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Call for Concept Notes – Strengthening Civil Society and Democratic Spaces in the Indo-Pacific 2024-2028

This funding opportunity process is now closed. The deadline for submitting a concept note was November 28, 2023.

The “Strengthening Civil Society and Democratic Spaces in the Indo-Pacific” Call is a 2-stage application process contributing to Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

As a first step, eligible organizations are invited to submit Concept Notes that describe projects that will address the objectives of this Call. At the second stage, a limited number of organizations will be invited to submit a full proposal. The total amount of funding available under the Strengthening Civil Society and Democratic Spaces in the Indo-Pacific 2024-2028 Call is up to $30 million over 4 years. Global Affairs Canada (GAC) may fund 8 to 10 proposals or none, up to the maximum funding available.

The Indo-Pacific region will play a critical role in shaping Canada’s future over the next half-century. Encompassing 40 economies, over four billion people and $47.19 trillion in economic activity, it is the world’s fastest growing-region and home to six of Canada’s top 13 trading partners. This Call for concept notes supports efforts of organizations registered in Canada and Indigenous organizations in Canada to enhance inclusive governance, promote and protect human rights, and advance gender equality in support of sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region. Applicants will carry out projects in the field of international development, aligned with Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

You must submit your application through the Partners@International portal before the deadline. If you are applying in consortium with other organizations that would co-sign the funding agreement with GAC, please ensure that each organization is registered in the Partners@International portal and has uploaded all required documents. Please see details under the “Organization eligibility” section below.

We will not accept any late submissions. To ensure that technical difficulties do not prevent you from submitting your concept note on time, we strongly suggest that you submit your application at least 3 working days before the deadline. Please note the deadline of this call for concept notes has been extended to 12 p.m. (noon) Eastern Time on November 28th, 2023. Please read all portal instructions carefully.


The Call aims to support the efforts of organizations registered in Canada and Indigenous organizations in Canada to:

While having multiple synergies with Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy Action Areas of Gender Equality and The Empowerment of Women and Girls (Core Action Area 1); Growth that Works for Everyone (Action Area 3); and Inclusive Governance (Action Area 5), the Call would place a specific emphasis on inclusive governance and human rights, with gender equality and women’s empowerment fully integrated in proposed interventions. This would enable countries to unlock the full potential of their diverse populations, including recognizing and empowering women, girls and other groups living in marginalized conditions as key agents of change, and enabling them to reach their full political, social and economic potential.

Enhancing inclusive governance, promoting and protecting human rights, and advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment are by nature cross-cutting, hence the initiative, in addressing these objectives, and if relevant, proposing new or innovative solutions, can intersect and/or focus on various or specific sectors, in response to local, political and institutional contexts. Local needs would be identified by applicants in collaboration with local partners.

The Call will fund projects contributing to the Indo-Pacific Strategy objective “Investing in and Connecting People” and the Feminist International Assistance Policy Action Area 5: Inclusive Governance. Projects should also align with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Call’s expected outcomes are derived from the Feminist International Assistance Policy Action Area 5: Inclusive Governance. Applicants must develop their own project-specific expected outcomes, which would be aligned to the ultimate outcome and one or more of the inter-related intermediate outcomes below.

Expected Ultimate Outcome

Improved equality and enjoyment of human rights for the poorest, most marginalized and most vulnerable people, particularly women, children, and youth in countries where GAC engages.

Expected Intermediate Outcomes

  1. Increased inclusive and gender-sensitive promotion and protection of human rights by individuals, state and non-state actors. This includes the work of human rights defenders, journalists, media actors, as well as support to institutions and groups to advance the human rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups such as (but not limited to) women and girls, migrants/refugees, 2SLGBTQI+ people, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, unemployed youth, and others.
  2. Increased equitable access to fair, inclusive, and gender-responsive formal and/or informal justice institutions and services. This includes work across traditional, informal and customary legal systems, in justice and law enforcement, as well as alternative dispute resolution and transitional justice processes.
  3. Increased equitable participation by individuals and civil society in public leadership, decision-making, and democratic processes, with a particular focus on women, vulnerable and marginalized groups, and rights-based organizations. This includes building community leadership and decision-making, and supporting democratic institutions, civic education and political participation at all levels.
  4. Increased accountability and transparency in the delivery of inclusive and gender-responsive public services, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized groups. This includes support to public sector reform, policy and administrative management, as well as public financial management, domestic resource mobilization, anti-corruption, and statistical capacity building.

Applicants will need to identify project-specific expected ultimate outcome and intermediate outcomes, which should align horizontally with the Call’s expected intermediate and ultimate outcomes.

The project’s ultimate and intermediate expected outcome statements must be informed by the evidence stemming from the situational analysis and grounded in the reality of your project’s context, scope, and theory of change, and be more specific in terms of:

Note that applicants should also develop the preliminary project level immediate outcomes that logically lead or contribute to their respective intermediate outcomes at the concept note phase.

