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Civic Spaces

The past few years have seen an increase and intensification in the laws and regulations that limit the activities of civil society and challenge the concept of an independent media throughout many parts of Asia. While traditional civil society organizations struggle to carry out their work in challenging conditions, other localized and social media-driven forms of collective action are growing, challenging conventional understandings of the role and form of civil society in local governance. It suggests a fundamental change in the relationship between states and societies in the region that is yet to fully play out. Working in close partnership with civil society throughout the region, the Foundation supports a vision of the civic spaces that are open, diverse, empowering, equitable, and the site of important contributions to governance in the region.

Looking Forward in Indonesia

September 13, 2023

Blog and Podcast

The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Indonesia is a veteran advocate for women’s and minority rights and a champion against disinformation who’s worked with civil society organizations, government ministries, and local governments across the Indonesian archipelago.


Towards a New Governance Agenda: What Are the Questions That Matter?

September 29, 2021

Blog and Podcast

The authors explore an intriguing initiative to crowdsource the most important current issues on the governance agenda.

A line of people cheer with one fist in the air 

Podcast: The Pursuit of Democratic Resilience

August 4, 2021

Blog and Podcast

With the spread of illiberalism and identity politics, it’s been a rocky decade for democracy in much of the world. A project in Indonesia is working on a playbook to stem the antidemocratic tide.

Trade in the BBIN 

South Asia Small Grants Program: Second Call for Proposals from Bhutan CSOs

February 8, 2021


The South Asia Small Grants Program (SASGP), administered by The Asia Foundation, has opened a call for proposals for Bhutanese organizations. The regional program provides small grants for eligible civil society organizations in five South Asian countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. This second round of call for proposals… Read more


Developing Adaptive and Entrepreneurial Reform Leaders: The Coalitions for Change Development Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program

February 8, 2021

Program Snapshot

In the Philippines, helping improve people’s lives sometimes requires changes to policies. There are areas that directly and tangibly impact people’s lives and which they want to have a say in—like waste management, consumer protection, biotech research or disaster risk management—but that can be daunting for most citizens and many local leaders wh… Read more


YouthLed Launches First Youth Fellowship Program for Democracy in the Philippines

February 4, 2021


The Asia Foundation is announcing an open call for applications for its new Youth Leadership for Democracy (YouthLed)’s 2021 Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Fellowship. The LEAD Fellowship is the first-of-its-kind program in the Philippines empowering Filipino youth leaders to be champions of democratic values, participatory governance, and civic e… Read more


The Asia Foundation Announces New Call for Proposals for the South Asia Small Grants Program

December 1, 2020


The Asia Foundation announces a call for proposals for the South Asia Small Grants Program (SASGP). The SASGP will provide small grants to eligible civil society organizations (CSOs) in five South Asian countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Designed as a flexible mechanism to respond to existing contexts and emerging opport… Read more


Prevention from Below: Civil Society Efforts to Prevent Violent Extremism in Southeast Asia

October 28, 2020


Preventing violent extremism is typically seen as a task for government security agencies, and yet civil society organizations also play a vital role. From community networks operating at the grassroots to policy research institutes, non-governmental groups have unparalleled advantages in reaching marginalized groups and supporting effective, local… Read more

Shoppers hold bags and other items while standing distanced on three yellow lines 

Covid-19 Raises New Hurdles for CSOs

October 14, 2020

Blog and Podcast

Civil society organizations in Southeast Asia have responded swiftly to the pandemic, in many cases more nimbly than governments. But civil society is also struggling to cope in a time of emergency government powers and shrinking civic spaces.


GovAsia – Civil Society in Southeast Asia During the Covid-19 Pandemic

September 24, 2020


Across Southeast Asia, civil society organizations (CSOs) are supporting Covid-19 response efforts in a multitude of ways. In some contexts, they are providing healthcare, social protections, and welfare-related services, often focused on those with little access or who need them most. Based on a series of interviews with 47 CSO representatives in… Read more


Youth Activists Combat Covid-19 Misinformation in Thailand

August 18, 2020

Program Snapshot

In Thailand’s far south, where a vast majority of the two million residents identify themselves as Melayu, a group of youth activists collectively known as The Motive use digital content to combat misinformation on Covid-19. After the region experienced a second wave of conflict that claimed more than 7,000 lives in the last 17 years, it more recen… Read more


