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close this bookNGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)
close this folderPart I: NGOs: what they are and what they do
close this folder7. The legal and institutional frameworks within which NGOs operate
View the document(introduction...)
View the document7.1 Freedom to associate
View the document7.2 The political dimension
View the document7.3 The law
View the document7.4 Regulation
View the document7.5 Collective, external and self-regulation

7.1 Freedom to associate

Democratic societies are characterised, inter alia, by giving their citizens the right and freedom to associate. The exercise of this freedom produces the wide array of organisations and associations which operate in civil society. These include, as noted earlier, political groups, religious organisations, trade and labour unions, professional groupings and a wide range of cultural, artistic, sporting, recreational, trade, commercial and business entities. It is within this general freedom to associate in democratic societies that NGOs, too, are formed and operate.

In many countries, indeed, voluntarism, as the voluntary act of association to form NGOs and more general volunteer work are sometimes called, is actively promoted by governments. It is at the heart of the first defining characteristic of NGOs.