Asia & the Pacific Program

ICNL works alongside local partners throughout Asia to foster an enabling legal environment for civil society, philanthropy, digital rights, and participation. Together we advance enabling legal reforms, respond to challenges, and raise awareness about international norms and current legal environments for civil society in the region. We also monitor the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including in online spaces, empower partners to counter authoritarianism, and share information on the latest trends and developments. Our partners include local and regional actors, civic organizations, and reformers in governments and parliaments.

Be sure to browse our Focus Areas, Key Resources, and Country Overviews.


Scenes of healthcare workers at Thailand Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute, Ministry of Public Health. During this coronavirus outbreak, workforce shortages have gotten worse and nurse-midwives around the world have had to sacrifice in the hospitals around the clock and with limited personal protective equipment. (Photo: UN Women/Pathumporn Thongking)
Survey: COVID-19 and Civic Freedoms in Asia and the Pacific

To get a full picture of how COVID-19 measures have impacted civil society in the Asia-Pacific region, ICNL conducted a survey in December 2020 to assess government practices. We received responses from organizations in 14 countries across the region. Read the full survey report here.

India flag (credit:
India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

In recent years, India has enacted a number of regulatory measures constricting funding for domestic non-profit organizations, the most well-known of which is the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). The act represents a securitized approach to foreign funding that is out of step with international standards. It has obstructed humanitarian relief efforts in India during the recent COVID-19 surge and other disasters. Our resource page provides analysis, information, and key resources on FCRA.

Thailand flag on building (photo credit:
5 Things to Know About Thailand’s Proposed NPO Bill

In February 2021, the Thai Cabinet approved a bill drafted by the Office of the Council of State, entitled the Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organizations. The draft law presents a highly securitized approach to the non-profit sector which, as currently envisioned, threatens to violate numerous aspects of international law. ICNL and others – including UN Special Rapporteurs and local civil society organizations – submitted comments on the draft Bill during the March public hearing period, raising various concerns about the Bill. In this analysis, we highlight five key concerns with the current draft law.

Malaysia protest (photo credit: Wiki Commons)
Myanmar: Draft Cyber Security Law and Other Threats to Fundamental Freedoms

On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) staged a coup, overthrowing the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, elected overwhelmingly by Myanmar citizens in the November 2020 elections. The military has since placed restrictions on civil society including a proposed draft cyber security law that threatens fundamental freedoms and violates international law. This ICNL analysis explores some of the key issues and concerns surrounding the draft law.

protestors in Myanmar (photo credit: Wiki Commons Public Domain)
Civil Disobedience: Implications for Myanmar

Myanmar’s growing civil disobedience movement has garnered global attention for its use of non-violent tactics to oppose the military’s February 2021 coup. Regardless of whether civil disobedience actions are considered unlawful under national law, many peaceful acts of civil resistance are protected under the international law of peaceful assembly, and expression. This ICNL analysis examines the international law of peaceful assembly, and expression protections for Myanmar’s civil disobedience movement to the 2021 military coup.

Focus Areas

Advancing Legal Reform

ICNL works with local partners to expand and protect civic space. When legal threats emerge, as in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere, ICNL supports local efforts to advocate against restrictive measures and engage in informed dialogue with governments.

Strengthening Local Partners

From raising awareness of national laws and international norms in Bangladesh to helping partners better regulate themselves in Nepal, we work alongside local partners to strengthen their efforts to defend and promote civic space.

Creating Knowledge

ICNL undertakes cutting-edge research on laws and trends shaping civic space throughout Asia. Our research informs policy discussions and advocacy efforts. We monitor develops in the region through the Civic Freedom Monitor and, in Cambodia, the Fundamental Freedoms Monitoring Program. Local partners can use the knowledge we create to inform practical responses to key issues facing civil society.

Key Resources

ICNL has produced many research products related to Asia. Below are our key resources.

Government Responses to COVID-19

This page provides information on Asian and Pacific government responses to the coronavirus, using information from the ICNL-ECNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker.

Laws Affecting Civil Society in Asia

This publication, updated in December 2019, examines a broad array of regulatory trends shaping civil society in more than forty countries of Asia.

Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index

The CSO Sustainability Index informs and impacts the role of civil society organizations in six global regions, including Asia and the Pacific. ICNL and FHI 360, along with local partners produce the index annually.

Civic Freedom Digest: Trends in the Asia-Pacific Region

ICNL highlights some of the key challenges and opportunities for civic freedoms across the Asia-Pacific region. Despite the trend of restrictive government control, civil society remains dynamic, finding new ways to adapt and challenge constraints, including through active protest movements in Hong Kong, India, and Southeast Asia.

Cambodia Fundamental Freedoms Monitor

This report outlines recent findings on the status of freedoms of association, assembly, and expression in both law and practice in Cambodia.

Analysis: Hong Kong’s New Security Law

The passage of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law threatens to upend civic freedoms and usher in a new era of restricted civic space. This ICNL piece offers an in-depth expert analysis on how the Law affects the future of civic freedoms in Hong Kong.

Explore our full global resource collection, which includes reports, legal analysis, and curated collections of materials covering an array of issues impacting civic space around the world.

Country Overviews

ICNL currently has active programs in 12 countries.