Elevating Youth Voices Across Thailand

August 18, 2020

Program Snapshot

Young Moves is a Chiang Mai-based civil society organization that came together three years ago as a platform for youth from all four regions of Thailand to engage in socio-political issues impacting their generation. The youth group emphasizes respect and dignity for all people, regardless of their identity. Thaksin Bamrungthai, better known as To… Read more


In Sri Lanka, a Public-Private-Civil Society Partnership Turns Plastic Waste into Sportswear

June 23, 2020

Program Snapshot

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics contribute significantly to global environmental degradation. Fortunately, PET plastics can also be recycled, multiple times, to make fabrics, fibers, and other synthetic products. Approximately 10 percent of all plastics imported into Sri Lanka are PET, and many communities continue to dump or burn these r… Read more


China’s Domestic Violence Law Turns Four

April 1, 2020

Blog and Podcast

When Chinese beauty vlogger Yuya revealed her story of domestic violence to the internet, she brought a ray of light to dark corner of Chinese society. But China his making great strides in combating DV.


The Asia Foundation Announces Call for Proposals for the South Asia Small Grants Program

Colombo, March 15, 2020


The deadline for applications for the South Asia Small Grants Program (SASGP) has been extended from April 15, 2020 to April 29, 2020. All applications must be submitted by 5.00 pm local time on the new closing date. The Asia Foundation announces a call for proposals for the South Asia Small Grants Program (SASGP). The SASGP will provide small gran… Read more


China: Tackling Domestic Violence and Its Effects in the Workplace

January 22, 2020

Blog and Podcast

Chinese statistics show that a quarter of that country’s married women have suffered domestic violence from their husbands. Though it’s critical that these women remain employed if they are to escape these abusive relationships, survivors often struggle with work. But China is making encouraging progress with measures to keep women active and safe in the workplace.


The Asia Foundation Hosts “Safety for She” Conference with SafetiPin, KOICA, and CSR

December 9, 2019

Media Coverage

The Asia Foundation, with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and in partnership with SafetiPin and the Centre for Social Research (CSR), held a national conference, Safety for She: Building Equitable Urban Spaces. The conference brought together experts and stakeholders and facilitated discussions on how to improve wome… Read more


Philippines: Capturing the Broadband Satellite Opportunity

August 28, 2019

Blog and Podcast

It’s a 45-minute drive on unpaved roads from Barangay Mabunao to Panabo, a small Philippine city in the southern province of Davao del Norte. The round trip costs “Joy” (not her real name) about US$2.00—25 percent of her daily income—just to get somewhere where she has access to a fast, reliable internet connection. But at that price, she mostly st… Read more

Lights of cars traveling around a busy traffic circle at night 

Green Growth in Pakistan: A Necessary Paradigm Shift

August 28, 2019

Blog and Podcast

With the ratification of an IMF bailout on May 12, Pakistan has now embarked on a difficult journey towards long-term economic stability. Some principal indicators suggest the extent of the pain: Inflation is expected to run around 18 percent in 2019–20. The Pakistani rupee has fallen significantly against the dollar, eroding national buying power,… Read more


Budget Transparency Replacing Budget Secrecy in Myanmar

May 22, 2019

Blog and Podcast

Myanmar’s ruling Union Revolutionary Council, led by General Ne Win, published the country’s first public budget report in the 1963/64 fiscal year, with the title Pyi Thu Thot A Si Yin Khan Sar, or Citizen’s Report. This forward-looking exercise in democratic engagement and government transparency presented a profile of GDP growth, government reven… Read more


Nepal Survey: Does a Seat at the Table Guarantee Gender Equality?

