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Acquisition of Legal Personality and Registration

International Standards


      Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention), Article 3

(...) 4. Each Party shall provide for appropriate recognition of and support to associations, organizations or groups promoting environmental protection and ensure that its national legal system is consistent with this obligation.


      Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 on the legal status of NGOs in Europe, Paras. 1, 6, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 3, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 47 and 60

I. Basic principles

1. For the purpose of this recommendation, NGOs are voluntary self-governing bodies or organisations established to pursue the essentially non-profit-making objectives of their founders or members. They do not include political parties.
(...) 6. NGOs should not be subject to direction by public authorities.

III. Formation and membership

    C. Membership

(...) 22. The ability of any person, be it natural or legal, national or non-national, to join membership-based NGOs should not be unduly restricted by law and, subject to the prohibition on unjustified discrimination, should be determined primarily by the statutes of the NGOs concerned.
23. Members of NGOs should be protected from expulsion contrary to their statutes.

IV. Legal personality

(...) B. Acquisition of legal personality
28. The rules governing the acquisition of legal personality should, where this is not an automatic consequence of the establishment of an NGO, be objectively framed and should not be subject to the exercise of a free discretion by the relevant authority.
29. The rules for acquiring legal personality should be widely published and the process involved should be easy to understand and satisfy.
30. Persons can be disqualified from forming NGOs with legal personality following a conviction for an offence that has demonstrated that they are unfit to form one. Such a disqualification should be proportionate in scope and duration.
31. Applications in respect of membership-based NGOs should only entail the filing of their statutes, their addresses and the names of their founders, directors, officers and legal representatives. In the case of non-membership-based NGOs there can also be a requirement of proof that the financial means to accomplish their objectives are available.
32. Legal personality for membership-based NGOs should only be sought after a resolution approving this step has been passed by a meeting to which all the members had been invited.
33. Fees can be charged for an application for legal personality but they should not be set at a level that discourages applications.
34. Legal personality should only be refused where there has been a failure to submit all the clearly prescribed documents required, a name has been used that is patently misleading or is not adequately distinguishable from that of an existing natural or legal person in the state concerned or there is an objective in the statutes which is clearly inconsistent with the requirements of a democratic society.
35. Any evaluation of the acceptability of the objectives of NGOs seeking legal personality should be well informed and respectful of the notion of political pluralism. It should not be driven by prejudices.
36. The body responsible for granting legal personality should act independently and impartially in its decision making. Such a body should have sufficient, appropriately qualified staff for the performance of its functions.
37. A reasonable time limit should be prescribed for taking a decision to grant or refuse legal personality.
38. All decisions should be communicated to the applicant and any refusal should include written reasons and be subject to appeal to an independent and impartial court.
39. Decisions on qualification for financial or other benefits to be accorded to an NGO should be taken independently from those concerned with its acquisition of legal personality and preferably by a different body.

40. A record of the grant of legal personality to NGOs, where this is not an automatic consequence of the establishment of an NGO, should be readily accessible to the public.
41. NGOs should not be required to renew their legal personality on a periodic basis.

C. Branches, changes to statutes
42. NGOs should not require any authorisation to establish branches, whether within the country or (subject to paragraph 45 below) abroad.
43. NGOs should not require approval by a public authority for a subsequent change in their statutes, unless this affects their name or objectives. The grant of such approval should be governed by the same process as that for the acquisition of legal personality but such a change should not entail the NGO concerned being required to establish itself as a new entity. There can be a requirement to notify the relevant authority of other amendments to their statutes before these can come into effect.


V. Management
47. NGOs should ensure that their management and decision-making bodies are in accordance with their statutes but they are otherwise free to determine the arrangements for pursuing their objectives. In particular, NGOs should not need any authorisation from a public authority in order to change their internal structure or rules.

VI. Fundraising, property and public support
(...) C. Public support
(...) 60. The grant of public support can also be contingent on an NGO falling into a particular category or regime defined by law or having a particular legal form.

