United Nations Democracy Fund
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2009)|
The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) was established by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in July 2005 at the African Union Summit in Sirte, Libya, as a United Nations General Trust Fund under his authority.The Fund was launched by Prime Minister of world's largest deomocracy Shri Manmohan Singh and the then US President George Bush for promotion of democratic values Its primary purpose is to support democratization throughout the world. UNDEF finances projects that build and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, and ensure the participation of all groups in democratic processes.
The Fund provides assistance to governmental, non-governmental, national, regional, and international organizations, including relevant United Nations departments, offices, funds, programmes and agencies. The Fund complements current UN efforts to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide.
The projects do not promote any single model of democracy. As the Heads of State reiterated in the 2005 Summit Outcome Document, democracy does not belong to a single country or region. They stressed that “democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural system and their full participation in all aspects of their lives.”
The purpose of the Fund is to build capacities for democratic governance, especially at the country level. This can only be done effectively in a supportive institutional environment. Under no circumstances will activities funded by the UNDEF be “imposed” on a country. The approach will necessarily be one of collaboration and support.
The United Nations Democracy Fund - UNDEF
The United Nations Democracy Fund, UNDEF, supports projects to strengthen democratic development in more than 100 countries. It is the only United Nations entity with the primary purpose of supporting democracy through empowering civil society, the only UN body that has the word “democracy” in its title, and one of the youngest entities in the UN system.
The creation of UNDEF was announced by UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan at the African Union summit on 4 July 2005 . The establishment followed joint proposals from the Governments of the United States and India to strengthen international democracy assistance through multilateralism. The establishment of the Fund was welcomed  by all UN Member States at the 2005 World Summit in September that year.
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 distinct role in complementing the UN's more traditional work—the work with Governments – to strengthen democratic governance around the world. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said  that UNDEF’s focus “recognizes a fundamental truth about democracy everywhere -- that it is ultimately the product of a strong, active and vocal civil society. It is such a civil society that fosters responsible citizenship and makes democratic forms of government work.”
India has given over four million dollars in Feb 2012 to the UN Democracy Fund. This brings up its total contribution to 30 million dollars since the Fund was launched.
UNDEF was one of only two UN entities singled out for support by U.S. President Barack Obama in his speech  to the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2010. Declaring that “it’s time for every Member State... to increase the UN Democracy Fund”, President Obama spoke of democracy as the form of government that delivers most for citizens, and described civil society – the focus of UNDEF's work – as the shapers of human progress and the conscience of communities.
Projects and grants
In its first four Rounds of Funding, UNDEF has supported more than 330 projects  in 115 countries across all continents, including China, Iran, Myanmar, the Russian Federation, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. UNDEF provides grants of up to US$500,000 per two-year project. Project proposals are subject to a highly rigorous and competitive selection process, as UNDEF receives an average of about 2,000 applications a year and only an average of 60-70 are selected. The majority of UNDEF projects are in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Eastern Europe, and fall under one or more of six main areas:
- Community development
- Rule of law and human rights
- Tools for democratization
Comparative advantage UNDEF distinguishes itself from other parts of the UN system involved in governance work by focusing on the demand side of democracy, rather than the supply side. It also differs from non-UN funders in the field – whether bilateral donors or foundations – through the uniqueness of the UN brand. UN support for a project confers legitimacy, a convening power, an absence of historical or colonial baggage, protection, prestige and a ripple effect inspiring other civil society organizations to strive for the same. US foreign policy expert Morton Halperin argues in his 2010 book The Survival and The Success of Liberty: A Democracy Agenda for U.S. Foreign Policy: “Go multilateral: The role of coordinated international efforts to support democracy will often be crucial… UNDEF is not subject to the approval of any other body, and thus is free to distribute funds without interference from particular countries.”
UNDEF subsists entirely on voluntary contributions  from Governments; in 2010, it surpassed US$110 million in cumulative contributions from 39 countries, including a wide range of non-traditional donor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Contributions to UNDEF qualify as Official Development Assistance, and several donors choose to make multi-year commitments. The United States and India remain the two biggest donors.
As a Secretary-General’s Trust Fund located within the UN Secretariat, UNDEF falls under the direct authority of the UN Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is guided by the UNDEF Advisory Board , which consists of the seven biggest UNDEF donor countries—as of 2010, the United States, India, Japan, Qatar, Germany, Australia and Spain; six States from different regions, chosen for their proven commitment to democracy; two representatives of civil society organizations; and three individuals, including the Chair of the Board. Since 2007, the Chair has been Professor Michael Doyle  of Columbia University, a former UN assistant secretary-general for policy planning under Secretary-General Kofi Annan. All members serve for a two-year term.
Within the UN Secretariat, the UNDEF Programme Consultative Group serves as UN inter-agency mechanism that provides expert advice, including on recommendations for project selection. It comprises the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Peacebuilding Support Office, the UN Development Programme, the UN Development Fund for Women and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
To ensure low overheads, the UNDEF office is managed by a small team  of four professionals, led (since 2007) by Roland Rich of Australia, a former diplomat and director of the Centre for Democratic Institutions at Australian National University.
Democracy and the United Nations
For the UN, the importance of democracy and of democratic values was first highlighted in the Charter of the United Nations, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This in turn has been echoed in a variety of documents – declarations, conventions, covenants, most notably the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which contains binding obligations on States Parties in respect of elections, freedom of expression and association and assembly and other vital democratic entitlements. In the 1990s, a period characterised by important changes in various parts of the world, democracy has also become a theme of a number of international conferences, and major UN organs, including the General Assembly, pronounced themselves on ways to strengthen democracy.
This process was matched by increasing operational activities in support of democratisation processes by the UN System. In particular, in 2000 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) placed democratic governance at the heart of its development cooperation programme, equipping itself with greater internal expertise in this area and channeling a substantial proportion of its core resources in this direction. Another significant development was the establishment in 1992 of the Electoral Assistance Division within the Department of Political Affairs.
The links between international peace and security, sustainable human development and democratization were all embraced again by the international community with the unanimous adoption of the Millennium Declaration at the Millennium Summit in 2000.