Refer to the Results-Based Management for International Assistance Programming at Global Affairs Canada: A How-To Guide to ensure that your outcome statements respect GAC’s syntax structure for expected outcome statements and definition of ultimate, intermediate and immediate outcomes. The following two tip sheets may also be useful: RBM Tip Sheet 2.1 Results Chain and Definitions and RBM Tip Sheet 2.2 Syntax Structure of Outcome, Output and Activity Statements.

Further, applicants should refer to the Feminist International Assistance Gender Equality Toolkit for Projects when developing the concept note.

Important note: We will reject all concept notes prepared by applicants who have copied and pasted the Call’s expected outcome statements as-is, without adapting them to the reality of the proposed projects.

Organizations that receive funding under this Call will be expected to work with GAC to ensure relevant result and indicator frameworks are put in place for efficient monitoring, evaluation, reporting and learning. Where appropriate, applicants should use the Feminist International Assistance Policy Indicators, and other globally recognized governance and human rights indicators. GAC will share additional guidance with successful applicants on reporting, including the use of key performance indicators, following the concept notes step.

Organization eligibility criteria

Applicants should review the eligibility screening requirements to ensure that they are eligible for funding under this Call. We will not pre-assess or comment on the eligibility of specific potential applicants. To be eligible, you must meet each requirement and, where stipulated, provide supporting documentation. If your organization is submitting a concept note in consortium with other organizations, each of which would co-sign the funding agreement with GAC, then each organization (i.e. co-signatory) must meet the eligibility requirements and provide documentation that demonstrates they meet these eligibility requirements.

Eligibility screening requirements are the following:

Required project parameters

Carefully review the parameters of this Call and determine whether your project idea conforms to them. We will not respond to questions about the eligibility of your project idea. In order for your application to be considered for funding, you must be able to answer “yes” to all of the following statements:

Your proposed project will be considered for funding under this Call if it conforms to all the above parameters.

Required project experience

You must be able to demonstrate in your application that your organization has the required capacity, as noted below, to be considered for funding under this Call. The signatory organization(s) must provide one or more examples of recent projects (i.e. in the last eight years) in the application form. The example(s) provided under the “Organizational Capacity” section of the Concept Note form must demonstrate the following, as appropriate:

Please demonstrate how you meet these required project experiences, as appropriate, under section “3 - Organization capacity” of the concept note form, along with the other assessment criteria found in the equivalent section below.

Organizations that do not meet the required project experience(s) are encouraged to collaborate with other applicants as non-signatory partners.

Applicants unable to fulfill the above requirements are not eligible to apply under this Call.

Additional guidance

GAC is looking forward to funding a diversified portfolio of projects. Preference may be given to applications that address the following:

How we assess your concept note

Concept notes submitted under this Call will first undergo an eligibility check to verify that they meet all organization eligibility requirements and required project parameters identified on this Call page.

Next, eligible concept notes will be assessed to ensure that applicant organizations demonstrate the required project experience. Concept notes that do not meet all organization eligibility requirements, demonstrate required project parameters or project experience, will not be further assessed. You will be notified if your organization is found to be ineligible or if it does not meet the project experience requirements.

Finally, applications that meet all of the above requirements will be assessed, based on how well their concept note addresses the following 3 core components:

