On April 13, 2021, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announced a funding opportunity to combat corruption in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (the “Northern Triangle”).
Human rights abuses, endemic corruption, and violence has been plaguing the Northern Triangle region; these are just a few of the “root causes of human insecurity and irregular migration.” Guatemala and Honduras have made efforts to prosecute corrupt officials; however, those efforts have not succeeded because they have been “undermined by the termination of internationally-backed anticorruption missions,” the notice stated. Anticorruption organizations in the region often lack oversight, citizen participation, and do not abide by international standards. Even outside organizations such as independent media, civil societies, and advocates have attempted to expose corruption; however, authorities in the region undermined that effort.
Thus, the DRL funding opportunity particularly focuses on combating political corruption as this is a common obstacle among the countries in the Northern Triangle. By offering the grant, “DRL hopes to effectively address corruption in the Northern Triangle to help create a safer, stronger, and more prosperous region.”
DRL hopes to support civil society-led collations aimed at combating corruption in the Northern Triangle. In particular, “Proposals should focus efforts on strengthening civil society organizations (CSOs) utilizing a regional approach to achieve the following objectives:
1) increase accountability for corrupt actors;
2) strengthen public oversight of national anticorruption mechanisms; and,
3) increase awareness of the impacts of corruption and potential redress mechanisms before national, regional, and international bodies.”
DRL requests that applicants submit new and innovative approaches to fighting corruption. DRL hopes that applicants will collaborate with civil society organizations, journalists, and anticorruption advocates alike. Proposal objectives can include: “documenting cases of corruption to feed into national, regional, or international accountability mechanisms; facilitating public oversight of anticorruption proceedings; and increasing awareness of potential redress mechanisms for anticorruption advocates and independent journalists before national, regional, and international bodies.” For example, these projects can include partnering with independent journalists and law schools to train them on effective accountability mechanisms and use their expertise to investigate, document, and analyze corruption cases to create transparency and mitigate corruption.
In its notice, DRL wrote that certain activities such as humanitarian assistance, English instructions classes, advance technology purchases, or small-loan business developments are not covered under the grant.
The application deadline is on May 28, 2021. The total funding amount is 740,740 dollars. DRL requests that projects last between18 to 36 months.
The announcement is consistent with the enactment of the U.S.-North Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act and underscores the emphasis by the Biden Administration of trying to go the source of the instability in the Northern Triangle: the need to improve the rule of law, democratic institutions, anti-corruption, transparency, and governance. Unfortunately this undertaking cannot produce results overnight.
 See also Bruce Zagaris, US-N.Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act Sets Stage for New US Policy, 27 Int’l Enforcement L. Rep. 130 (Mar. 2021).