For optimal readability, we highly recommend downloading the document PDF, which you can do below.
- Year: 2006
- Country: Transnational
- Language: English
- Document Type: Publication
- Topic: Academic Initiatives,Regional/Global Overviews
This document has been provided by the
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL).
ICNL is the leading source for information on th e legal environment for civil society and public
participation. Since 1992, ICNL has served as a resource to civil society leaders, government
officials, and the donor community in over 90 countries.
Visit ICNL’s Online Library at
for further resources and research from countries all over the world.
Disclaimers Content. The information provided herein is for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended and should not be
construed to constitute legal advice. The information contai ned herein may not be applicable in all situations and may not, after the date of
its presentation, even reflect the most current authority. Noth ing contained herein should be relied or acted upon without the benefit of legal
advice based upon the particular facts and circumstances pres ented, and nothing herein should be construed otherwise.
Translations. Translations by ICNL of any materials into other languages are intended solely as a convenience. Translation accuracy is not
guaranteed nor implied. If any questions arise related to the accuracy of a translation, please refer to the original language official version of
the document. Any discrepancies or differences created in the tr anslation are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or
Warranty and Limitation of Liability. Although ICNL uses reasonable efforts to include ac curate and up-to-date information herein, ICNL
makes no warranties or representations of any kind as to its a ccuracy, currency or completeness. You agree that access to and u se of this
document and the content thereof is at your own risk. ICNL discl aims all warranties of any kind, express or implied. Neither ICNL nor any
party involved in creating, producing or delivering this document shall be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of access to, use of
or inability to use this document, or any e rrors or omissions in the content thereof.
ICNL’s Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe:
One Year Later
By Radost Toftisova *
The title of this report is a little imprecise. As has been pointed out in previous papers on this
subject, the International Center for Not-for-P rofit Law (ICNL) started working on various
educational projects in Central and Eastern Eu rope (CEE) more than three years ago. Even the
“official launch” of the Educational Initiative – when all activities in the area of NGO legal
education were grouped and coordinated and given a common project name – took place more
than a year and a half ago. The seminal event of the Initiative to date, however, took place one
year ago: the NGO Law Teaching Workshop held in September 2000 in Budapest. We therefore
believe that it is useful to review and evaluate the accomplishments of the past year.
The purposes of this paper include:
describing the main achievements of the Educational Initiative (EI) in CEE,
marking the most common problems and difficulties encountered in the process of implementing the Initiative,
drawing some general conclusions from the work ICNL and its partners have done in the
area of legal education, and
placing the Initiative within a broader context of NGO legal university education in the region.
II. Scope of the EI
In an earlier article , we described the various types of activities making up the EI. During the
past year, we have intensified these activities and have developed new approaches to enrich the
content and broaden the impact of the project.
In the first place, the EI continues to maintain a healthy balance between making a regional
impact and affecting change on a country-specific ba sis. Each of the individual country projects
was of great domestic importance while also being intertwined with ICNL’s other activities in a
given country. At the same time, each country pr oject was subject to regional coordination and
thus closely interlinked with similar projects in the area of education in other countries.
Throughout CEE, the EI has consistently follo wed its primary objective: to contribute to the
establishment of a stable network of lawyers with sufficient knowledge and expertise on NGO
The EI consists of the following activities and can claim the following achievements:
maintaining a web site ( www.ngolaw.org ) containing useful information (charts with a
short description) about existing NGO law course s in CEE, syllabi and teaching materials,
contact information for professors or persons in charge of such courses, articles, reports
for initiatives, and other relevant and useful data. The web site is run from ICNL’s head
office in Washington but contributions from academicians and law students are welcome.