  1. Development challenge
    Briefly describe the development challenge your proposed project will address, in relation to the objectives of the Call that you are applying to.
    • Explain how your proposed project aligns with GAC’s, and related Call, programming and policy priorities, (including Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, in particular the Inclusive Governance Action Area) as well as the host country’s international and national commitments (i.e. Sustainable Development Goals and other relevant priorities).
    • Briefly demonstrate understanding of the cross-cutting issues related to gender equality, human rights and environmental sustainability that pertain to your proposed project. This may include the following:
      • Human Rights: Briefly identify rights-holders, including the groups living in most vulnerable and marginalized conditions, responsibility holders and duty bearers, challenges and capacity gaps to achieve the access and fulfillment of human rights
      • Gender Equality: Briefly identify the gender equality gaps, inequalities, barriers and power dynamics relevant to this project and how these affect women, men, boys, girls and other people living in marginalized and vulnerable conditions. A Gender Based Analysis (GBA+) will be required at the full proposal stage for organizations whose concept notes have been short-listed.
      • Environment:  In keeping with the Indo-Pacific Strategy’s objective to build a sustainable and green future, consider development challenges that require climate and environment action, and how these could be supported through inclusive governance, human rights (including women’s rights) and women’s empowerment.
    • In the spirit of localization and the participatory approach, note any prior formal or informal consultations and discussions with rights holders, duty bearers and responsibility holders, including women’s rights organizations and/or Indigenous rights organizations, or other ways that you are ensuring your proposed project will be based on local needs and priorities.
    • Describe your development challenge using fact-based evidence (i.e. cite your sources).
  2. Solution
    Briefly describe how your proposed solution presents a logical and realistic way to sustainably address the development challenge(s) identified. 
    • Identify your project specific ultimate outcome and intermediate outcomes that address the problem identified, and which align with the Call Objectives, and GAC’s international assistance programming approach to Results-Based Management. Clearly label them with the following formatting: Ultimate Outcome: [insert outcome] and Intermediate Outcome: [insert outcomes].
    • Identify the targeted intermediaries (duty bearers/responsibility holders) and beneficiaries (rights holders) of the project and estimate how many, if possible. Sometimes beneficiaries also act as intermediaries. If this is the case, point this out.
    • Briefly explain how your solution will address the gender equality, human rights and environmental considerations that you identified in the development challenge section.
      • Human Rights: Briefly explain how the project is designed to address the challenges and strengthen the capacity gaps of rights-holders, including the groups living in most vulnerable and marginalized conditions, responsibility holders and duty bearers, to achieve the access and fulfillment of human rights.
      • Gender Equality: Briefly explain how the project is designed to address gender equality barriers and the overall approach planned by the organization to achieve gender equality outcomes.
      • Environment: In consideration of the Indo-Pacific Strategy’s commitment to climate and environmental action (e.g. building climate resilience, halting and reversing biodiversity loss, preserving ocean health, and moving toward net-zero emissions), briefly explain how the challenges identified could be supported in the proposed initiative.
    • In the spirit of localization and the participatory approach, please briefly explain local consultations, discussions with rights holders, duty bearers and responsibility holders, including women’s rights organizations and/or Indigenous rights organizations, already undertaken to support your decision to design your project and/or why you believe it will solve the development challenge sustainably.
    • Identify the local partner/s and its/their role(s).
    • Identify the risks associated and potential unintended consequences with your proposed project that could have the greatest impact on the achievement of development results.
    • If relevant, briefly highlight any innovative elements in your proposed project and how they align with Canada’s approach to innovation in international assistance including the eight paths to effectiveness, which reflect and underpin the G7 Whistler Principles in practice.
  3. Organization capacity

    • Briefly describe why you believe your organization has the capacity to implement the proposed project successfully. The signatory organization(s) must provide one or more examples of recent past projects (i.e. in the last eight years) in the application form. The example(s) provided under the “Organizational Capacity” section of the Concept Note form must demonstrate at least five years of cumulative experience in delivering international assistance projects in one or more aspects expressed in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy Action Area 5: Inclusive Governance, with a minimum of three years of such programming in the Indo-Pacific region. These past projects must be comparable in budget to that proposed in this Call (i.e. between $2M to $7M or more, and over a duration of at least four years or more), and would include projects funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Official Development Assistance envelope and/or other development agencies;
    • Organizations that do not fully meet the eligibility and/or experience requirements may want to partner with other applicants as non-signatory partners; these non-signatory partners should also be mentioned in the section “Signatories and partners” of the Concept Note form.

We may:

Invited applicants will have a period to submit a full proposal after they receive an invitation letter from GAC (up to approximately eight weeks).

Available resources

Before applicants begin their application, GAC encourages them to review the many online resources that may be helpful.

How to submit your concept note

In order for your concept note to be considered in this Call, you must submit your complete application package in the Partners@International portal before 12 pm (noon) Eastern Time on November 28, 2023. Your application will not be considered for funding if you fail to meet the mandatory requirements, minimum standards and deadlines detailed below.
Your application package must include all of the following documents:

As explained in How to apply for funding through a Call, submitting a concept note or proposal through a Call does not guarantee funding. Funding decisions will be made on the merit assessment of your application.

Accessing and using PDF forms

Use only Adobe Reader/Adobe Acrobat and Internet Explorer to work on the standardized PDFs to be submitted with your application package. If you use other software, the data you enter may not appear once submitted to the department, and the application will be considered ineligible.
If you are having difficulty downloading the concept note form, see GAC’s Help web page for guidance. Once downloaded, open the form directly in Adobe Reader only. Other software installed on your computer may try (and fail) to open the form using your default settings.

Questions on using the Partners@International portal

Please read and follow the instructions carefully on using the portal Partners@International (linked on the right side menu). Do not open multiple windows in the portal as technical problems may occur.

If your organization is not already registered in the portal, you must do so in advance in order to submit a concept note. Do not try to register in the portal or upload documents at the last minute as this may have an impact on your ability to meet the deadline for submitting a concept note.

It may take 10 or more business days to verify the information provided in the registration request. If you encounter technical difficulties while registering or trying to submit a concept note, send an email to Please note: During the last 2 weeks before a Call closes, the service standard for replying to your enquiry is 3 business days. Technical support for the portal is only available between 9 am and 4 pm Eastern Time, Monday to Friday.

Questions specific to this Call

If you have any questions about this Call after reading the questions and answers about applying for funding, please email them to by Friday, October 27th, 2023 at 12:00p.m. (noon) Eastern Time. GAC will not respond to enquiries received after this date, nor will it respond to questions about an organization’s particular circumstances or specific projects. Applicants who submit questions will not receive responses by email. All answers will be posted instead on the Questions and Answers page of this call so that all applicants have access to the same information simultaneously.

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