USAID launches $24M Phil-Am fund for civil society
MANILA, Philippines - The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched on Monday, September 30 a $24 million fund (P1 billion) for innovative solutions to poverty, corruption, and human trafficking.
The Philippine American Fund (Phil-Am Fund) is a 5-year grant facility for civil society and the private sector to tap for funding for projects in 5 strategic priorities:
- Promotion of New Business and Entrepreneurship
- Advancing Integrity and Transparency in Government
- Combating Trafficking in Persons
- Combating ‘Last Mile’ Challenges to Literacy through Innovation
- Improving Natural Resource and Environmental Management
Management of the grant was awarded to the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF). The grants range from P2 million to P20 million.
Watch a video report on the Phil-Am Fund below.
Phil-Am Fund Chief of Party Victoria Garchitorena said they want to encourage new ideas that are out of the box.
“We’re not risk averse. Because we’re looking for new solutions, we would be open to ideas that maybe we’re not sure if it will succeed. Nothing is sure in this life,” she said.
She added, “As long as you have the capacity, you have the competence and you have the governance in place to make sure that you’ll give it our best shot.”
Enlarging civil society
In his last speech in the country, outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr emphasized the role of civil society in building a better future for millions of poor Filipinos.
“Civil society is an important counterbalance to the public sector. And the organizations help shape Philippine society particularly in the economic operations of the Filipino people,” Thomas said.
He added, “It (civil society) helps shape opinion. It helps drive change. It is extremely important and we want to enlarge that.”
Thomas said the funding shows the US government’s trust in Philippine NGOs and civil society.
“We must never use a broad brush to generalize any individuals or organizations. After all, most of the Filipino people are honest just as most of the American people are honest,” he said.
Question of credibility
A pork barrel scam, involving fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) receiving congressional discretionary funds, has cast a shadow over the NGO community in the country.
“When our member NGOs interact with people, they are always asked, ‘Are you not one of those Napoles type NGOs?'" said Christine De Villa, a project coordinator of the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE NGO). "We always have to explain that we’re not that kind of NGO.”
De Villa added that the question of credibility is particularly challenging for smaller NGOs in their network.
“There are a great number of credible and legitimate NGOs out there but their reputation is being tarnished because of the Napoles group of NGOs.”
Garchitorena said the fund also aims to change the image of NGOs to the public.
“We have been touched by the same brush as the fake NGOs that have been in the papers for the past 2-3 months. We have to remind them that we’ve been around for decades. NGOs and CSO communities have been doing wonderful work in cooperation with the government and the private sectors,” she said.
Thomas also assured the public that the agencies involved will closely monitor where the money will go.
“(The) SGV (Sycip Gorres Velayo & Co) lead accounting firm is involved. I’m sure their accounting practices will ensure that the money is well-utilized,” he said.
The deadline for the submission of concept papers is on October 31, 2013. More information on the Phil-Am Fund can be found at the Gerry Roxas Foundation website. - Rappler.com