Freedom of Association
 

Freedom of association is of fundamental importance to the creation, development, and
preservation of democracy.  This freedom allows people to join together to promote
common interests.  The goal may be the promotion of art, culture, sports, environmental
protection, or even business -- the fundamental point is that the government recognizes the
right of individuals, within broad limits, to structure their own relationships within society.

This freedom also gives substance to other essential rights and freedoms.  For example, the
freedoms of speech and expression have little practical meaning unless people have the right
to join together to make their words and thoughts known.  For few of us are influential
enough to make our own individual voices heard.  For similar reasons, the freedom of
association helps society safeguard other freedoms and associations enumerated in the
constitution.

Associative activities reap additional benefits for society.  There are many differences among
members of any society, and individuals and groups have diverse interests and needs.  The
freedom of association allows individuals and groups to pursue their common interests and
thus supports the development of pluralism and tolerance.  Moreover, it creates a “safety
valve” for social pressures and energies that build up within any society by providing
individuals with a mechanism to express their concerns.  Finally, associative activity provides
indirect support for the success and growth of market economies.  This is best demonstrated
by the work of Prof. Robert Putnam of Harvard University who conducted a twenty-year
socioeconomic study in Italy.  He concluded that the best predictor of future economic
development is the existence of strong associative relationships, including civic traditions of
cooperation, social networks, trust, and a commitment to social good.

These associative groups can be either formal or informal. Formal groups are those
recognized as distinct legal entities and includes foundations, associations, political parties,
trade unions, and so forth.  Informal groups are not recognized as legal entities, and includes
people who get together to play football, discuss politics, or clean up a park.  Usually formal
groups are also governed by sub-constitutional laws intended to structure (and not
undermine) the freedom of association protected in the constitution.

In summary, the freedom of association is fundamental to democracy and western
constitutional values.  It is recognized in international law, regional covenants, and
constitutions throughout the world.  It helps ensure that people can gather together to
promote common interests, and it helps safeguard other constitutional rights and freedoms.

Submitted by Douglas B. Rutzen
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
1511 K Street, NW #723
Washington, DC  20005
Phone:  202-624-076611
Fax:  202-624-0767
E-mail:  infoicnl@icnl.org

Freedom of association is of fundamental importance to the creation, development, and
preservation of democracy.  This freedom allows people to join together to promote
common interests.  The goal may be the promotion of art, culture, sports, environmental
protection, or even business -- the fundamental point is that the government recognizes the
right of individuals, within broad limits, to structure their own relationships within society.

This freedom also gives substance to other essential rights and freedoms.  For example, the
freedoms of speech and expression have little practical meaning unless people have the right
to join together to make their words and thoughts known.  For few of us are influential
enough to make our own individual voices heard.  For similar reasons, the freedom of
association helps society safeguard other freedoms and associations enumerated in the
constitution.

Associative activities reap additional benefits for society.  There are many differences among
members of any society, and individuals and groups have diverse interests and needs.  The
freedom of association allows individuals and groups to pursue their common interests and
thus supports the development of pluralism and tolerance.  Moreover, it creates a “safety
valve” for social pressures and energies that build up within any society by providing
individuals with a mechanism to express their concerns.  Finally, associative activity provides
indirect support for the success and growth of market economies.  This is best demonstrated
by the work of Prof. Robert Putnam of Harvard University who conducted a twenty-year
socioeconomic study in Italy.  He concluded that the best predictor of future economic
development is the existence of strong associative relationships, including civic traditions of
cooperation, social networks, trust, and a commitment to social good.

These associative groups can be either formal or informal. Formal groups are those
recognized as distinct legal entities and includes foundations, associations, political parties,
trade unions, and so forth.  Informal groups are not recognized as legal entities, and includes
people who get together to play football, discuss politics, or clean up a park.  Usually formal
groups are also governed by sub-constitutional laws intended to structure (and not
undermine) the freedom of association protected in the constitution.

In summary, the freedom of association is fundamental to democracy and western
constitutional values.  It is recognized in international law, regional covenants, and
constitutions throughout the world.  It helps ensure that people can gather together to
promote common interests, and it helps safeguard other constitutional rights and freedoms.

Submitted by Douglas B. Rutzen
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
1511 K Street, NW #723
Washington, DC  20005
Phone:  202-624-076611
Fax:  202-624-0767
E-mail:  infoicnl@icnl.org