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UN Civil Society Trust Fund

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UN Civil Society Trust Fund - Key Documents



The UN’s current policy towards civil society stems from the Millennium Declaration of 2000, which includes the commitment by member states to develop strong partnerships with civil society organisations (CSOs) in pursuit of development and poverty eradication. The commitments of the Millennium Declaration were reinforced by the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. Against this background the UN Secretary General appointed a Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations in 2003. The Cardoso Report was presented in 2004 under the title “We the peoples: Civil Society, the United Nations and global governance”. The report contained far-reaching recommendations to strengthen civil society around the world and to strengthen the UN System’s ability to interact with civil society.

As follow-up to the Secretary General’s response, the United Nations Development Group Working Group on Civil Society have developed a Framework for Action for Enhancing Engagement with Civil Society to be funded by a United Nations civil society trust fund.  The framework for action and the proposed UN Civil Society Fund (UNCSF) aim at: i) promoting an enabling environment for civil society and public participation; ii) strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations as well as their organizational and institutional capacity; iii) enabling civil society participation in policy development; and iv) ensuring effective involvement of civil society in the work of the United Nations.

A pilot phase, spanning the three year period 2009-2011, will provide grants to 20 selected countries to field test approaches to strengthening UN-civil society relations.  An independent evaluation will be undertaken after two years and the findings will be used to develop a second phase of the Fund.

The UN Civil Society Fund is administered by the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office (MPTF Office) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in accordance with its financial regulations and rules.


Purpose and pillars of activities

The purpose of the proposed UN Civil Society Fund is to strengthen a process of collaboration between the UN and civil society at the country level from a vantage point of partners.  This Fund is designed to help realise this potential by:

•           Promoting the existence of an enabling environment, including support to the establishment of regulatory frameworks for CSOs.

•           Supporting the civil society sector to establish their own collaborative frameworks, such as national platforms, federations and/or other apex institutions.  

•           Capacity-development support to civil society structures, especially apex institutions, to facilitate their management capability, good governance, public accountability and transparency.

•           Develop UN’s capacity for partnerships with civil society. The UNCSF will provide the UN System at the country level with the resources necessary to work systematically with civil society.   Such efforts will be complemented by a consultative mechanism, which ensures that the UN Country Team (UNCT), composed of Participating UN Organizations, has access to the best national advice on civil society issues.  A National Civil Society Consultative Group (NCSCG) will therefore complement the capacity of the UNCTs.


The Participating UN Organizations at the country level will be eligible to submit a proposal - either a Joint Programme jointly developed by Participating UN Organizations or a project to be implemented by a single Participating UN Organization to the UN Civil Society Steering Committee (UNCSSC); on either occasion, proposals are to have been developed by the Participating UN Organization in consultation with the civil society beneficiary organizations/partners. Depending on the funds available, 20 countries will be invited to submit programme proposals for this pilot phase. During the first phase, one Proposal per country will be approved. 

Participating UN Organizations that have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Administrative Agent will be eligible to receive funding from the UNCSF based on the approved Proposals.  Governments and civil society organizations can receive funding through Participating UN Organizations playing oversight functions, and in accordance to the appropriate implementing arrangements and partnership mechanisms.


Selection Criteria

The overall approach of the Fund will be to elicit proposals from the country level, for which grant funding will be provided, to be endorsed by the UN Resident Coordinator and by the country level National Civil Society Consultative Group (NCSCG) which will be established in each participating country. There will be no funding for regional or global initiatives. The Fund is not intended to support UN activities in isolation from civil society, nor vice versa, since strengthened partnerships is the overall objective.  Such collaboration will also include national authorities, in keeping with national ownership of development processes. 

The selection of proposals will be guided by a combination of the following criteria:

-           UN Country Teams that have appointed a UN civil society focal point.

-           UN Country Teams that operate in countries where an enabling environment for civil society needs to be developed and/or strengthened.

-           UN Country Teams that operate in countries in crisis, post-conflict or transition.


Governance Structure

UN Civil Society Fund (UNCSF) Organizational Chart

  • UN Civil Society Advisory Board (UNCSAB)

The UNCSAB will provide advice and guidance to the UNCSF and monitor its performance to ensure consistency with its intended purpose. Members of the UNCSAB   will comprise two representatives of  Civil Society Organisations, two representatives of contributors to the Fund, i.e. member states, private foundations, private sector entities, the Office of the President of the General Assembly and the Chair of the UNCSSC.

  • UN Civil Society Inter-Agency Steering Committee (UNCSSC)

The UNCSSC will be tasked with articulating the strategic priorities of the Fund, decide on resource allocations and programme implementation issues. The UNCSSC will comprise of representatives of Participating UN Organizations, UN Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP), one representative of contributors (who is also a member of UNCSAB) and one representative of CSOs (who is also a member of UNCSAB)

  • UNCSSC Secretariat

The secretariat function will be undertaken on a rotational basis for at least 2 consecutive years by one of the Participating UN Organizations.  The UNDP Civil Society Organizations Division at the Partnerships Bureau, will serve the first term as the UNCSSC Secretariat.

