Freedom of association under the treaties of the United Nations: A right of intrinsic or instrumental value?

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2024
Authors
McIntyre, Ruairí
Cahill, Maria
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School of Law, University College Cork
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Abstract
Although included within a number of United Nations instruments, the right to freedom of association is principally enshrined within Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and has been developed within the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee (the Committee). Whilst this right has been the subject of significant commentary by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association (the Special Rapporteur) and of numerous resolutions of the Human Rights Council (the Council), the Committee’s engagement with Article 22 ICCPR has been sparse. Despite calls from the Special Rapporteur, the right to freedom of association is yet to receive a General Comment. Notwithstanding a paucity of jurisprudence, this article seeks to outline the contours of the right to freedom of association as protected by the UN treaties. Part II analyses the scope of the protections afforded, restrictions permitted, and positive obligations imposed by Article 22. Part III explores the interaction and interdependencies between the right to freedom of association and other provisions of the ICCPR. Part IV discusses the rational underpinnings of the right to freedom of association. Although freedom of association appears to lie ‘in the overlapping zone between civil and political rights’, the comparative analysis adopted in this article suggests that the Human Rights Committee and other UN bodies have disproportionately framed Article 22 in terms of its political and systemic significance, and have neglected to develop a philosophical basis for the right deriving from its inherent value to the human person. Whereas comparable rights have been framed as ‘fundamental’, ‘intrinsic’, and ‘indispensable for the full development of the person’, freedom of association remains cast in terms of its instrumental function in buttressing political pluralism, bolstering accountability, and facilitating the myriad of ‘purposes and principles of the United Nations’.
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Freedom of association , United Nations
Citation
McIntyre, R. and Cahill, M. (2024) ‘Freedom of association under the treaties of the United Nations: A right of intrinsic or instrumental value?’, Societās Working Paper 10/2024 (15pp). Cork: School of Law, University College Cork.
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© 2023, the Author. Views expressed do not represent the views of the Societās project or the School of Law at UCC.