identifying universities (law and other faculties) and academicians interested in launching
a course on NGO Law, and working with them to assist in course development;
working with academicians and faculty management to identify the most appropriate teaching methodology for the particular academic institution and to develop a curriculum;
providing teaching materials, including co mparative syllabi from other universities,
research papers, charts, legislative text s, discussion examples, court decisions,
international documents, and other relevant materials;
organizing seminars to launch the individual courses;
preparing or assisting in the preparation of textbooks, chapters of textbooks, brochures,
and other teaching materials;
organizing exchange academic visits for law professors and lawyers engaged in teaching NGO law courses to other universities, including lectures to students and meetings with
providing small financial or in-kind support to faculties aimed at helping the initial
development of NGO Law courses;
organizing regional academic seminars;
promoting the development of a regional network of academicians engaged in or interested in teaching NGO Law, and facilitati ng the exchange of relevant teaching and
research materials, experience, and ideas; and
conducting and commissioning legal research in the area of NGO Law, and publishing and distributing the materials.
III. The NGO Law Teaching Workshop, September 2000.
The workshop was organized about six months after the EI was officially launched. It took place
in Budapest and brought together 28 law professo rs, practicing lawyers, NGO legal experts, and
students from 14 countries. The workshop prov ided a forum at which the EI was presented and
discussed. All participants received part of the workshop materials in advance, which enabled
them to become familiar with the level of NGO Law teaching at CEE universities, the
methodologies used, and the most frequent problems faced in the efforts to launch such a
course. In plenary sessions, working groups, and during informal meetings, participants had the
opportunity to exchange their knowledge, exper ience, concerns, and solutions with their
colleagues. The presentations made by leading ex perts in the area were very comprehensive
and accurately depicted the situation of this segment of university education.
 The workshop focused on the methodologies used in the teaching of this specific law subject —
NGO Law – and on the advantages and disadvantages of each of these methodologies for the
various legal, economic, academic, and social tradi tions in the different countries. Another focus
of the discussions was the common difficulties fa ced by almost all of the participants in the
process of introducing a new course into the cu rriculum, and the specific obstacles accompanying
a new NGO Law course. Special attention was given to the resources for teaching such a
course, including materials, qualified staff, f unding, and networking. Academicians discussed and
suggested useful and promising follow-up activities before drawing conclusions.
Participants unanimously agreed that the workshop was a significant event in the field of NGO
sector studies and of legal education as a whole. It successfully established the ICNL academic
network and laid the grounds for future undertakings in this area. More specifically, the workshop
International and national networking
Exchange of teaching materials
Support and assistance in launching NGO Law courses
More accurate indications of the scale of t he interest in NGO Law courses in the region
Greater confidence and capacity-building
Greater familiarity with the In ternet services ICNL offers.
During the past year, since the workshop, the ICNL academic network has been successfully
operating. Its members remain in touch either through ICNL, or directly among themselves. New
members have joined the network, and an affiliation has been formed with the Third Sector
Studies Network lead by Miklos Kralik, which fo cuses on all studies of the NGO sector, including
general, financial, management, and high school st udies. Currently, ICNL is working with the
Third Sector Network to put together a workshop, which will provide an overview of the existing
structure of university courses on civil society, and will discuss the various approaches toward
expanding this structure. The workshop will be held in late October 2001 in Budapest and will
bring together professors and academicians from 7 countries.
In addition, several academic exchange visits have resulted. Hungarian and Romanian lawyers
lectured at Sofia University where a new NGO La w clinic was launched, and spoke with fellow
professors and students. A Croatian law profes sor, Ms. Sanja Baric, who had founded the first
NGO Law course in Croatia, participated in a seminar in Bulgaria and made a presentation to
students from the Legal Clinic in Sofia. ICNL’s President Leon Irish met with the students from
the NGO Law Clinic at ELTE University in Hu ngary and spoke about international documents and
landmark court decisions pertaining to the freedom of assembly and the freedom of association.
And Dr. Vesna Pendovska, Professor and Vice Dean at Cyrill and Methodius University in Skopje,
Macedonia, visited at the Catholic University of America with ICNL’s Senior Legal Consultant
Prof. Karla Simon (Professor of Law at CUA) to discuss the development of a new NGO Law
course at her university.