May 8, 2019

Blog and Podcast

Nepal’s constitution mandates that women hold at least 33% of seats in the national parliament and provincial assemblies, and at least 40% in local governments. These provisions, enshrined in 2015, have given a record number of women a place at the table in Nepal’s political sphere. In spite of this, meaningful, widespread participation in major de… Read more


The Asia Foundation Supports Nepal’s First Women in Data Conference

February 22, 2019


On February 23, with support from Development Initiatives, The Asia Foundation’s Data for Development (D4D) program hosted Nepal’s inaugural Women in Data conference. The conference theme was “where two superpowers meet,” bringing together female speakers, data professionals, and aspiring young women to discuss the achievements of women in data, an… Read more


The Asia Foundation Hosts Roundtable on “Ensuring Justice Delivery for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking”

New Delhi, February 12, 2019


On January 23, 2019, The Asia Foundation office hosted a roundtable on “Ensuring Justice Delivery for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking” at the International Habitat Centre in New Delhi. The Asia Foundation’s India office convened members of Indian civil society, law practitioners, trafficking and gender experts, as well as represe… Read more


This Land Is Our Land: How Drones Can Advance Property Rights in the Philippines

November 7, 2018

Blog and Podcast

The Philippines has a real estate problem. Half the real property in the country—approximately 12 million parcels of land—has no legal title. Like many countries in Asia, the island nation is experiencing rapid urbanization, and a large proportion of these urban residents in particular lack official titles to the plots of land they live on, which h… Read more


Mongolia: Increasing Citizen Participation in Local Decision-Making

November 7, 2018

Blog and Podcast

As rural Mongolians continue to move to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, in record numbers, the city has struggled to provide needed services, especially in the rapidly growing ger areas. The Municipality of Ulaanbaatar, under new leadership since 2016, has sought to improve public-service delivery and better target available development funds by increasi… Read more


Corruption in Mongolia: A Problem for Youth

September 12, 2018

Blog and Podcast

The year 2007, according to traditional astrology, was the Year of the Golden Pig. It was believed that good fortune would come to families who gave birth during this auspicious time. Regardless of the role that astrology may have played, Mongolia’s annual birth rate grew from 50,000 in 2007 to nearly 90,000 in 2014, and Mongolia today is one of th… Read more


Interview with Avais Sherani on VoteFirst and Pakistan’s Momentous Election

August 29, 2018

Blog and Podcast

The general elections in Pakistan last month that propelled Imran Khan to the Prime Minister’s seat were momentous in many ways. With troubled relations abroad and fiscal difficulties at home, the electoral stakes were high. Newly liberalized voter registration laws and an enormous youth population promised a surge of first-time voters. The Asia Fo… Read more


Towards Inclusive Cities: Women and Urban Planning in Myanmar

August 15, 2018

Blog and Podcast

The world’s cities are growing at an unprecedented rate. The United Nations projects that 60 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2030 due to accelerating migration and urbanization. In Myanmar, as in other rapidly urbanizing countries, urban growth is placing increasing pressure on municipalities and other governing bodies… Read more


Pakistan Election Day

August 1, 2018

Blog and Podcast

On July 25, I voted for Pakistan. The national elections of 2018, preceded by controversy and enveloped in political heat, were conducted in the true spirit of democracy that Pakistan so deserves. Observers and analysts will have their say, but I want to share my experience of three inspiring aspects of Elections 2018. First, after working with my… Read more


New Survey Reveals Cautious Optimism in Nepal

August 1, 2018

Blog and Podcast

In the course of roughly two decades, the people of Nepal have weathered a prolonged civil war, confirmed a national commitment to democracy, adopted a new constitution creating a federal state, and survived two massive earthquakes that reduced large parts of the country to rubble. Amid this history of national trauma, recovery, and political uphea… Read more


Pakistan Elections: Will Youth Right the Nation’s Course?

July 18, 2018

Blog and Podcast

On July 25, roughly 106 million Pakistanis will begin casting their ballots for 272 National Assembly members and 577 Provincial Assembly members to serve for the next five years. The results of past elections in Pakistan have consistently been mired in controversy. Accusations of vote-rigging from losing parties are common, as in 2013, when the Pa… Read more


The Asia Foundation, APEC Secretariat, and Google Host 2018 APEC App Challenge

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, May 24, 2018


APEC economies boast some of the fastest-growing and most technologically innovative markets in the world. But though rich in culture, craftsmanship and entrepreneurial spirit, the informal sectors of APEC economies have yet to fully capture the benefit of technology-driven trade. With support from the APEC Secretariat, Google and The Asia Foundati… Read more

Statue of a dragon in front of government buildings, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar 

