The Role of Legal Reform in Supporting Civil Society: An Introductory Primer

01 Jan 2009

Document Summary

The Role of Legal Reform in Supporting Civil Society: An Introductory Primer (2009) discusses the trends in legal and regulatory frameworks governing the establishment of civil society organizations, and their space and scope to function in public. This paper provides (1) an introductory overview of the legal environment for civil society and (2) a general orientation to civil society law reform for international actors who are involved in advising on, designing or developing programmes which seek to promote a more conducive environment for civil society. This paper is not tailored exclusively to UNDP, and neither presumes to provide advice on what strategy might be appropriate for any given country, nor seeks to detail ‘how-to’ guidance on implementing any given strategy. Instead, the paper seeks to raise issues of common concern relating to civil society legal reform. The most effective strategy and implementation of any given strategy can only be determined by those operating within a specific country context. 


The introduction provides series of definitions as well as content and structure of the paper. Section II contains an overview of the legal framework for civil society, describing the roots of civil society in international law, common features of the national-level legal frameworks governing civil society, and the fundamental importance of law to civil society. Section III presents four country reports, Afghanistan, Liberia, Mauritius and Serbia, which review the legal reform challenges in each, as well as the legal reform strategies adopted in pursuing reform; these case studies reveal some of the key elements of successful legal reform. Section IV seeks to provide a general orientation to international actors in supporting a more enabling legal environment for civil society. Finally, Section V concludes the paper with a checklist for reform actors. 

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