Asia Religious & Ethnic Freedom (REF)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Freedom of Religion or Belief?

According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “Inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear. Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly. While religious freedom is a core human right international law and treaty recognize and a vital element of national security, critical to ensuring a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable world.”

I have an idea for a locally-led REF project in Asia or a relevant research topic, who do I contact?

If you are a local organization and have a project idea contact Asia REF partner advisor Kenesh Sainazarov ([email protected] ) who will connect you with the relevant Consortium partner.

For research ideas, that are practical and focused on potential program needs, contact Asia REF learning specialist Indira Aslanova ([email protected]).

What are the guidelines for Asia REF projects?

Projects should focus on increasing religious and ethnic freedom in South, Southeast, or Central Asian countries, with at least 40% of funds going to local organizations. All projects must secure support from the relevant USAID Mission in the course of development – there will be extensive guidance during this process.

What capacity building opportunities does Asia REF provide for local partners?

Local organizations implementing Asia REF projects will go through a workshop to evaluate their organizational strengths and opportunities. Based on the results, Asia REF will organize cross-project capacity building opportunities and partners are welcome to request custom capacity building options. These might include activities such as training staff on REF program implementation, participatory approaches to M&E, strategy development, audit preparedness, resource mobilization strategies, improving IT and digital security systems, or other needs.

What kinds of local partners does Asia REF work with?

NGOs, religious organizations, human rights groups, civil society organizations, research firms, media companies, etc.  You do not have to be already working on REF to implement a project through Asia REF, but you should have an interest in human rights programming.

What thematic areas is Asia REF interested in?

Asia REF does not have a specific focus, but all projects should be grounded in human rights and expand religious and ethnic freedom. These might be activities related to advocacy; supporting government and other institutions to protect REF; countering exclusionary narratives and hate speech; promotion of tolerance of religious and ethnic minorities in social and communal life; preventing and responding to human rights violations, for instance, based on needs identified to promote REF in the target country of the project.

Projects should not prioritize broad, overarching training programs intended for mass participation, activities that overlap or duplicate other existing initiatives, or strategic religious engagement programs to promote interfaith tolerance as the end goal. Activities should lead to concrete outcomes related to increased availability and enjoyment of human rights and/or reduced violations of human rights.

Asia REF does not support activities that advance or inhibit the practice of one religion, belief, or non-belief. Activities should have a neutral effect on the exercise of religion and should not advance or inhibit the practice of religion or favor religious belief.

What is the local partner’s role in project design under Asia REF?

Depending on the thematic focus of the project local partners will be matched with one of the Asia REF consortium partners (ABA ROLI, Freedom House, Internews, Pact, and Search for Common Ground). Project design will be developed through a co-design process with the relevant Asia REF consortium partner and respective USAID Mission. Local partners should be available and able to work together and contribute to the co-design process.

Where can I submit feedback on the Asia REF project?

For those who do not have a project-specific feedback mechanism, or for participants who would like to provide feedback on the Asia REF award as a whole, there is a feedback form available on ConnexUs. This form can be used by any partners, participants, or consortium members to submit their feedback anonymously to the Asia REF Learning team. The form can be used by anyone and can be shared publicly with project participants.