Explanatory Memorandum

Paragraph 1
18. There is no universal definition of NGO, a term which can be used to cover a wide range of bodies operating within both states and intergovernmental organisations. The definition adopted for the purpose of this Recommendation emphasises certain qualities regarded as constituting the essential character of these bodies, namely, that their establishment and continued operation is a voluntary act (i.e., a matter of choice for those founding and belonging to them and, in the case of non-membership bodies, those entrusted with their direction), that they are self-governing rather than under the direction of public authorities and that their principal objective is not to generate profits from the activities that they undertake.
19. NGOs can go under various names such as associations, charities, foundations, non-profit corporations, societies and trusts but it is their actual nature rather than their formal designation that will bring them within the scope of this Recommendation. Thus the designation of a particular entity as “public” or “para-administrative” should not prevent it from being treated as an NGO if that is an accurate reflection of its essential characteristics; see Chassagnou v. France, nos. 25088/94, 28331/95 and 28443/95, 29 April 1999.
20. Political parties are excluded from the definition as in many countries they are the subject of separate provisions from those applicable to NGOs generally. However, this exclusion does not preclude states from choosing to treat such parties as NGOs.
21. Moreover those professional bodies established by law to which members of a profession are required to belong for regulatory purposes are also likely to fall outside the definition on account of the failure to comply with the requirement of voluntariness and freedom from direction by public authorities – this has led the European Court to consider such bodies as falling outside the protection for freedom of association under Article 11 of the European Convention; see Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v. Belgium, nos. 6878/75 and 7238/75, 23 June 1981 - but again this exclusion does not prevent states from treating them as NGOs. Nonetheless the voluntary aspects of their activities could be sufficient to bring sub-entities that they establish within the definition; e.g., the human rights committee of a bar association.

Paragraph 6
28. Although subject to the law like everyone else, the freedom from direction by public authorities is essential to maintain the “non-governmental” nature of NGOs. This freedom should extend not only to the decision to establish an NGO and the choice of its objectives but also to the way it is managed and the focus of its activities. In particular there should be no attempts by public authorities to make NGOs effectively agencies working under their control (see the finding of a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention in Sigurdur A Sigurjónsson v. Iceland, no. 16130/90, 30 June 1993 as a result of an attempt to use a taxi association to administer the provision of taxi services) or to interfere with the choice by an NGO of its leaders or representatives (see the finding of violations of freedom of religion under Article 9 of the European Convention, which imposes a similar obligation to Article 11 in this regard, in Serif v. Greece, no. 38178/97, 14 December 1999, Hasan and Chaush v. Bulgaria [GC], no. 30985/96, 26 October 2000 and Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others v. Moldova, no. 45701/99, 13 December 2001 following such interferences).
29. This does not mean that public authorities cannot choose to provide particular assistance to NGOs pursuing objectives that they consider to be of particular importance but the latter should be free to decide whether to accept or continue to receive such assistance. Furthermore neither legislation nor other forms of pressure should be used to make NGOs undertake particular activities considered to be of public importance.

Paragraph 22
55. The guarantee of freedom of association in Article 11 of the European Convention and in other human rights instruments is applicable to “everyone” within a State’s jurisdiction and the scope for imposing limitations will thus be quite narrow. Certainly children should not be excluded – particularly since this freedom is also specifically guaranteed to them by Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – but that does not preclude the adoption of protective measures to ensure that they are not exploited or exposed to moral and related dangers. Any limitations on their ability to join membership-based NGOs will need to take account of their evolving capacities and, as well as being proportionate and respecting legal certainty, should never be such as totally to exclude them from becoming members.
56. Similarly the freedom should normally be exercisable by persons who are non-nationals and any limitation on this would need to be compatible with the limited authorisation to restrict the political activity of non-nationals allowed under Article 16 of the European Convention; see Piermont v. France, nos. 15773/89 and 15774/89, 27 April 1995. It would thus be hard to justify a bar on political activity in the non-party context and impossible to do so for one where no politics was involved at all (e.g., in the field of sport and culture).
57. It is possible that a prohibition on involvement in NGOs might be a legitimate consequence of having committed certain offences but its scope and duration must always respect the principle of proportionality (see Applic. No. 6573/74, X v. The Netherlands, 1 DR 87 (1974)) and a ban on membership as an automatic consequence of imprisonment would never be justified.
58. The essence of freedom of association is that individuals should be free to choose with whom they associate and so the law should not normally enable someone to join an NGO against the wishes of its members. However, there would be a good justification for constraining the freedom of members of an association to determine whom to admit as new members where this was done in order to fulfil obligations to prevent discrimination on any inadmissible ground and thereby protect the rights of others, as permitted by Article 11(2) of the European Convention.

