate for common issues of concern and serve as a vehicle for participation in decision-making that affects their daily lives." This area provides funding for capacity-building initiatives at community-based institutions to engage more citizens in public discussion and participation.

The Egyptian Transition Support
program is a key example of incorporation of grant funding into what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has long promoted as "Smart Power." Smart Power is best understood as the effective blending of all available tools - economic, diplomatic, military, etc. - to accomplish foreign policy aims, rather than viewing each as mutually exclusive of one another. From this perspective, the grant funding offered by USAID complements and supports the other military, economic, and diplomatic goals instead of just being concerned with development efforts.

To learn more about this grant opportunity, including deadlines and how to apply, please visit

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