IV. Existing NGO Law Courses in CEE
(See Appendix A for a list of existing courses)
According to ICNL’s best information, NGO law courses are currently being taught at universities
in 7 CEE countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Re public, Hungary, Kosovo, Lithuania, and Poland.
An NGO Law component has also been introduced as a part of other subjects at the Cyrill and
Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia.
The teaching in each of these universities is based on different methodologies, including clinical
courses, comparative law courses, general theory courses, and interdisciplinary courses. The
University of Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, for example, combines two different methodologies. The
course there was launched as an optional theory course focusing on Bulgarian law. But it also
incorporates a strong comparative component, wi th information about NGO legislation in other
countries as well as relevant decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the basic
international principles regarding the nonprofit sector.
Not all courses are taught to law students: for example, a course on NGO Economics and
Management is offered to students in Public Administration at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech
Republic. This approach increases the impact of NGO legal education by helping educate non-
lawyers on NGO legal issues and thus preparing skilled NGO leaders, experts, and members.
Prior to the September 2000 Workshop, professo rs of NGO courses lacked awareness of other
NGO courses in the region and lacked strong contacts with other NGO course professors. Nearly
all the academicians involved in NGO law teaching or research have admitted that their
knowledge of other courses and contacts with fellow professors have deepened and intensified
only after ICNL began its educational initiative.
V. NGO Law courses launched with ICNL’s support or upon ICNL’s Initiative
Several universities have included NGO law courses in their curricula thanks to ICNL’s work. The
regional planning and coordination of the Initiative supports the detailed and careful country-
specific project implementation, taking into consideration national characteristics and the
uniqueness of each individual academic institution. ICNL has worked with faculty management
members and with potential teachers to develop a specific program appropriate for the given
institution. As a result, the courses launched with ICNL’s assistance vary greatly in their
methodology, structure, content, audience, and staffing.
The Central European University in Budapest offers two separate courses as part of the Legal
Studies Department curriculum. The introductory theory course on NGO Law has been taught for
three years by ICNL’s senior staff members. The course provides a general background on
international best practices of NGO legislat ion, basic human rights documents, and landmark
court decisions in the field. It enjoys a remarkab le interest among students; last year’s course
was attended by 50 students. The materials are presently being revised to “globalize” them for
the fall 2001 iteration of the course.
 With ICNL’s assistance and active participation, CEU also added a simulation clinical
component to its curriculum. Designed as a co ntinuation of the introductory course, the clinic
will soon begin its fourth year in 2002. Cl asses are open to about 12-15 students and include
lectures, interactive discussions, written assignments, and presentations. Students have
contributed comments on draft laws, which have pr oved very useful in providing technical
assistance to drafters and politicians in several CEE countries (e.g., Bulgaria, Bosnia,
Croatia). Some of the most outstanding stude nts have been offered internships with ICNL in
Washington, DC and in Budapest, and a few of them have already put into practice the
knowledge and skills acquired by establishing and operating their own NGOs or by
establishing NGO Law courses in their own countries.
In 2000, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest, Hungary added an NGO component to its
legal clinical program. The program is run by the Foundation on Legal Clinics and Street Law
working in close affiliation with the University . The launch of the new clinic sprang from
discussions between the Foundation’s management, the law faculty of ELTE, and ICNL, and was
introduced largely due to ICNL’s initiative and en couragement. Although unable to provide direct
financial support to the clinic, ICNL assisted with translations of teaching materials, visiting
lecturers, technical assistance in the development of a syllabus, and training of the supervising
attorney. In addition, students from the NGO la w clinic visited ICNL’s Budapest office for
discussions with the legal staff and visiting experts on various issues, such as NGO taxation,
CEE NGO legislation, and NGO/Government partnerships.
Plovdiv University: In the spring of 2000, the Foundation “Center for Legal Aid”, which runs the
law clinics at Plovdiv University, added an NGO La w course to its program. The new clinic was
launched with ICNL’s support and upon ICNL’s initiative. Thanks to ICNL’s good personal
contacts with the Foundation’s management, the clinic was set up and became operational within
a very short period of time, opening in April 2000.
