iCon is composed of over twenty members with demonstrated expertise and commitment to advancing the principles and causes of human rights and social justice. Their role is to provide cutting-edge, policy-oriented, and field-tested research that identifies the specific drivers of closing space as well as new and effective ways in which donors, civil society, think tanks, multilateral organizations, and the private sector can push back. iCon members work to mobilize and coalesce the voices and collective wisdom of activists, policymakers (governmental and intergovernmental institutions), academics, think tanks, and representatives from philanthropy and communications from around the world to address the problem of closing space.


The Human Rights Initiative at CSIS serves as the secretariat for iCon. The secretariat is responsible for running the day-to-day operations of iCon; planning iCon meetings and working group discussions; providing research support and data to iCon members and working groups; liaising with donors; sharing research findings and recommendations with policymakers; working with the Advisory Group and iCon members to disseminate and implement solutions; and offering overall leadership and guidance for iCon.


Sanjay Agarwal, India
Mohktar Benabdallaoui, Morocco
Yury Chavusau, Belarus
Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah, United States
Peter Kreko, Hungary
Jeong-Woo Koo, South Korea
Erin McCarthy, Individual Member of the Advisory Group
Amanda Murdie, United States
Annika Poppe, Germany
Edwin Rekosh, United States
Charles Kojo Vandyck, Ghana
Jonas Wolff, Germany

Sanjay Agarwal

Sanjay Agarwal graduated in commerce from Delhi University in 1983 with honours. He was admitted as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India in 1986 and has been in full-time practice since then. He has been providing assurance and advisory services to the non-profit sector at national and regional levels for more than 25 years. Sanjay has conducted financial reviews and system-assessments of over 1000 NGOs across India on behalf of grant-making agencies. He advises grant-makers on grant management and monitoring systems and NGOs on accounting and regulatory matters. He has facilitated numerous workshops for NGOs, grant-makers and NGO auditors in Asia as well as in Europe. Sanjay has also developed Risk Management Systems for grant-makers as well as Grant Monitoring Tools and Accounting Manuals for the non-profit sector.

He writes regularly on accounting and regulatory issues for NGOs (AccountAble) and NGO auditors (AuditAble). Other publications include AccountAble Handbook on FCRA (2002, 2012), another on ‘NGO Accounting and Regulation’ (2002) and ‘Daan and Other Giving Traditions in India’ (2010). He also co-authored the India chapter in 'Philanthropy and Law in South Asia' published by APPC, Philippines (2004, 2007).

Sanjay has also served on various committees and expert groups for institutions such as Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, and Voluntary Action Cell of the erstwhile Planning Commission. Other pro bono work includes membership of advisory committees of Institute for Human Development (IHD) and Partners in Law & Development (PLD).

Mokhtar Benabdallaoui

Mokhtar Benabdallaoui is Professor of Islamic Studies at Hassan II University, Casablanca. He has published several books on Islamic studies, along with several booklets, guides, and toolkits on civic education and partnership between the state and civil society. He is also the founder and former director of the MADA Center at Hassan II University. Mokhtar is coordinator of the Maghreban Forum, which is a regional think tank, and director of the quarterly “RIHANAT.” He has taken part in and supervised several meetings on Islamic studies, democratic transition in Morocco, and reforms in the Arab world. He also supervised the redaction of many drafts of laws in coordination with the Moroccan parliament and government. Mokhtar was a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (2011) and at the International Center For Not-for-Profit Law (2011).

Yury Chavusau

Yury Chavusau is a legal adviser in the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs, a large umbrella organization for more than 300 Belarusian NGOs, that provides legal guidance and conducts advocacy on their behalf. As the legal representative, he has participated in strategic litigation related to the protection of NGOs and political parties, including in the Supreme Court of Belarus. Yury is the editor of 16 books on human rights and NGO laws, including “Ban on the activities of unregistered associations in Belarus” (2010) and “Prospects of the law on non-commercial organizations in Belarus” (2011). As a political scientist, he focuses primarily on Belarusian institutions and political parties. Since 2005, Yury has taught "Introduction to Human Rights" in the Belarusian human rights school (based in Vilnius, Lithuania). Yury is also a member of the Belarusian Journalists Association, Belarusian Language Society, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, and editorial board of the Belarusian journal of political science “Political Sphere.

Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah

Dr. Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah is a conflict prevention and mitigation specialist. She is founder, President and Managing Director of Kommon Denominator, Inc., an organization that is committed to leveraging social science research in support of the peaceful resolution of conflict. She serves on the UN and EU-ERMES Roster of Experts. Dr. Abdul-Hadi Jadallah also serves as the Quaker International Affairs Representative to the Middle East for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) since November 2016. In this capacity, she convenes Track 1 and Track II meetings on regional issues dealing with politicized and organized violence, militarization, migration and social cohesion. She has also worked with the UN Special Envoy’s Office on the engagement of civil society and women in the negotiation process in Syria. From 2014 to 2015, she served as the Coordinator and Regional Expert on the Panel of Experts on Yemen pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014), Department of Political Affairs, and previously as a UN Expert to the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen with the Office of the Special Advisor to the Secretary General, Jamal Ben Omar. She teaches graduate level courses in the field of conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University. She is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award for the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution and other business awards.

Péter Krekó

Péter Krekó is Senior Associate at Political Capital Institute, a think-tank in Budapest, and currently a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Central Eurasian Studies Department at Indiana University. He holds a PhD. from psychology and teaches courses in political science and social and political psychology. In Budapest, he served as an associate professor at the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences. Krekó wrote his thesis on the social psychology of political transitions. He is an expert in the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network Centre of Excellence and a presidency member of the Hungarian Political Science Association. His main research interests are populism and radicalism in Europe and Russian soft power influence in Europe. He has conducted several research projects dealing with the state of NGOs and think tanks in Hungary.

Jeong-Woo Koo

Jeong-Woo Koo is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, Korea, Director of the Sungkyunkwan Center for Human Rights and Development, and Manager of SSK Human Rights Forum. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University and conducted research at Harvard University under the 2015-2016 Harvard-Yenching Fellowship. He was a member of the Rising Democracies Network at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His main research interests concern human rights issues, specifically focusing on measurement of national human rights, human rights surveys, human rights database, and using machine learning techniques for human rights study. He is the founder of Human Rights Sensitivity Test, which is available online both in English and Korean. He occasionally contributes to openGlobalRights and is a widely known media commentator in South Korea. His other research interests include international development, corporate social responsibility, and civil society/public sphere. He has written several policy reports in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Strategy, National Human Rights Commission of South Korea, and other government agencies. He is the author of two books, Human Rights in East Asia: A Comparison of Human Rights Improvements in South Korea and Japan (2010, Seoul National University Press) and An Analysis of the Criteria and Methodology of Priority Recipient Selection for Country Partnership Strategy (2014, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy Press). His publications have appeared in Social Forces, Sociology of Education, Comparative Education Review, Human Rights Quarterly, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, Social Science History, Asian Studies Review, Korea Observer, and numerous other Korea-based journals.

Erin McCarthy

Erin McCarthy provides advice and technical assistance to missions and policymakers on civil society development programs and trends in the Europe and Eurasia Region at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She provides technical oversight and program management for a number of regional and bi-lateral programs, including the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, the NGO Legal Enabling Environment Program, the Prague Civil Society Center, the CSO Sustainability Index and several activities operating in non-presence countries. She provides technical assistance to missions on new civil society project designs, evaluations, assessments and strategy development. Prior to joining USAID in 2009, Ms. McCarthy earned her M.A. in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University and her B.A. in International Relations and French from James Madison University. She also holds a professional certification in Conflict Reconstruction, Stabilization, and Prevention at George Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Dr. Amanda Murdie

Amanda Murdie is the Dean Rusk Scholar of International Relations and Professor of International Affairs in the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She is an expert on international non-governmental organizations and human security and has published in such outlets as International Organization, Journal of Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Studies Quarterly, and Human Rights Quarterly. In 2018, she will be the editor-in-chief of International Studies Review.

