The UN Secretary-General has approved a short list of 48 project proposals for UNDEF’s Seventh Round of Funding, following recommendations by the United Nations Democracy Fund Advisory Board. Some half of the short-listed projects are in the rule of law, reflecting this as a priority area both for UNDEF and for the UN as a whole — including support for civil society efforts in this area. Competition for this year’s short list was stiff, with more than 3,000 project proposals received. Shortlisted applicants are now required to complete the final stage of the selection process — negotiating a Project Document with UNDEF, which is in effect a contract between the grantor and the grantee.

Only on the satisfactory conclusion of this process will the proposed project be approved for funds disbursement. UNDEF’s next window for project proposals is expected to open in mid-November.

This Seventh Round of Funding comes as momentous efforts for democratization coincide with troubling developments in some parts of the world. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has noted, there have been alarming threats to hard-won gains in democratic governance in several countries. Civil society groups face growing pressures and restrictions.

UNDEF’s emphasis on rule of law gives added practical meaning to the Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels in September 2012, which reaffirmed that “human rights, the rule of law and democracy are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that they belong to the universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations” and invited “donors, intergovernmental organizations and relevant civil society actors to provide technical assistance and capacity-building, including education and training on rule of law-related issues, as well as to share practices and lessons learned on the rule of law”.