This was the first NGO law clinic in CEE. Its launch was facilitated by the existing clinical
structure at the law faculty, including supervising attorney s, computer rooms and other
facilities, established relations with external experts (in psychol ogy, mediation, legal ethics),
and general methodology. ICNL provided direct fi nancial support, training for the professor,
technical assistance in developing the syllabus, teaching materials in English and Bulgarian,
and a kick-off seminar. The presentations made at the launching seminar by ICNL lawyers
and a member of Parliament to all the students who had applied to join the clinic outlined the
content of the course and provided additional in formation about NGO legislation in Bulgaria
and in an international context.
The clinic needs to further develop its “working with live clients” component.
Sofia University: The Sofia Law Faculty can now also boast of a legal clinic offered to fourth and
fifth year students. In January 2001, the new NGO Law clinic opened with a launching seminar
organized by ICNL in cooperation with the Law Faculty. The seminar was attended by
professors, students, media representatives, NGO experts, lawyers, and funders. Presentation
topics included NGO taxation, NGO public policy ac tivities, public benefit status, the problems of
running an NGO law clinic, and a comparative analysis between the Bulgarian law on NGOs and
the Romanian Ordinance on Associations and Foundations made by a visiting Romanian lawyer.
The students for the clinic were selected with ICNL’s assistance, and were later involved in
ICNL’s work on the ground, in close cooperation with and under the supervision of ICNL’s Sofia
 In addition, ICNL made available teaching materials to the professors in charge of the theory
classes. Professors and students from the clinic were invited to other similar events
organized by ICNL, and were encouraged to present research papers on NGO legal issues
for publication in the International Journal for Not-for-Profit Law (IJNL).
Veliko Tarnovo University : The second biggest university in Bulgaria launched an optional course
on Comparative NGO Law this year. The academic staff of the Faculty of Law and Economics
accepted the idea of broadening their students’ ba ckground on NGO legal issues with enthusiasm
and in June 2001 voted to include the new subject into the Faculty curriculum.
The course will provide an ext ensive overview of the new legal framework for NGOs in
Bulgaria following the enactment of the recent Law on Legal Persons with Nonprofit
Purposes (in force as of January 1, 2001). In addition, it will present for discussion numerous
examples of legislative solutions in neighbouri ng and other European countries as well as in
the US, Latin America, and Africa. The t eaching methodology will include an increased
practical component, with assignments for students, interactive discussions, and visits to
To support the course, ICNL prov ided training for the professor, assistance in developing the
syllabus, the compilation and translation of ma terials, and a kick-off seminar attended by local
and visiting academicians, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, students, and the media. The local
community expressed an impressive interest in clinical legal education, and the course has
good chances of growing into a simulation clinic over the next couple years.
Two years ago, the Law Faculty at Rijeka Universi ty started a theory course on Nonprofit Law.
The young professor who taught the course is a CEU graduate and received intensive training in
the ICNL Budapest office. ICNL also funded t he first year of the course and assisted in the
drafting of the syllabus and teaching materials. Students from the course have applied for
internships with ICNL.
There has been considerable interest in developing the theory course into a legal clinic, and
ICNL is working with the staff at Rijeka University to assist in these endeavors.
In the Spring Semester (March-July) 2001, Z agreb University introduced a theory course on
Nonprofit Law, with ICNL’s active support and pa rticipation. The professor teaching the course
underwent intensive training in the ICNL B udapest office and has maintained an active
relationship with ICNL lawyers in the process of preparing materials.
In 2000, the Faculty of Law at the University of Pristina included “Introduction to NGO Law” in its
curriculum. The course is optional and available to 3 rd year law students. In addition to focusing
on the legal framework for NGOs and their relationship with public authorities in Kosovo, the
course examines best international practices in NGO legislation, ECHR decisions, and European
and other international conventions related to freedom of association and other NGO issues.
