The UNDEF supports projects that strengthen the voice of civil society, promote human rights, and encourage the participation of all groups in democratic processes. The large majority of UNDEF funds go to local civil society organizations — both in the transition and consolidation phases of democratization. In this way, UNDEF plays a novel and unique role in complementing the UN’s other, more traditional work — the work with Governments — to strengthen democratic governance around the world.
Proposals are subject to a highly rigorous and competitive selection process, with fewer than two per cent chosen for funding. Projects fall under one or more of eight main areas:
Rule of law and human rights
Strengthening civil society interaction with Government
Media and freedom of information
Tools for knowledge
UNDEF will not give priority to project proposals which focus on the following:
Initiatives which do not promote democracy
Initiatives filling a funding gap for on-going/regular programs and activities
Projects focused primarily on research
Projects that will be co-financed with other donors.
In principle, UNDEF grants will be allocated for projects with a default duration of two years. However, it is acceptable to UNDEF if a successful applicant completes a project in less than two years.
Grants will not necessarily match the full amounts applied for. Grant allocations will be of a minimum of US$100,000 and not exceed US$300,000 for any given project. Applicants must request an amount within this range. The majority of projects are granted no more than $250,000.
UNDEF funds projects implemented by non-UN organizations, not individuals, profit-making or government entities. Eligible applicants must be duly constituted nationally or internationally and have legal status.
At the project proposal stage, applicants will be required to indicate the type of organization applying for funding:
Civil Society Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations engaged in promoting democracy
Independent and Constitutional Bodies,
Global and Regional inter-government bodies, organizations, and associations other than the United Nations
UNDEF’s priority is Civil Society Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (see above). The organization must be legally constituted. UN accreditation is not a prerequisite to apply for UNDEF funding. UNDEF encourages local CSO’s to submit high-quality project proposals.
Priority Countries and Regional Balance
Strong preference will be given to applicants from countries and regions where the challenges of democracy are more critical, such as countries emerging from conflict, new and restored democracies, the Least Developed Countries (as per the official classification of the UNOHRLLS), Low-Income Countries (“Low-Income Economies” as per the World Bank’s official classification based on Gross National Income per capita) and Middle-Income Countries (“Lower and Upper Middle-income Economies”, idem).
Local and Global/Regional Projects
UNDEF will invite proposals for projects that either take place in one country only (local) or occur in several specified states of a region or sub-region (regional) or intend to operate at the global level (global). UNDEF will reserve at least 80% of its programmable resources in each funding round for projects taking place in one country and will allocate no more than 20% to global/regional projects.
During the assessment process, project proposals will be assessed based on the following ten assessment criteria:
The project promotes the objectives of UNDEF
The project draws on the United Nations comparative advantage
The project will have a significant impact
The project will encourage the inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable groups
The project will enhance gender equality
The project has strong prospects for successful implementation
The applicant organization has a strong track record
The project is technically sound in conception and presentation
The project represents good value for money
The project has strong prospects of sustainability beyond the project duration.