Paragraph 23
59. As with admission, the expulsion of someone from a membership-based NGO is generally a matter for the organisation itself. However, the rules governing membership in its statute must always be observed and national law should thus ensure that someone facing expulsion or who has been expelled has available an effective means on insisting on such observance; see Applic. No. 10550/83, Cheall v. United Kingdom, 42 DR 178 (1985). Moreover the rules governing expulsion should not be wholly unreasonable or arbitrary; in particular there should be a fair hearing before any decision is taken.

Paragraph 28
67. Where the acquisition of legal personality is not an automatic consequence of forming an NGO, there will inevitably have to be a process of assessing whether the legal requirements have been met. In order to minimise the risk of the resulting discretion being inappropriately exercised, the grounds for taking a decision on the grant or refusal of legal personality should always be stated with an appropriate degree of precision and be such as to permit objective assessment of the observance of these legal requirements. The formulation in Paragraph 34 of the Recommendation should serve as a guide in this respect.

Paragraph 29
68. The formation of NGOs will be facilitated if those interested in so doing have ready access to the applicable rules and the process to be followed is easy to understand and to satisfy. The latter requirement could be met by producing a guide to the requirements for establishing an NGO.

Paragraph 30
69. Although the ability to form an NGO ought, in principle, to be open to anyone, some disqualification on being able to do so might be an appropriate consequence of the past activities of the person concerned. This might be particularly the case where the person concerned has been found guilty of an offence which entailed the pursuit of objectives that are not ones for which an NGO might be formed. Similarly a bankruptcy determination might mean that someone ought not to be allowed to establish an NGO, or at least not ones that can be expected to be in receipt of significant funding. In all cases the scope of such restrictions would need to be clearly connected with the activities concerned and their duration should also not be disproportionate.

Paragraph 31
70. In order to ensure that those seeking to establish NGOs are not unduly burdened and that any decisionmaking process is appropriately focused, the only information that should need to be filed with an application for legal personality will be the statute, the address of the NGO and the details needed to
identify the persons concerned.
71. In the case of non-membership-based NGOs, which are likely to require some form of funding or property before they can pursue their objectives, there could be an additional requirement of demonstrating that such funding or property is available so that entities that will never operate cannot be created. However, it is not essential that there be such a requirement, particularly as the circumstances in a particular country may be such that the acquisition of the necessary funding or property is dependent upon the intended recipient first obtaining legal personality.

Paragraph 32
72. The requirement that the members of a membership-based NGO should first adopt a resolution in favour of acquiring legal personality is a reflection of the fact they are its highest governing body. In order for the members to have an opportunity to take part in such an important decision, the invitation of the meeting at which such a resolution is to be adopted must be one that gives them a reasonable prospect of attending - two weeks’ notice might be appropriate for this purpose – but it cannot be expected that every member actually attends and the use of proxies ought to be permitted.
73. Proof that the necessary meeting had been held could be provided by a copy of the invitation, evidence of how the invitation to attend was communicated, a record of the proceedings and the signatures of those attending, as well as any authorisations for proxies.

Paragraph 33
74. Although there will be costs involved in the processing of applications to acquire legal personality, the level at which any fees are set should reflect both the desirability of encouraging the formation of NGOs and the fact that their character is essentially non-profit-making.

Paragraph 34
75. The grounds stipulated for refusal of legal personality reflect the only considerations relevant for such a decision. As to names belonging to another or which are confusing, see Apeh Uldozotteinek Szovetsege, Ivanyi, Roth and Szerdahelyi v. Hungary (dec.), no. 32367/96, 31 August 1999 and as to inadmissible objectives, see Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others v. Moldova, no. 45701/99, 13 December 2001. This underlines the structured nature of the discretion that must be established by national law.

Paragraph 35
76. The case law of the European Court demonstrates the real risk of authorities being too ready to assume the worst about the objectives of an NGO; see, e.g., United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v. Turkey, no. 19392/92, 30 January 1998 and Sidiropoulos and Others v. Greece, no. 26695/95, 10 July 1998. As the European Court has made clear it is particularly difficult to draw adverse conclusions about broadly framed objectives where an NGO has yet to undertake activities which demonstrate a commitment to the pursuit of inadmissible objectives.
77. It is not appropriate to rely on suspicions or to draw conclusions simply from the use of certain terms in a statement of objectives. While an NGO’s stated aims might conceal certain inadmissible objectives and intentions, this is likely to be demonstrated only by concrete action and not in an application for legal personality. Although past behaviour might give some indication as the way in which someone will behave in the future, there will be a need for significant corroboration that a risk exists before such personality could be legitimately refused.
78. Furthermore the importance of political pluralism in a democracy means that the establishment of NGOs with objectives that challenge the established order must be permitted unless there is compelling evidence that they will be pursued in a manner that is anti-democratic and this cannot be assumed simply because change is being proposed; see Refah Partisi (The Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC], nos. 41340/98, 41342/98, 41343/98 and 41344/98, 13 February 2003.

