The rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression are not only intrinsic to democracy, but are also fundamental to a strong, vibrant, and inclusive civil society. Unfortunately, an increasing number of governments are using the law to constrain civic space.
ICNL is therefore pleased to announce an expansion of the Global Civil Society Legal Enabling Environment Program (LEEP). In September, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) expanded the scope of LEEP to include – along with the freedoms of association and assembly – the freedoms of expression, information and other human rights essential to the vibrant functioning of civil society. Through LEEP, ICNL will be better positioned to strengthen the legal environment for civil society by providing technical assistance, helping in-country partners enhance their capacity on civil society law, and undertaking research on cutting edge legal issues affecting civil society.
By expanding LEEP, USAID is delivering on a commitment announced by President Obama during last month’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting to renew and redouble international efforts to promote and protect civil society around the world. The expansion is also detailed on an updated White House Fact Sheet on US support for civil society.
“It is precisely because citizens and civil society can be so powerful -— their ability to harness technology and connect and mobilize at this moment so unprecedented -— that more and more governments are doing everything in their power to silence them,” President Obama said at the CGI last month. With the expansion of LEEP, ICNL will increase efforts to protect and expand civil society space so that these voices can be heard.