Middle East & North African Program

ICNL’s Middle East and North Africa program promotes an enabling environment for civil society across the region. We strive to advance civic freedoms through our partnerships with local civil society leaders, government officials, lawyers, academics, and other stakeholders with whom we cooperate on initiatives ranging from legal reform to advocacy campaigns. We currently have active projects in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia, and we maintain up-to-date reports on the legal framework for civil society in ten countries.

Be sure to browse our Country Overviews and Key Resources.

15 years

Working in the region, making ICNL a leader in the area.

16 countries

ICNL has worked in across the region.

22 reports

On a diverse range of issues affecting civil society.


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

The pandemic has created new challenges for civic space across the region. Many governments have responded by imposing restrictive measures, including emergency laws, lockdowns, curfew orders, bans on gatherings, and employed new surveillance technology to track the virus’s spread—with troubling privacy implications. While some restrictions on fundamental rights may be necessary to preserve public health, international law requires that restrictions be limited to those that are strictly necessary. Learn more about regional government responses to the coronavirus, using information from the ICNL-ECNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker, here.

Freedom of Expression Online in Jordan

In Jordan, seventy-five percent of adults use social media daily. Since October 2017, Jordan’s government has repeatedly attempted to amend the law on cybercrimes to regulate the use of social media in ways that would limit or inhibit free expression online. To foster deeper understanding of the laws and regulations aimed at social media use, ICNL developed a guide that explores the right to online freedom of expression in Jordan, as well as a suite of videos that explain the issue. The guide (available in English and Arabic) can be downloaded here, and the videos can be viewed on our Facebook page.

Country Overviews

ICNL currently has active programs in five countries.

Key Resources

Disinformation: The Legislative Dilemma

With the development of social media platforms that have become a rapid source of news spread, concerns are growing about the spread of disinformation and fake news. This introductory briefer clarifies the definition of disinformation, international protection to freedom of expression, and whether adopting new laws to combat disinformation is the only way out. 

Public Participation: Concepts and Best Practices

Public Participation is seen to contribute to the creation of fair policies and laws reflecting the real needs and enriched with additional experience and expertise from the field. This briefer clarifies the definition of public participation, public participation in international law, forms of public participation, and how COVID-19 pandemic impacts public participation. 

COVID-19 Impact on Civic Space of Refugees in MENA

States, including those in MENA, have taken prevention measures to combat COVID-19 pandemic. These measures affected economic and social aspects of people’s lives, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups including refugees. This article illustrates the challenges Refugees in MENA face with respect to Freedoms of Association, Assembly and Expression, and public participation, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on said rights. It also includes recommendations on protecting civic rights for Refugees.

Introduction to FATF and its Impact on the Not-for-Profit Sector

States strive to comply with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing, including in the nonprofit sector. This short briefer introduces FATF and Recommendation 8, which is relevant to nonprofit organizations, and best practices on compliance. 

Protecting Nonprofits from Exploitation in Terrorism Financing in Tunisia

This study looks at international standards on terrorism financing and the Tunisian legal framework, with a focus on freedom of association. The study illustrates how AML/CTF laws in Tunisia conform with FATF standards and aims to raise awareness in the sector to constructively engage with relevant agencies in law reform to better comply with international protections of freedom of association.

Government Responses to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for civil society across the region. This page provides information on Middle Eastern and North African government responses to the coronavirus that impact fundamental freedoms, using information from the COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker.

Civic Freedoms in the Middle East & North Africa

This in-depth study assesses the effect of formal and informal restrictions on the viability of civil society organizations in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kuwait.

The Right to Freedom of Expression Online in Jordan

Since October 2017, the government of Jordan has repeatedly attempted to regulate the use of social media in ways that limit free expression. ICNL’s guide provides a deeper understanding of the laws and regulations aimed at social media use and the right to freedom of expression online.

Government Cooperation in Morocco

These guidelines examine legal mechanisms that facilitate cooperation between civil society organizations and national, regional, provincial, and communal governments in Morocco. Included are recommendations for putting the guidelines into practice based on successful models of cooperation from around the world.

Guide to the Right of Peaceful Assembly in the Middle East and North Africa

A comprehensive guide on the right of peaceful assembly including what defines peaceful assembly, when is considered peaceful, states obligations to protect this right and the restrictions imposed on it, revision of notification and authorization procedures, authorities of law enforcement agencies, and a comparative studies of regional practices during states of emergency and armed conflict.

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

Civic Freedom Monitor

The Civic Freedom Monitor provides current information on civil society law in fifty-four countries and eight multilateral organizations, including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen, as well as the League of Arab States and Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

ICNL's Digital Legal Library - landing page button

Digital Legal Library

Our library houses domestic and international laws, reports, treaties, and court decisions that affect civil society. It has nearly 4,000 documents in more than sixty languages from every United Nations member state and several autonomous territories.

Work With Us

There are many ways to work with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law and our broader alliance. If you have questions or wish to partner with us on an initiative, please feel free to contact our team.