Paragraph 36
79. Although in some countries the responsibility for decisions relating to grant of legal personality to NGOs is vested in courts, this is not an essential means of ensuring that the process is not affected by political considerations. It is sufficient that the body with this responsibility is genuinely independent not only of an executive elected or chosen as part of the political process but also of any other entity whose interests might be affected by the coming into being of a new NGO; see Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others v. Moldova, no. 45701/99, 13 December 2001.
80. The body concerned may thus be an administrative one but, whatever its formal status, it is essential that it have an appropriate level of staff to ensure that the requirement of expeditious decision making is fulfilled and that those staff be persons who are suitably qualified and trained for the task expected of them.

Paragraph 37
81. The right to form NGOs with legal personality will only be truly meaningful where any process of approval that may be involved is completed in a reasonably speedy manner; delay in decision making should not be allowed to frustrate the pursuit of the objectives of the proposed organisation. A useful point of comparison in judging what is reasonable might be the time taken to register corporations or business since these also have objectives to be scrutinised and the fulfilment of requirements to be checked. However, in most countries this is something that can be completed in a matter of days rather than of weeks or months. Failure to decide within the prescribed time limit should then be automatically treated as either a refusal of legal personality or the granting of it.

Paragraph 38
82. The provision of a reasoned decision to the person affected by it is a fundamental principle of good
administration that not only assists acceptance of a well-founded but adverse decision but also ensures that such a decision can be subjected to appropriate scrutiny. Although the review of a refusal of legal personality might in the first instance be a matter for internal review within the decision-making body, the ultimate guarantee that the rights of those seeking legal personality for an NGO have been respected can only be afforded by an appeal to an independent and impartial court.

Paragraph 39
83. The separation of decision making about the grant of legal personality from that about the grant of financial or other benefits is necessary in order to avoid the possibility of these two quite discrete matters becoming confused, with the result of inappropriate conclusions being reached in respect of the former. Such a risk might be most easily avoided by having two different decision-making bodies but this objective could also be achieved by giving these two functions to separately run units within the same body.

Paragraph 40
84. In order to protect the interests of all who may have dealings with NGOs with legal personality, the fact that this has been granted and the information submitted for this purpose should be recorded in a manner that allows members of the public to check any details that may be of concern to them. Ideally this should take the form of an electronic database that can be accessed without formality or fee over the internet.

Paragraph 41
85. The legal personality granted to an NGO should normally be for an indefinite duration, with this being determined only in accordance with the terms of its statute or pursuant to termination fulfilling the requirements of this Recommendation (see Paragraphs 44 and 74 of the Recommendation). The grant of legal personality should not, therefore, be for a limited duration or subject to a requirement of renewal unless this is the wish of those establishing the NGO concerned.

Paragraph 42
86. The establishment or accreditation by an NGO of branches should be a matter for its own internal organisation and thus subject only to the requirements of its statute. The only circumstance in which any official authorisation for the establishment of a branch could be required would be where a discrete legal personality for the branch from that of the NGO establishing it was being sought for this purpose. In such a case the grant of approval could be made subject to the rules generally applicable to the grant of legal personality to NGOs.

Paragraph 43
87. Approval for a change in the statutes of an NGO should only be required where this concerns a matter that might be the basis for a refusal to grant legal personality (see Paragraph 34 of the Recommendation). However, the legitimate interest of members of the public in being able to verify the content of the statute of an NGO with which they have dealings would justify a requirement that other changes are notified prior to their coming into force. Therefore a member state may require that a change in the statutes must be entered in the register before it can be applied. This requirement may be necessary for members, those intending to join as members and creditors, bodies granting subsidies, authorities and other contact groups.
88. Although seeking approval for a change should be governed by the procedure already set out with respect to the initial grant of legal personality, the grant of approval should not involve the NGO concerned first having to establish itself as an entirely new entity. The term “approval” for the purpose of this paragraph does not cover any involvement of a lawyer or notary in preparing the change to the statutes.

