Applying for an UNDEF project grant and selection process

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UNDEF supports projects that strengthen the voice of civil society, promote human rights, and encourage the participation of all groups in democratic processes. UNDEF projects are two years long. Applicants can request a grant of a minimum of 100,000 US dollars and a maximum of 300,000 US dollars. The large majority of UNDEF funds go to local civil society organizations. In this way, UNDEF plays a distinct role in complementing the UN's other work -- the work with Governments -- to strengthen democratic governance around the world.

Since 2006, UNDEF has supported more than 800 projects in over 120 countries at a total amount of almost US$190 million. Proposals are subject to a highly rigorous selection process, with fewer than two per cent of proposals chosen for funding.

Projects fall under one or more of eight areas

The stages of the process are:

Online Project Proposal System 

The on-line project proposal system can be accessed at the UNDEF website only during the annual window. Please read the following documents: project proposal guidelines, lessons learned for applicants, frequently asked questions, blank project proposal form, and summaries of existing projects.  The on-line proposal form is fairly short and simple, as you are not expected at this stage to draft a full project document. Project proposals submitted by e-mail, regular post, facsimile, diplomatic or UN pouch, hand or courier delivery or any other channel will NOT be considered. Neither will project proposals in any language other than English or French.  

Long List

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.


The long list produced by the team of independent assessors is then examined by the Fund’s Programme Consultative Group -- comprising the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Development Programme, the UN Development Fund for Women and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime -- in consultation with United Nations Resident Coordinators in the field. 


The Programme Consultative Group review yields a short list which is reviewed by the UNDEF Advisory Board -- comprising Governments, civil society and individuals. 

UN Secretary-General

The final short list is then submitted to the UN Secretary-General for approval.

Project Document

Once the short list is approved by the Secretary-General, the proposal moves into the final stage in the selection process: the negotiation of a project document, which is in effect the contract between UNDEF and the grantee.  This negotiation requires the applicant to provide a more elaborated project design, and involves detailed input from both UNDEF and the applicant, as well as scrutiny and due diligence enquiries by UNDEF.  Only upon successful conclusion of the project document, and its approval by the United Nations Controller, will the project proposal formally be approved for funds disbursement. This can be expected to happen in September at the earliest, although typically not before October and often later.