Who will receive grants from ‘Democracy Fund’ to propagate ‘UN values’?
Post-war UN funding for NGOs to promote ‘rule of law’, HR, media freedom

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The UN Democracy Fund or UNDEF, is offering fresh funding for NGOs to promote the rule of law and human rights, media and democracy among six areas earmarked for financial support for 2011. The Sri Lankan NGOs are among those expected to apply for grants which may go up to as much as $ 500,000 per project for a duration of two years.

According to the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Colombo ‘civil society organisations’ could submit their project proposals on-line from Nov 15 to Dec. 31, 2010. The UNIC says funding is also available for projects to promote community development, youth and women ‘issues.’ The UNDEF set up during the tenure of Ban Ki-moon’s predecessor, provides funds for countries ‘coming out of prolonged conflict. UN watchers say the post-conflict Sri Lanka could be an ideal place for the UN Democracy Fund to financially back ‘civil society organisations’, some of which have been campaigning against Sri Lanka at various international fora.

Sri Lankan armed forces defeated the LTTE in May last year prior to the presidential and parliamentary elections on Jan. 26 and April 08, respectively. Some of the NGOs are supporting the Opposition, which has taken on President Rajapaksa’s government.

The UNIC says the UNDEF supports projects that strengthen the voice of civil society, promote human rights, and encourage the participation of all groups in democratic processes. Most of the UNDEF funds go to local civil society organisations — both in the transition and consolidation phases of democratisation. 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.

This is the Fifth Round of Funding to be launched by UNDEF initiated in 2005. In four Rounds of Funding so far, UNDEF has supported more than 330 projects in 115 countries at a total amount of US$ 93 million. Among the recipients is Saviya Development Foundation, which received $ 225,000 for ‘civil society empowerment project to promote democracy.’

Testifying before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), headed by former Attorney General C. R. de Silva recently, UPFA National List MP Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha emphasised the importance of a comprehensive study on overseas funding received by various NGOs operating in Sri Lanka. Wijesinha told The Island that overseas funding had to be scrutinised to ensure that unscrupulous elements didn’t exploit such projects for their benefits. The MP said that he had informed the External Affairs Ministry of the need to review foreign funding received by INGOs and NGOs active in the country.

Since April 2010, the Defence Ministry has initiated a programme to monitor NGOs to counter anti-Sri Lanka propaganda abroad.

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