Promoting an Enabling Environment for Charity Law in China
Legal professionals and social entrepreneurs Dr. Leon ("Lee") Irish and Prof. Karla Simon began work on comparative civil society law (CSL) in the early 1990's when there was no CSL field in existence. After doing a couple of years due diligence and at the urging of several funders and the Council on Foundations' legal and international staff, they then founded the first international organization to address legal issues confronting civil society with consistency and institutional commitment - the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) in 1992 (www.icnl.org). The first large-scale grant was received from USAID's Democracy Development Program in Central and Eastern Europe in 1993, and ICNL took off from there, with the bulk of its current budget coming from U.S. government sources.
Each of Lee and Karla served as President of ICNL during its first successful decade, when the organization grew from a small 4-person professional office, with no support staff, into a much larger one. With the nurture of its founders, ICNL was by 2002 working on projects in over 60 countries, through several branch and affiliated offices, in addition to its home base in Washington, DC, USA. In addition, ICNL, under their leadership, inaugurated special projects such as the United States International Grantmaking project with the Council on Foundations (www.usig.org), ICNL's database and library (with grants from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and others) and the International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law (IJNL), of which Karla W. Simon was the founding Editor-in-Chief. She went on to found the International Journal of Civil Society Law (IJCSL), the scholarly successor to IJNL, and the IJCSNL-N, a monthly newsletter collecting CSL news from around the world.
Lee and Karla left the growing organization to found ICCSL in 2003. This has enabled them to concentrate on other academic pursuits, including teaching both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world (Budapest, Bologna, Beijing, and Rome) and writing papers and books, and to address smaller projects with diverse funding, which was not available at ICNL given its reliance on the U.S. government. This is more consistent with their life objectives. They have engaged in a variety of projects in 15 countries in addition to China. In addition, they continue to publish ICCSL’s scholarly journal The International Journal of Civil Society Law (IJCSL) and the monthly IJCSL-Newsletter, which is highly acclaimed as a first-rate provider of up-to-date information on civil society around the world.
Ultimately their country projects have focused more and more on China with a range of funders and a range of partners there, (World Bank, UNDP, Asia Foundation, and a number of private foundations), including two teaching stints (2005 and 2006) at Peking University Law School (Beijing Daxue or Beida) (http://www.iccsl.org/project_detail.cfm?ID=14). These projects are discussed in more detail on this website and the new Chinese language website, which is available at http://zh.iccsl.org/. The principals are now splitting their time between the New York City area in the United States and their home/office in Beijing’s Shunyi District.
Today ICCSL is a unique international organization. Because its principals have been active in the field since its inception, ICCSL is an unparalleled legal resource for global civil society. Using CSL as a model, ICCSL seeks to protect human freedoms by assisting the improvement of the legal and policy environment affecting the freedoms of belief, expression, association, assembly, information, and citizen participation. It operates both on its own and through its affiliate (the Asian-Pacific Centre for Civil Society Law) with various partners, such as universities, associations of civil society organizations, individuals, governments, and individual CSOs, and foundations. ICCSL activities currently focus on China and include a variety of different projects. In order to assist with governance of such a range of projects in China, ICCSL’s Board has been newly organized to reflect the China focus. Of the ten board members, six are nationals of China or Mandarin-speaking countries, such as Singapore. See http://www.iccsl.org/staffprofile_menu.cfm?filter=The%20Board. There is also an Advisory Board, which includes many professionals who work in China and several “Old China hands,” such as Prof. Jerome Cohen.
ICCSL’s staff includes two Chinese professionals - David Yang, Consultant and Aaron Gu, Fellow. There are six Americans, one of whom is fluent in Mandarin and one of whom has a good working knowledge of Mandarin. The former, consultant Zach Friedman, took up residence in Beijing in January 2014. For more see http://www.iccsl.org/staffprofile_menu.cfm
Other staff members – law student fellows – are working on project development in Myanmar, the Middle East, and South Asia. Mark Nelson, a Georgetown law student is Managing Editor of IJCSL, and he is assisted by Mike Brown, Ryan Kile, and Annie Khan, all law students at Catholic University of America
ICCSL pursues its mission through four separate but inter-related programs: the quarterly International Journal of Civil Society Law and its related monthly Newsletter; other research and publications; technical assistance; and education and professional development.
ICCSL's publications are free online or through email subscription. Donations to help defray costs of production are gratefully accepted. ICCSL is a § 501 (c) (3) public charity, and donations are tax deductible within the limits of US law. For information on how to make donations, please contact Prof. Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.