Managing Change in Myanmar: Policymaking after Dictatorship

May 23, 2018

Blog and Podcast

As Myanmar’s fitful democratic transition moves forward, many observers are torn between early, high hopes for the end of military rule and a growing pessimism about wider democratic, economic, and social reforms. In the international community, much of this pessimism is a result of the dire and well-publicized situation in Rakhine State and the re… Read more

Sichuan earthquake relief 

10 Years after Wenchuan Earthquake, A Silver Lining in Disaster Management

May 9, 2018

Blog and Podcast

On May 12, China will mark the 10th anniversary of the devastating Wenchuan earthquake that struck Sichuan province, leaving more than 69,000 people dead and over 40 million affected. While the impact of the earthquake lasts today, the one silver lining is that the catastrophe has catalyzed improvements to China’s disaster management architecture…. Read more


Can Myanmar’s Libraries Help Combat Human Trafficking?

March 28, 2018

Blog and Podcast

In June, the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report moved Myanmar up to Tier 2 on its watch list, acknowledging “significant efforts” to combat human trafficking and forced labor in the country. For a country undergoing rapid reform and still grappling with a transition to democracy, the news was welcome, but caught some by surprise. E… Read more

Open Data in Nepal 

Building an Open Data Ecosystem in Nepal

February 28, 2018

Blog and Podcast

On March 3, hundreds of groups from around the world will celebrate Open Data Day to showcase the value of open data for communities and to encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business, and civil society. For Nepal, which is currently undergoing a process of decentralization to a new federal structure, there are high hopes f… Read more


Inaugural Citizen’s Budgets Released in Tanintharyi Region in Myanmar

Dawei, January 22, 2018


Availability of subnational budget information strengthens democratic governance and transparency With the support of The Asia Foundation, the Tanintharyi Region government in southwestern Myanmar today launched its inaugural Citizen’s Budget for the 2017/18 fiscal year, disseminating hundreds of physical copies to help citizens better understand t… Read more

Nuruddin Ahmed 

Social Entrepreneur on Why Data Can Help Bridge Political Chasm in Bangladesh

August 9, 2017

Blog and Podcast

It is now apparent that the age of social media has transformed public consciousness of important events. Most recently, “fake news” and other streams of misinformation spread via social media have been blamed for exacerbating a highly polarized political climate in the United States, and further impeding productive civic engagement. This phenomeno… Read more


In.CoDe: Indonesia’s Competition for Civic Tech Apps

Jakarta, July 12, 2017

Program Snapshot

To increase civic engagement in strengthening government effectiveness in Indonesia, The Asia Foundation held a competition for civic tech apps through the “Innovation and Collaboration for Development” (In.CoDe) program. The competition kicked off by inviting civil society organizations, start-ups, local governments, and universities to propose te… Read more


New App Provides Nepali Migrant Workers with Safe Migration Information

May 25, 2016

Blog and Podcast

At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport, young men and women snake through the international terminal, waiting their turn to begin what could be the world’s longest commute to work. More than 1,500 people depart the country in this way every day, mostly bound for temporary jobs as construction workers, domestic servants, or low- and medium-skill laborers… Read more


A Conversation with Chinese Fellow, Environmental NGO Leader Lican Liu

September 17, 2014

Blog and Podcast

In Asia editor Alma Freeman recently interviewed co-founder and Director of Programs and Communications at the Greenovation Hub, a grassroots NGO that focuses on environmental protection and innovation in China.


A Conversation with Mongolian Free Press Advocate Naranjargal Khashkhuu

August 13, 2014

Blog and Podcast

As The Asia Foundation recently marked its 20th anniversary in Mongolia, Country Representative Meloney Lindberg sat down with Naranjargal Khashkhuu, president and CEO of the Globe International Center…


Q&A with Indonesian Fellow, Women’s Movement Leader Dwi Rubiyanti Kholifah

August 6, 2014

Blog and Podcast

In Asia editor Alma Freeman recently interviewed Dwi Rubiyanti Kholifah, Indonesia country director for the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN), which focuses on the role of women in peace building and inter-faith cooperation. Kholifah was selected as one of the 10 inaugural 2014 Asia Foundation Development Fellows.