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United Nations Democracy Fund

UNDEF was created by UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan in 2005 as a United Nations General Trust Fund to support democratization efforts around the world. It was welcomed by the General Assembly in the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit (A/RES/60/1, paragraphs 136-137).

UNDEF funds projects that empower 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. UNDEF subsists entirely on voluntary contributions from Governments; in 2017, it reached almost 182 million dollars in contributions and counts more than 40 countries as donors, including many middle- and low-income States in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In 11 Rounds of Funding so far, UNDEF has supported over 700 two-year projects in more than 100 countries.

Grants ranging from US$100,000 to US$300,000 support initiatives in the areas of:
  • Gender equality 
  • Community activism 
  • Rule of law and human rights 
  • Youth engagement 
  • Strengthening civil society interaction with Government 
  • Media and freedom of information 
  • Tools for knowledge 
  • Electoral processes 
Project proposals are subject to a highly rigorous and competitive selection process, as UNDEF receives an average of about 2,000-3,000 proposals a year and only some 50 are selected.

Proposals are subjected to a thorough process of assessment, quality control and due diligence. An initial examination by a team of independent assessors is conducted, a process in which all applications are judged on their inherent quality and scored according to the following 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 inclusiveness
  • 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.
  • The UNDEF team then narrows down the list to 200-300 of the highest scoring projects. In doing so, the global and regional projects is considered separately from the various national project proposals and are considered within the respective global and regional baskets.
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