Paragraph 47
93. Although the decision-making process of an NGO must always comply with the requirements of its statutes, the limited requirements as to what these must contain and the principle of self-regulation (see Paragraphs 1 and 67 of the Recommendation) mean that there should be no other constraints on how they decide to pursue their objectives and manage the organisation.
94. Thus the NGO should be free to adopt organisational arrangements that it considers appropriate and to change them as and when it considers this to be necessary. Such internal matters should not require the approval of anyone outside the organisation concerned.
95. The freedom that NGOs ought to have with respect to decision making should not, however, lead their management to ignore the wide range of persons with a legitimate interest in the way in which the organisations concerned conduct themselves. The taking into account of these interests will require the use of a number of different techniques – notably consultation and reporting – and their precise form and scope will vary according to the character of the interest in question.

Paragraph 60
112. The provision of public support (in the form of financial or other benefits) for the activities of NGOs is something that can be made contingent upon them qualifying for a special category or regime (e.g., a charity), or even a specific legal form (e.g., a trade union, church or religious association). A failure to obtain such a status or classification or to be allowed to take on such a legal form should not, however, lead to the loss of any legal personality already acquired.

      Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organisations in Europe, Principles 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41 and 42

Acquisition of legal personality
26. Where legal personality is not an automatic consequence of the establishment of an NGO, the rules governing the acquisition of such personality should be objectively framed and not subject to the exercise of discretion by the relevant authority.
27. National laws may disqualify persons from forming an NGO with legal personality for reasons such as a criminal conviction or bankruptcy.
28. The rules for acquiring legal personality should be published together with a guide to the process involved. This process should be easy to understand, inexpensive and expeditious. In particular, an NGO should only be required to file its statutes and to identify its founders, directors, officers and legal representative and the location of its headquarters. A foundation, fund or trust may be required to prove that it has the financial means to accomplish its objectives.
29. A membership-based NGO should only seek legal personality after a resolution approving this step has been passed by a meeting which all its members have been invited to attend, and it may be required to produce evidence of this.
30. Any fees that may be charged for an application for legal personality should not be set at a level that discourages applications.
31. Legal personality should only be refused where there has been a failure to submit all the clearly prescribed documents required, if a name has been used that is patently misleading or is not adequately distinguishable from that of an existing natural or legal person in the country concerned, or if there is an objective in the statutes which is clearly incompatible with the law.
32. Any evaluation of the acceptability of the objectives of an NGO when it seeks legal personality should be well informed and respectful of the notion of political pluralism and must not be driven by prejudices.
33. The body responsible for granting legal personality need not be a court, but it should preferably be independent of control by the executive branch of government. Consistency in decision-making should be ensured, and all decisions should be subject to appeal.
34. The body concerned should have sufficient, appropriately qualified staff for the performance of its functions and it should ensure that appropriate guidance or assistance for an NGO seeking legal personality is available.
35. There should be a prescribed time-limit for taking a decision to grant or refuse legal personality. All decisions should be communicated to the applicant and any refusal should include written reasons.
36. Decisions on qualification for financial or other benefits to be accorded to an NGO should be taken separately from those concerned with its acquisition of legal personality and preferably by a different body.
37. Without prejudice to the applicability of the articles laid down in the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-governmental Organisations for those states that have ratified that convention, foreign NGOs may be required to obtain approval to operate in the host country, but they should not have to establish a new and separate entity for this purpose. This would not preclude a requirement that a new and separate entity be formed where an NGO transfers its seat from one state to another.
38. The activities of NGOs at the international level should be facilitated by ratification of the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-governmental Organisations.
39. Where the acquisition of legal personality is not an automatic consequence of the establishment of an NGO, it is desirable for the public to have access to a single, national registry of all NGOs with such personality.
40. An NGO whose statutes allow it to establish or accredit branches should not require any other authorisation for this purpose.
41. An NGO should not be required to renew its legal personality on a periodic basis.
42. A change in the statutes of an NGO with legal personality should require approval by a public authority only where its name or its objectives are affected. The granting of such approval should be governed by the same process as that for the initial acquisition of such personality. However, such a change should not entail an NGO being required to establish itself as a new entity.

