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.


A close up picture of the coronavirus (Photo: CDC/Unsplash)
Government Responses to COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific

This page provides information on Asian and Pacific government responses to the coronavirus, using information from the ICNL-ECNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker. To date, we have identified 75 new measures by governments in 25 countries across the region. These include legislative actions, executive orders/decrees, and other practices that have not been codified, such as policies criminalizing the spread of information about COVID-19. See the full page, including examples of measures being used to address COVID-19 that impact civic freedoms, here.

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.

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.

Creating a Truly Social Stock Exchange in India

As India, the world’s largest democracy, gears up to construct an SSE, a comprehensive analysis of the experiences, structures, and learnings from SSEs across the world can help civil society, policymakers, and the private sector create a more enabling environment for social organizations. This report written by Samhita in partnership with ICNL, reviews the social stock exchanges of Brazil, Portugal, South Africa, Jamaica, the UK, Singapore, and Canada to provide analysis of the recommendations proposed by India’s SSE working group. Read the full report here.

Young woman on leather couch working at a laptop while browsing her phone (Photo: Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash)
India Digital Freedoms Series

Amidst trends towards authoritarianism and closing civic space, India’s changing landscape calls for attention. This report series, researched and written by the Centre for Internet and Society with support from ICNL, undertakes an examination of four key topics related to digital rights and civic space in India: internet shutdowns, online censorship, platform governance, and surveillance. Read the full report here.

Women demonstrate for labor rights in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (photo credit: Jeff Vize)
Fundamental Freedoms Monitoring Project

The Fundamental Freedoms Monitoring Project tracks the ways in which Cambodian authorities enable or limit freedoms of association, assembly, and expression. The evidence gathered by the project helps local civil society organizations advocate for better laws and cooperate effectively with government agencies. ICNL supports the project in Cambodia with technical assistance. The project forms part of ICNLs larger effort to monitor fundamental freedoms throughout Asia. Read how this project has helped Cambodian civil society push back again restrictive legal initiatives here.

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.

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 encouraging dialogue between the government and civil society in Afghanistan, 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.

Enabling Environment National Assessments

Designed by ICNL and CIVICUS, this action-oriented tool is designed to assess the legal, regulatory, and policy environment for civil society in twenty-two countries, including Cambodia, India, Nepal, and the Philippines.

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.

Civil Society & Media in Nepal

Fears are growing that the legal environment for civil society and media in Nepal is becoming more restrictive. Our assessment outlines recommendations for legal reform to strengthen and protect the country’s civic space.

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.

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.