Asia & the Pacific Program

ICNL works alongside local partners throughout Asia to foster an enabling legal environment for civil society, philanthropy, 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 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.

UNSR meeting with civil society and human rights defenders on Asia issues in March 2019 (Photo: Jeff Vize)
The Law Affecting Civil Society in Asia

Our newly updated report is an overview of the regulatory environment affecting civil society and civil society organizations across Asia, focusing on a number of countries and key themes. It highlights regulatory trends impacting civil society throughout the region. Topics include registration, termination, state supervision, legal treatment of foreign organization, and rules related to funding sources, including cross-border philanthropy and economic activities. Read the full report here.

Man working in an electronic repair shop in Cambodia (Photo credit: Ethan Crowley)
Civic Freedom Digest: Trends in the Asia-Pacific Region

In this issue of the Civic Freedom Digest, published February 2020, 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. ICNL’s Civic Freedom Monitor details the state of civic freedoms in 54 countries, including 10 in the Asia-Pacific region.

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.

Focus Areas

Participants reading over a poster at a July, 2016 workshop in Myanmar on the implementation of the Association Registration Law, convened by the CSO Working Group and the Ministry of Home Affairs, with the support of USAID and FHI 360.

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.

ICNL 2014-2015 Annual Report Cover photo - Afghan woman holding a sign in Dari

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.

UNSR meeting with civil society and human rights defenders on Asia issues in March 2019 (Photo: Jeff Vize)

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.

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.