Legal Enabling Environment Program

Through the Legal Enabling Environment Program (LEEP), which was active from 2008 through 2018, ICNL worked to establish legal and regulatory frameworks that protect and promote civil space. This program resulted in many successes and laid the groundwork for effective civil society support.

LEEP consisted of three separate but interrelated project activities. First, ICNL engages in technical assistance to respond to legislation that either threatens the NGO enabling environment or presents opportunities for favorable NGO legal reform. Second, ICNL strengthens local capacity through the Global Forum on Civil Society Law and through a research fellowship program. Third, ICNL deepens the analytic basis for reform through research on select issues of NGO law, and through the dissemination of research materials.

The first phase of LEEP, the NGO Legal Enabling Environment Program, ran from 2008-2013. The second phase, the Global Civil Society Legal Enabling Environment Project II (LEEP II), was commenced in 2013 and finished in 2018. Through LEEP II, ICNL supported and defended the rights of civil society organizations worldwide, including the freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly.

Building on this highly successful program, ICNL will continue much of this work through its membership in the INSPIRES consortium, in which we will lead in addressing laws that restrict civic space. Learn more about the INSPIRES program here.


Technical Assistance

ICNL provided technical assistance to local partners in more than 40 countries resulting in improvements to enacted laws, improvements to draft laws, and the withdrawal of threatening draft laws. During LEEP II alone, ICNL’s assistance resulted in approximately 20 positive modifications. Where supportive activities did not result in legislative successes, ICNL still empowered local partners to take concrete steps in support of enabling law or against restrictive proposals. LEEP II assistance resulted in more than 100 local partners gaining increased ability to influence law reform processes through a range of strategies and methods.

Capacity Building

ICNL expanded the knowledge and capacity of many local partners. In Cambodia, we worked with partners to develop and deploy a monitoring tool called the Fundamental Freedoms Monitoring Program (FFMP). The FFMP made a notable impact on the capacity of two local CSOs, with staff deepening their experience with monitoring activities in a more systematic way, leading to stronger research and advocacy work. In Pakistan, LEEP II made a substantial impact on the organizational capacity of our partner, which expanded and strengthened its networks, including enhanced links with international and national organizations interested in freedom of expression.


ICNL conducted a number of research studies to deepen the analytic base on civil society legal issues. Most recently, ICNL published a report on the legal framework for fundraising and country reports on the legal rules for crowdfunding; and completed research on transparency initiatives and surveillance laws.


“LEEP activities – including technical assistance, fellowships, research, the Global Forum and monitoring efforts – helped empower participating civil society organizations to become more aware of their rights, gain an understanding of domestic legislative processes and international standards, increase their advocacy skills and communication with governments, and connect to supportive international networks.

—Evaluation Report of the NGO LEEP Program, April 2013

“91% of LEEP II beneficiaries that responded believe that LEEP II assistance with CSO law reform advocacy (e.g. consultations on planning advocacy strategy, developing written advocacy materials) was somewhat or very useful. Moreover, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) report the skills they have acquired have improved their ability to change the legal environment for CSOs in their country.

—Cambodia Case Study, October 2017