Supporting Civil Society in Exile

Beyond Borders


In Myanmar, civic space drastically contracted after the February 2021 coup. Stringent registration and operating constraints, as well as threats of arrest and violence, forced many organizations into exile. ICNL worked with our partner, a leading network of local organizations providing humanitarian aid, to relocate to Thailand. From its new base, our partner was able to use its experience and ICNL’s guidance to support over 1,500 grassroots and community-based organizations in Myanmar, helping them navigate the restrictive environment and continue providing critical humanitarian aid.

In Belarus, escalating political persecution has driven hundreds of thousands of activists to other countries. To ensure they could continue their important civil society work, ICNL and local partners developed guides for activists relocating to Lithuania and Georgia, common destinations for many Belarusians. These guides cover essential information about how organizations and activists can continue their work in exile, including registering organizations, obtaining work permits, and complying with tax laws. Additionally, we developed a user-friendly Telegram bot to help organizations quickly navigate the guides, which over 500 activists have used. While these tools were initially designed for civil society escaping repression in Belarus, they have also proven valuable for activists relocating from Russia and other countries in the region.

In both of these cases, ICNL’s assistance has had ripple effects far beyond our direct partners. By supporting relocation, ICNL enables our partners to continue their crucial work safeguarding civic space and makes it possible for them to help other organizations confronting similar challenges.

This story is from our 2023 Annual Report. Each story in the report demonstrated how ICNL and our partners have strengthened the threads of resilience in civil societies worldwide.