Global Forum 2015 – About

The Forum

ICNL’s Global Forum 2015 is the premier global event focusing on the legal space for civil society. This invitation-only event brings together over 200 of the world’s leading minds in civil society, government, multilateral institutions, and the donor community – all there to help shape the future of civic space.

Every half-decade, ICNL convenes its Global Forum, a one-of-a-kind platform bringing together leading thinkers with the aim of assessing where civil society stands – and how to make it stand taller.

This year’s Forum is marked by a sense of urgency unlike any other in recent times. In too many places, governments are becoming increasingly creative in their efforts to shrink civic space. In other countries, critical windows of opportunities exist for meaningful reform.

The Global Forum 2015 is made possible by the generous support of the Government of Sweden through the Civic Space Initiative.


The Global Forum is not about sitting through speeches. Sessions are interactive, action-oriented and designed to build skills. We aim to inspire people to think boldly and creatively about positively shaping civic space, from the smallest of small-town settings to the global stage.

With sustained efforts and constant vigilance, we have the chance to defeat restrictive laws, advance progressive legislation, and shape the future of civic space. At the Global Forum, we will advance the field of civil society law to turn the tide against shrinking space.

Key Themes

Fundamental Freedoms: Defending Civil Society Space
Governments are using creative legal maneuvers to shrink space for civil society. What arguments and strategies can CSOs use to defeat undue restrictions? What is the role of diplomats, development officials, and philanthropists in advancing civic space?

Access to Resources
Financial resources – including domestic philanthropy, international grants, and impact investments – are the lifeblood of civil society. An increasing number of countries are now blocking access to resources. How can we promote laws that allow funds to flow?

The Freedom to Communicate and Connect
The freedom of expression is under threat online and offline. Journalists and activists face fines, imprisonment – or worse. Coupled with governmental surveillance, communication and connections are chilled. What can be done to protect the freedoms of expression and association in the digital age?

Peaceful Protest
What are good police practices in response to peaceful protests? How should the police respond to protester violence? How can we avoid a militarized response to peaceful protests?

Civic Space and Development
It is critical that people have a meaningful say in their own development, and this can only happen with adequate civic space. What role does civil society play in advancing development objectives? How can we ensure that the Post-2015 Development Agenda reflects the centrality of civic space to development?

No Democracy Without Citizens
True democracy requires the meaningful participation of citizens through civil society. Unfortunately, civil society is often marginalized at the highest levels of decision-making, both at the national and international levels. How can civil society claim its place as a legitimate – indeed, essential – element in governance?

Rights For All
The best way to expand civic space is to fill it with more people. Unfortunately, many governments are trying to keep LGBT individuals, disabled persons, women, and others out of the public sphere. How do we make civil society and civic space more inclusive?


ICNL logo

The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) promotes a legal environment that strengthens civil society and advances the freedoms of association and assembly, philanthropy, and public participation around the world. Since 1992, ICNL has engaged with partners in more than one hundred countries. Visit us at


This event is organized by ICNL through the Civic Space Initiative (CSI). Around the world, governments are using the law to restrict space for civil society. The CSI is a three year program (2012-2015) that addresses this troubling trend, aiming to:

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  • Promote a legal environment that enables all people to exercise the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression; and

  • Empower civil society organizations (CSOs) to meaningfully engage with government and other power holders on these civil society freedoms.


The CSI brings together four global partners, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the World Movement for Democracy. ICNL coordinates the consortium’s work at the global, regional, and national levels to promote the universal integration of civil society freedoms. Support for the CSI is provided by the Government of Sweden.


This event is financed by the Government of Sweden. The Government of Sweden does not necessarily share the opinions here within expressed. The author bears the sole responsibility for the content.