The professor who designed and is teaching the course is an ICNL trainee and partner. She is
also an active member of the EI-CEE. Teaching materials were developed in cooperation with
ICNL legal staff.
VI. New NGO Law courses expected to be launched throughout CEE
Through ICNL’s continuous efforts to expand the Initiative, and as a result of increasing interest
toward NGO academic studies in the region, further positive developments are likely:
The Rousse University in Bulgaria has been operating a legal clinic for more than two years now.
The clinic has developed an efficient scheme for providing the students a good theoretical
background in each subject of their studies before providing specific practical training useful for
future practitioners. Each of the clinics works with a limited number of students (4-5), and thus
provides an excellent opportunity for intensive and comprehensive theory and practical training.
The management of the clinic became interested in introducing an NGO Law component about a
year ago. Nonetheless, due to a lack of funding, the University has been unable to introduce an
NGO Law clinic, despite the development of the program and materials, and the obvious student
The Rousse clinic intends to integrate it s NGO Law component over the next few months  as an
experimental course. ICNL has assisted in drafting the syllabus and course description, and has
involved teaching staff and supervising attorney s in national and international seminars on NGO
legal issues. Various teaching materials have also been provided to the new clinic. ICNL and
BCNL will be ready to assist in establishing a working relationship with local NGOs and resource
centers in order to ensure possibilities for “live clients” work for the students.
ICNL also expects that the Cyrill and Methodius University of Skopije in Macedonia will launch a
new course on NGO law. ICNL has been diligently working with professors from the University to
prepare the ground for introducing such a cour se. These efforts have included training,
involvement in international seminars and c onferences, exchange of comments and research
work, and most recently, the joint drafting of a textbook on NGO Law by ICNL and local
academicians. The textbook contains an in- depth comparative analysis of the laws of
neighboring countries and good practices of NGO legal provisions, and might serve as a good
example for other universities throughout CEE.
During a recent visit to Romania, representatives of Bucharest University expressed interest in
the establishment of an NGO Law clinic within the existing clinical structure at the Law Faculty.
While it will be possible to implement this course in the future, its initiation during the academic
year 2001/2002 is not possible. There are fundi ng and timing problems and a lack of qualified
teachers on the subject.
VII. Other ICNL Educational Projects
The Educational Initiative for CEE is not an isolated project among ICNL activities. It is part of a
more comprehensive strategy aimed at expanding the legal capacity on NGO issues throughout
all countries where ICNL conducts its work. Th rough expanded capacity, ICNL can create a more
complete and diversified database for NGO Law studies and science, stimulating useful and
ICNL has been contributing its expertise to ABA-CEELI’s Judicial Institute for several years now.
Based in Prague, Czech Republic, the CEELI Instit ute offers training courses for professional
participants, such as judges and lawyers. Currently, ICNL and ABA-C EELI together are
contemplating a two-week seminar on NGO Law, to be held at the CEELI Institute. ICNL
expertise will combine with ABA-CEELI organizatio nal and funding support to stage a successful
Negotiations with funders are underway regarding a project to launch an NGO Law course in East
Africa. Teaching will be based at Makerere Univ ersity in Kampala, Uganda, and will contribute
towards the creation of a core group of young lawyers with substantial background on NGO legal
issues. The success of the EI-CEE has led ICNL to believe that this approach will work in other
regions as well.
ICNL’s programs in the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union (NIS) are drawing
on the success of the EI-CEE and developing courses at various universities in that region, at
times in partnership with other entities.