  • UN Resident Coordinators and Participating UN Organizations

At the country level, the UN Resident Coordinator will be responsible for the overall guidance and coordination of the Proposal funded by the UNCSF.  The Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) Office of UNDP shall serve as the Administrative Agent of the UNCSF. Projects will be implemented by Participating UN Organizations.  Each Participating UN Organization will assume full programmatic and financial accountability for the funds disbursed to it by the Administrative Agent.

The UN Resident Coordinator will establish a National Civil Society Consultative Group (NCSCG) to guide implementation and use of the UNCSF resources at the country level. The establishment and proper functioning of this body will be a requirement for developing a proposal funded by the Fund in any given country. The NCSCG will be co-chaired by the Resident Coordinator and the Civil Society Representative duly appointed. Membership of the NCSCG may vary according to specific country circumstances but will always comprise representatives of civil society organisations in partnership with UN Organizations, representatives of national authorities and participating UN Organizations’ representatives.  The functions of the NCSCG will be twofold: to promote and oversee UNCSF activities at the country level, encompassing all activities that serve to promote improved partnership between the UN development agencies and civil society; to oversee the allocation of the UNCSF resources in support of the above, including the review of proposals as well as oversight of implementation of all activities undertaken under the UNCSF and to endorse proposals before they are submitted to the UNCSSC for review and approval.

The Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) Office of UNDP shall serve as the Administrative Agent of the UNCSF.  UNDP’s accountability as the Administrative Agent is set out in the policy “UNDP’s Accountability when acting as Administrative Agent in MDTFs and /or UN Joint Programmes using the pass-through fund management modality.” (See link: The UNIPP Terms of Reference defines a collaborative framework for coordinated and joint interventions among the participating UN Organizations, indigenous peoples, governments and other partners.


Roles and Responsibilities

UN Civil Society Inter-Agency Steering Committee (UNCSSC)

•Set strategic priorities of the UNCSF, allocate resources and provide guidance on programme implementation issues.

•Review all Concept Notes and select those that will be included in the first round (the first 20 proposals).

•Review Proposals and make a decision on their funding.


UNCSSC Secretariat

•Review proposals submitted by Participating UN Organizations for completeness and consistency with the Framework for Action for Enhancing Engagement with Civil Society and transmit to the UNCSSC for review.

•Transmit proposals approved by the UNCSSC to the Administrative Agent for fund disbursement.

•Synthesize and compile the narrative reports submitted by Participating UN Organizations.

•Prepare agenda background documentation and summary minutes for the UNCSSC meetings. 


Administrative Agent

As Administrative Agent, the UNDP MPTF Office will administer resources under the direction of the UNCSSC and will be responsible for the following activities:

•Sign an MOU with the Participating UN Organizations.

•Negotiate and sign Standard Administrative Arrangements with donors that wish to provide contributions to the UNCSF.

•Receive, administer and manage contributions from donors.

•Disburse funds to Participating UN Organizations based on resource allocation decisions of the UNCSSC.

•Consolidate financial reports from Participating UN Organizations and submit them to the UNCSF Secretariat for inclusion in the annual Progress Report.

•Transmit UNCSF’s annual Progress Report to donors following the endorsement of the UNCSSC.


Participating UN Organization(s):

•Share concept notes and Proposals with the UNCTs for further submission to the UNCSF Secretariat for consideration by the UNCSSC.

•In collaboration with the relevant/concerned CSOs, design, implement and oversee projects financed by the UNCSF.

•Establish a separate ledger account for the receipt and administration of the funds disbursed to it by the Administrative Agent.


Decision Making Process

Concept Notes

The UNCSSC, with the support of the Administrative Agent and UNCSSC Secretariat, will develop terms of reference for two-page Concept Notes for a Proposal, the detailed criteria that will be applied in reviewing the concept notes, and a standard concept note form that all Participating UN Organizations will be required to use when submitting requests to the UNCSF. An invitation for Joint Programmes/project proposals will be issued by the Chair of the UNCSSC, addressed to all UN Resident Coordinators. It will specify that all submissions must be endorsed by the National Civil Society Consultative Group. The deadline for response will be two months from the date of issuance of the invitation.

Concept notes for funding under the UNCSF will originate from the UN Resident Coordinator and will require the endorsement of the National Civil Society Consultative Group (NCSCG). Concept notes will be submitted to the UNCSF Secretariat for initial screening and to UNCSSC for selection and approval. The UNCSSC will hold a meeting at which it will select the Concept Notes.


Joint Programme/Project Proposals

The selected Concept Notes will be developed into Joint Programme or projects proposals, which will be submitted to the UNCSSC Secretariat for further approval by UNCSSC.

The UNCSSC Secretariat will review the Proposals to ensure that all the required information is included in the standard request form before submission to the UNCSAB. The UNCSSC Secretariat will prepare the portfolio of Proposals within a maximum of one week upon their receipt. The Proposals will be circulated to UNCSSC members at least three weeks in advance of the UNCSSC meeting, where budget allocation decisions are to be made. The UNCSSC will hold a meeting at which it will review the Proposals and make a decision of accepting it, requesting further review or rejecting it.

Recent Documents

This tab shows only recent documents relevant at the Fund level. To see more documents at both the fund and project level go to the Document Center.

Key Figures
Funding Status
Participating Organizations are required to submit final year-end expenditures by April 30 in the following year; Interim expenditure figures are submitted on a voluntary basis and therefore current year figures are not final until the year-end expenditures have been submitted.
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