Dr. Annika Elena Poppe

Dr. Annika Elena Poppe is a political science researcher and coordinator of the German Research Network “External Democracy Promotion (EDP)”. She currently is project director and research fellow at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), Germany. Her research focuses on international democracy promotion, normative and political change, U.S. foreign policy, and the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. Annika was trained in Political Science and American Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt and in U.S. History at the American University, Washington DC. In 2011, she spent a semester as a visiting researcher at the Department of Government at Georgetown University. In 2015, Annika submitted and defended her dissertation on “U.S. democracy promotion after the Cold War: Stability, basic premises, and policy towards Egypt” at Goethe University, and has since focused more generally on the global phenomenon of “closing space” and thus on the increasing restrictions on civil society support. Her most recent publications include "Recalibrating the interest-values-nexus. U.S. democracy promotion in the Middle East" (Orient 58: 2, 2017), “The Nuclear Taboo, Battlestar Galactica, and the Real World: Illustrations from a Science-Fiction Universe” (Security Dialogue 47: 4, 2016, with Marco Fey and Carsten Rauch), and “From Closing Space to Contested Spaces. Re-assessing Current Conflicts over International Civil Society Support” (PRIF Report No. 137, 2015, with Jonas Wolff).

Edwin Rekosh

Edwin Rekosh is the co-founder of Rights CoLab, a collaborative platform for advancing human rights through innovative strategies connecting civil society, technology, business and finance. From 2016-2018, he was the director of human rights initiatives and visiting professor of law at Cardozo School of Law.  For nearly two decades prior to that, Mr. Rekosh served as president and CEO of PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law, an organization he founded in 1997 to develop global resources and networks in support of local human rights advocacy around the world. He also teaches on the adjunct faculty of Columbia Law School and has been a recurring visiting professor at Central European University in Budapest. Mr. Rekosh has pioneered innovative human rights initiatives in China and over 30 other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. He lived in Romania and Hungary for 10 years, assisting the development of human rights groups there and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe as new constitutional orders emerged. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Law School, and he received the American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Award in 2009.

Charles Kojo Vandyck

Charles Kojo Vandyck is a social justice advocate who works to strengthen civil society and citizens’ participation in development processes. Charles works on strengthening the legitimacy, transparency, and accountability of civil society through training, shared learning, and technical assistance. Charles has experience developing capacity strengthening programmes, conducting crosscutting research, and providing policy advice. He is currently the interim chair of Hub Africa, a civil society resource that has been created within the innovation for change global network to respond to closing civic space. Charles currently serves as the Head, Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles is a member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom’s professional body for academic teaching and research, policy and practice in the field of international development. Charles studied Development Management at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).

Jonas Wolff

Dr. Jonas Wolff is executive board member and head of the research department “Intrastate Conflict” at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), Germany. He is an Adjunct Professor (Privatdozent) at Kassel University and also teaches at Goethe University Frankfurt. His research focuses on the transformation of political orders, contentious politics, international democracy promotion, and Latin American politics. He has done consulting work for the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Agency for International Cooperation, the German Federal Foreign Office and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and is a member of the German Research Network “External Democracy Promotion (EDP)”. Recent publications include “Negotiating interference: U.S. democracy promotion, Bolivia, and the tale of a failed agreement” (Third World Quarterly, 2017), “From Closing Space to Contested Spaces. Re-assessing Current Conflicts over International Civil Society Support” (PRIF Report No. 137, 2015, with AE Poppe), and The Comparative International Politics of Democracy Promotion (London, Routledge, co-edited with HJ Spanger and HJ Puhle).