VIII. Most frequent problems encountere d in the course of implementing the EI
During the life of the EI, local academicians, adm inistrators and ICNL legal staff have wrestled
and worked to solve numerous problems. Confr onting these problems has proven invaluable for
all parties in identifying acceptable and approp riate solutions. The most common problems facing
universities in the region include:
Sustainability (funding ). Most often it is the lack of f unding that prevents a theory course from
being introduced. Even when funders are ready to offer initial support, the local universities fail to
ensure continuous sustainability and thus the long -term operation of the course. The lack of
sufficient funding is not only due to the still-exis ting general economic crisis throughout CEE,
strongly affecting academic institutions, but also due to the specific nature of NGO Law as a
Legal clinics, which in theory have great potent ial for self-sustainability, faces very real
financial difficulties as well. NGOs as clients pose a number of problems; they are not used
to seeking legal advice and they are not among the most profitable clients. Consequently,
the introduction of theory courses as a part of the traditional curriculum poses fewer financial
burdens. Nonetheless, some universities cannot afford or are reluctant to allocate a
professor’s salary for the new subject, consi dering the expenditure too risky and fearing a
lack of interest by students.
Securing some initial funding is sometimes the first necessary step in making NGO courses
part of the university curriculum. Sometimes funding from additional sources or matching
funding becomes available. If the course goes well during the first year, faculty
administrations are more likely to invest unive rsity funds in the new initiative. Typically,
students and NGOs demonstrate a keen interest in the course. The growing number of
effectively operating NGOs throughout CEE pr ovides a promising labor market for law
graduates with the appropriate background.
Teaching staff (qualified professors ). NGO Law did not exist as a separate discipline in CEE law
schools until a few years ago. Other courses, su ch as civil law, devoted very few hours of
instruction to associations and foundations, t he most common legal forms of NGOs in CEE
countries. Until a decade ago, NGO Law had re ceived scant attention from legislators,
academicians, students, courts, and practitioners.
With the new laws enacted in CEE countries, NGOs faced a vacuum of both legal research
and practical experience, and universities did not have qualified law professors to handle the
newly created courses. However, as mentioned above, genuine and strong interest exists,
particularly among young law professors, and it has not proven difficult to identify persons
willing to be in charge of the new courses. I CNL has provided intensive training to these
young academicians and assisted and encouraged t hem to devote more time and efforts in
designing an NGO law course. ICNL intends to continue to provide such support and training
when new courses are being developed. It w ill also continue to provide opportunities for
exchange visits to encourage the develop ment of teaching capacity in CEE.
The successful operation of the new courses, by giving lawyers specialized knowledge of
nonprofit law, will gradually eliminate the staffing problem. The increasing interest in
research in the field is also expected to provok e further academic work in third sector studies.
Teaching materials/syllabi . A third major problem facing NGO legal education is the lack of
course materials. Because of the lack of specific NGO legislation in the CEE countries, little
attention had been paid to research in this area. To overcome this problem, ICNL has adopted a
translation of available teaching materials (ICNL papers, articles, and studies, materials from other CEE countries, sample syllabi, etc.);
commissioning and encouraging local academicians to prepare teaching and research materials based on the national laws as well as on international practices and standards.
ICNL’s technical assistance has been a support to both processes. As a result, in each of the
countries where the EI has been implemented, the database in the area of NGO law has
been growing richer. At the same time, ICNL is collecting materials into a regional library,
which is continuously being supplemented and updated. Increasing interaction between
professors and programs has also done much to alleviate the needs of the NGO Law
Lack of student interest. As mentioned above, this problem is one of perception rather than of
reality; university administrators will use the excuse of the students lacking interest to justify their
reluctance or refusal to launch an NGO course. As experience has shown, however, in all
universities introducing a course on NGO law, students have demonstrated an overwhelming
interest in the new topic. Indeed, faculty admin istrations have been forced to select a limited
number of students in each of the courses, based on the submission of written papers,
statements of interest, or interviews with the applicants. Several of the students have
volunteered to prepare articles on NGO legal issues, to attend seminars, and to make
Interest and commitment by faculty staff. Once universities have agreed to introduce an NGO
course into the curriculum, it is common to find faculty administrations reluctant to make a long-
term commitment to the course. Initially, there is no difficulty in identifying a professor willing to
handle the new course, to work with the faculty administration to add the new course to the
academic agenda, to prepare materials, and to teac h the theory classes. In a number of cases,
however, the faculty management has been reluctant to undertake an ongoing commitment to
maintain the course and to ensure its financial su pport. Thus, the problem has been institutional
rather than individual, and can be explained perhaps by traditionally conservative approaches to
new subjects and the lack of understanding of t he importance and relevance of NGO Law for
To combat this problem, ICNL has been working with faculty administrations and has provided
various types of assistance, including technica l assistance in drafting syllabi, materials,
translations, help with fighting administrative obstacles, and partial funding, where possible. This
support reduces technical issues that are ordinarily faced when a new course is introduced. ICNL
seminars have proved as educational for the teaching staff as for students and have helped
broaden the academic network created by ICNL. Once NGO Law courses are introduced, their
success and the attention they receive from students, society, and the media, serve as significant
factors in generating deeper commitment from universities.
