Freedom of association

Freedom of association is one of the basic political rights guaranteed in the Finnish Constitution. In Finland the freedom of association is understood as a universal right, which is why it applies in principle to all forms of association activities alike.

Freedom of association means, among other things, the right to form an association whithout a permit and to be a member of one or more associations. Freedom of association also means the right not to join any association and the right to resign, whenever you wish, from an association which you have joined. Associations, on the other hand, are in Finland deemed to enjoy internal freedom of activity,which means that they have the right to independently draft their rules (bylaws), within the framework of law, and decide on their internal operations.

The role of associations in society

In Finnish society, association activities, and registered associations in particular, play a very central role. Associations extend their operations to all sectors of life. Registered non-profit associations cover such spheres as trade union and party-political activities, as well as cultural fields, leisure activities and social and health affairs, among other things. It is estimated that more than 90% of all associations are engaged in important social activity.

Many Finns, or persons resident in Finland, belong to more than one association during their lives.

Registered associations are divided into following fields of activity:

  • Party-political associations
  • Associations relating to professions or trades
  • Associations in the social and health fields
  • Associations in the culture fields
  • Associations in the field of leisure activities
  • Associations in the field of sport and physical exercise
  • Religious and other associations relating to outlook of life
  • Associations relating to national defense and international relationships
  • Other associations

The Register of Associations contained 207,200 associations on 31 December 2011. The number of associations juridically in existence at that time was 132,961. The difference comes from over 24,000 associations deleted under the Deletion Act, from dissolved associations and from organisations abolished for various reasons in the 1930s and 1940s.

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Latest update 05.11.2012