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Objectives and Activities

Introduction

      Basic principles

Subject to the restriction on profit-making already considered, non-governmental organisation should be able to pursue all the objectives and undertake all the activities open to individual persons acting alone. See Entities to which International Guarantees Apply, Article 8 of the United Nations General Assembly's  Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Paragraphs, 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14  and 15 of the Council of Europe's Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe.

Although a non-governmental organisation cannot be formed to pursue specifically unlawful objectives and activities, the determination of what is unlawful for this purpose must always be compatible with universal and regional human rights standards. See, e.g., Articles 5 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN), Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights (CoE), Articles 17, 18 and 19 of the United Nations General Assembly's  Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and Paragraph 11 of the Council of Europe's Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe. See also Lavisse v. France (dec.), 5 June 1991, Sidiropoulos and Others v. Greece, 10 July 1998, Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC], 13 February 2003, Artyomov v. Russia (dec.), 7 December 2006 and Zhechev v. Bulgaria, 21 June 2007.

      Entitlement to seek changes in the law and constitution

A non-governmental organisation can be established to pursue a change in the law or the constitution so long as the means to be used and the outcome to be achieved are compatible with fundamental democratic principles, including in particular non-discrimination, pluralism and respect for human rights. A commitment to use force to achieve objectives, as well as the actual use of such force, would thus be unacceptable. See United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v. Turkey [GC], 30 January 1998 and Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC], 13 February 2003.

      Approach to assessing admissibility of objectives and activities

The authorities should always start with a presumption of lawfulness and not resort to speculation or make over-simplistic conclusions when they are assessing the admissibility of a non-governmental organisation's proposed objectives and activities of a non-governmental organisation and determining the meaning of its name and of terms used in its charter or statute. A justifiable finding that the proposed objectives and activities of a non-governmental organisation are inadmissible before it has even begun to pursue them should thus be extremely rare. See United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v. Turkey [GC], 30 January 1998 and Partidul Comunistilor (Nepeceristi) and Ungureanu v. Romania, 3 February 2005.



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