Explanatory Memorandum

Acquisition of legal personality
40. The moment at which an NGO acquires legal personality varies depending on the state concerned: in some states NGOs automatically have legal personality from their establishment, and this section therefore does not apply. In the majority of states, acquisition of legal personality is governed by rules and a procedure. The text stipulates that these should have an objective basis and that their application should not result in arbitrary treatment of NGOs.
41. Although the moment of acquisition of legal personality varies from one state to another, the same does not apply to its termination, since the rule is that an NGO’s legal personality ends with its dissolution – voluntary or involuntary – in case of bankruptcy, prolonged inactivity – which might arise from insufficient membership – or as an exceptional sanction. It also comes to an end with the merger of two or more NGOs; the resulting new entity assumes the rights and obligations of the NGOs that have merged.
42. The section of the fundamental principles concerned with acquisition of legal personality establishes certain basic principles that should govern this procedure – referred to in some states as the registration procedure – where this personality is not automatically acquired through the establishment of the NGO concerned. The underlying logic is that the procedure must be as simple and undemanding as possible and must not entail the exercise of discretion.
43. For that reason the applicable rules must be clear and easily accessible by NGOs, which is not always the case among states. One means of guaranteeing such accessibility is publication of an explanatory guide to the process by the relevant authority. This may not be possible in all states for budgetary reasons, but in any event the registration authority should provide NGOs with all the information and assistance they may need.
44. It is entirely legitimate for states to make the acquisition of legal personality by an NGO subject to the supply of certain information and documents. In an effort to ensure legal certainty, this information should above all make it possible to answer enquiries from third parties about the NGO’s identity, address and management structures. Any individual having a business relationship with an NGO, for instance in the event of sale of property or recruitment of staff, must be able to ascertain whether the organisation in question is recognised as a legal person. Similarly, for their own protection, private individuals should be able to check that a body presenting itself as an NGO and seeking their support is in fact what it claims to be.
45. The registration procedure should not constitute an opportunity for states to request information to which they have no entitlement. The latter would generally include the identity of donors or an NGO’s financial circumstances, but there may be a need to require disclosure of those circumstances where a body such as a foundation is established. The procedure should also not provide states with an excuse for discriminating between NGOs as to whether their objectives or members are deemed “acceptable”, in so far as the objectives and the means employed are lawful.
46. A state may charge a fee to cover the cost of processing applications, but this should not be set at a dissuasive amount.
47. The text establishes the principle that the authority deciding an application for legal personality should be separate from that awarding any form of public support. As a general rule, legal personality will be granted by an administrative authority, but in some countries it may be appropriate for the courts to fulfil this function.
48. So as to limit the scope for the exercise of discretion by the authorities deciding an application for legal personality, the fundamental principles list the grounds on which an NGO’s application may be refused. However, the list set out in paragraph 31 of the fundamental principles is not exhaustive. States may lay down additional grounds for refusal in their legislation, though such grounds should be based on clear and objective considerations. In accordance with the principles governing decision-making by administrative authorities, it also specifies that there should be a prescribed time-limit for deciding an application. The decision must be final, and it is not acceptable that legal personality granted to an NGO should be subject to periodic review. However, this does not prevent states from re-examining the question of legal personality where a substantial change is made to the statutes or activities of the NGO. The grounds for the decision must be indicated in writing, particularly where it is a refusal, so as to allow the NGO to challenge it in the relevant administrative authority and in court. Failure to decide within the prescribed time limit should be treated as either a refusal of, or the granting of, legal personality.
49. In the states which have ratified Convention No. 124, the legal personality and capacity acquired by an NGO in one contracting party where it has its registered headquarters should be recognised, as of right, by the other contracting parties, subject to compliance with certain conditions. In other states, foreign NGOs may be required to obtain approval to operate in the host country.
50. Information supplied by NGOs when applying for legal personality should be kept on record in a centralised national register, which, as stated in the text, should be accessible to the public. However, this rule on centralisation of information cannot be made generally applicable, as account should be taken of the particularities of federal states, where registration may be carried out at the level of the entities of the federation.
51. The rule laid down in paragraph 42 of the fundamental principles is intended to ensure that the statutes of an NGO can be amended under a simple, expedited procedure. Approval should only be needed in the case of significant matters, such as the name or objectives of an NGO. The procedure should not normally entail an obligation to re-establish the organisation as a whole, thus allowing the NGO to evolve, while maintaining some continuity.



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