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The Commonwealth Foundation’s Grants Committee recently approved 14 projects. This new cohort of initiatives complements the Foundation’s key 2017-2021 strategic objective: to strengthen people’s voices so they can engage with governance.

Following a rigorous, multi-stage selection process, the newly endorsed projects are as ambitious as they are regionally varied, with initiatives being implemented from the Pacific islands to East Africa.

Here’s a snapshot of a few:

Find Your Feet are working towards the rights of India’s 104 million indigenous people. The Indian government has introduced a number of laws and policies that are specifically designed to promote the rights of tribal communities. Find Your Feet have focussed on the need to adequately monitor the implementation of legislation and policy at the central and state levels of government. The Tribal Rights Fora (TRF) was established by civil society to do just this – but as new entities they are in need of support if they are to engage policy makers and make recommendations to the institutions responsible for implementing legislative changes.

Find Your Feet of India are going to design and implement a tailored programme of capacity development with TRF members in leadership, advocacy skills and engagement with governance and the media. Its key utility will be to focus on assisting, influencing and engaging with the government’s implementing bodies, particularly the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).

Other organisations such as AbleChildAfrica are paying close attention to the parliamentary cycle as they form alliances between Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and government officials.  The Government of Kenya has demonstrated its commitment to the right of Children with Disabilities (CWDs) by ratifying both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). With the Children’s Act due for review in the Kenyan parliament, AbleChildAfrica will facilitate meetings, the attendance of national parliamentary review sessions and develop the coalition’s ability to advocate using awareness building campaigns. A series of evidence based reports and the involvement of policy makers throughout will help to better inform the Children’s Act review process.

In Mauritius, Prevention Information Lutte contre le SIDA (PILS) are taking action on HIV. Despite the success of recent harm reduction programmes in reducing the occurrences of the virus among adults, progress has rolled back with a recent spike in cases among people who use drugs (PWUDs), a community with limited awareness of health care options. By facilitating their access to services and raising awareness of prevention techniques, PILS hopes to tackle the spread of the virus while at the same time demonstrating the value of the harm reduction approach in national drug policy.

A welcome upsurge in the number of grant applications to the Foundation from the Pacific region has led to the endorsement of some important new initiatives. The Tonga Strategic Development Framework 2015-2025 provides a roadmap for the localisation of commitments made in international treaties, particularly on the environment. The Civil Society Forum of Tonga (CSFT) plans to work towards a constructive working relationship with the Tongan Government so they can jointly monitor the progress of the Tonga Strategic Development Framework. Crucially, the CSFT will begin the process mapping the alignment of civil society and government priorities. These form solid foundations that make a partnership between civil society and government more likely to work.

In Papua New Guinea, the Centre for Environment Law and Community Rights (CELCOR) have linked the issues of environmental legislation and indigenous rights. They will engage government agencies to deliver changes to legislation and policies that govern the use and management of natural resources to benefit indigenous customary landowners. This will involve conducting a detailed review and analysis of existing policies and legislation, and working with government agencies directly to present and propose changes to the First Legislative Counsel and advocate with Parliamentarians for these changes to be adopted.

In this latest round of grants projects, there is a discernible sense of civil society cooperating with governments and building on their work. Constructive engagement and adding value to development lie at the core of the Commonwealth Foundation’s strategic objectives. Many of the new projects do this by broadening and deepening participation to make national legislation effective. They are aimed at achievable, sustainable and institutionalised change and highlight the importance of including marginalised voices that offer a worldview from which there is much to learn.

Grant calls for the 2017/18 period will open in December 2017.  For information on our next grants call and all other updates on our grants programme please sign up here. Profiles for each newly endorsed project will be available on the Commonwealth Foundation grants pages soon.

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