IX. General conclusions drawn from the implementation of the Educational Initiative
NGO course methodologies are more smoothly in troduced into a university curriculum where
there is an existing structure within t he university using that same methodology.
In other words, it has proved easier to introdu ce an NGO component to an already established
legal clinic than to create a new clinical struct ure for an NGO Law course. Also, where existing
theory courses have devoted some time to NGO law, universities have been more receptive
toward developing the NGO Law component into a separate subject. At CEU in Budapest, the
addition of a second course on the theory of N GO law was made easier by the successful launch
of the simulation clinic during the previous year.
Legal clinics attract the most interest but at the same time they pose bigger financial and
Until just recently, clinical legal education was completely unknown throughout CEE and there
existed no tradition of clinical teaching methodology . The characteristics of clinical education —
intensified practical training, more comprehensiv e preparation for legal practice, and working with
real clients – have attracted much interest among students, law professors, and legal
However, these same characteristics pose the tw o most significant difficulties in establishing a
legal clinic on NGO Law and in maintaining it as an efficiently operating unit of university
NGOs represent a very specific category of clients; identifying them, reaching them, and working
with them as legal entities poses a number of hardships. In many smaller towns where NGO
resource centers do not exist, it is almost impossible to create a center offering legal services to
NGOs. In cases such as this, a legal clinic for NGOs might consider operating as a simulation
Furthermore, a legal clinic normally poses greater demands for financial support. In addition to
the professors’ fees, money is required to pay for a psychologist, a mediator, an expert on legal
ethics, a supervising attorney, and other experts engaged in work with the students. Unless the
clinic generates income and thus ensures its own sustainability, securing funding becomes a real
Universities are reluctant to commit continuing financial support for NGO Law courses once initial
financial aid has been suspended.
For a discussion of this issue, please refer to section VIII.5.
Technical assistance in drafting textbooks and other teaching materials provides significant
support to new courses.
Again, as discussed above, ICNL has been trying to make sufficient materials available to
professors and students. Translations of simila r materials prepared for courses in other countries
have been as helpful as the preparation of new papers designed to assist the teaching in each
Normally, attracting students’ interest to the new NGO law courses does not pose a problem.
On the contrary, faculties have had to develop sp ecific selection criteria to choose a limited
number of students among a large number of applicants. The particular set of criteria appropriate
for each university depends on the circumstan ces, including the academic traditions, the
methodology of teaching, and the number of applicants. Practice has shown, however, that
requiring a statement of interest or a short essa y, followed by a personal interview, creates the
most objective and efficient selection procedure.
Exchange academic visits contribute substantially to the general interest in NGO Law courses
and broaden the educational background of professors and students.
During the past year, ICNL has organized and assisted several exchange academic visits
throughout CEE. There has also been one exchange visit to the United States. Usually, both the
hosting university and the visiting professor’s inst itution have either initiated a course on NGO
Law or are considering doing so. Thus, the ens uing interchange on substantial, administrative
and technical issues is invariably useful.
Such visits can be especially productive where the hosting institution has at least a year’s
experience teaching NGO Law, and the visiting acade mician is considering her/his involvement in
such a discipline. The exchange of knowledge and expertise in this case, although inevitably
one-sided, can prove invaluable. Its importa nce for regional and national networking is
In most of the CEE countries, new laws on NGOs have been enacted over the past few years.
Despite the national differences, these laws possess certain common characteristics, and
problems of their implementation are often issues common to many countries. Consequently, the
exchange visits can be useful for comparative purposes. For example, last January, Simona
Luca, an attorney working in NGO resource center in Romania attended a seminar at Sofia
University and spoke on the new legislative prov isions for associations and foundations in her
country. Such lectures and meetings he lp improve the general legal background of
academicians, students, lawyers, and NGO ex perts, and enhance academic networking.
Launching seminars make an excellent kick-off for a new course.
ICNL has conducted three such seminars in Bulgaria to announce and support the introduction of
the new NGO Law courses added to the university curricula of the universities in Plovdiv, Sofia,
and Veliko Tarnovo. In all three cases, the seminars have attracted a large and diverse audience
including academicians, judges, prosecutors, journalists, public administration officials, and
students. The seminars pursue multiple objectives:
To provide the new course with local and national publicity;
To promote students’ interest in the course;
To assist local and national networking, by br inging together various experts interested in
this area of law;
To provide an informative overview of NGO legal issues through the seminar presentations;
To persuade the university and faculty administr ation that the new course is worthy of
To help identify emerging areas of interest within NGO Law (e.g., areas for research) and new specialists who could contribut e to NGO legislative development and
Seminars or mini-conferences for professors st rengthen the academic network and increase the
self-confidence of its members.
To support this point, we need look no further than the success of last year’s NGO teaching
Workshop in Budapest. NGO Law is a new subject and has yet to become a firmly secured
addition to the academic structure of the schools of law throughout CEE. Professors of NGO Law
courses need to know that they are not “lonely fi ghters” but members of an efficient network that
is expanding and progressing. Sharing experie nce and discussing problems and potential
solutions is valuable for each of the network members.
Seminars and mini-conferences can be beneficial both at a regional and at a national level. In the
former case, discussions help identify the most common practical difficulties faced in the process
of launching an NGO Law course. Regional conf erences can also focus on potential legal
research and provide a constructive basis for comparative analyses of NGO laws.
National seminars or conferences also possess great potential benefit. The seminar held recently
in Burgas, Bulgaria serves as a good example. Pa rticipating in the seminar were law professors,
lawyers, and students from all f our universities where an NGO Law course has been or is about
to be introduced. The seminar offered an opportunity for all of them to meet and discuss common
concerns and achievements, and was unanimously declared a unique and long overdue event.
Perhaps its primary benefit of the event was t he creation of a national NGO academic network
whose members can communicate among themselves and on an international basis as well.
Participants from previous kick-off seminars vo lunteered to make presentations, including one
student from the Sofia legal clinic. Some of the seminar participants have started working on
NGO legal issues and have submitted articles for publication in the IJNL. For example, assistant
professor Maria Gerassimova from Veliko Tarnovo University is currently preparing an article on
some key issues related to the implementation of the new law.
ICNL’s Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe is a timely and much-needed
project. It has generally received a warm reception from local partners, academic communities,
and the public, and has generated considerable interest and commitment. The recent legislative
developments in the area of NGO Law and the developm ent of third sector activities in the CEE
countries have provided fertile ground for introducing NGO Law in the curricula of regional law
faculties. The Initiative has the potential to ex pand on a country-specific basis, regionally, and
internationally, using the experience of its legal staff and the members of the academic network
created by the Initiative. It will continue to be a major focus of ICNL’s activity in the region.
In a previous article on this project, we expressed the hope that ICNL’s efforts in implementing
the Initiative, in addition to the enrichment of t he academic community supporting the third sector,
will lead to rewarding developments in the third sector in our own professional background. We
believe that the Initiative has helped accomplish bo th results, as evidenced by the number of new
NGO law courses throughout CEE and by the interest in further progress in this area.
For more information about the Educational In itiative in CEE, please go to the web site