When one talks about the foundation of a powerful civil society, freedom of association is very important for the foundation along with the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and free and competitive elections. Freedom of association is also an important part of the pluralistic democracy (Tekle, 2010). The previous communist countries of the Central and Eastern Europe which had been, in the past, ruled by the a system which was so inflexible that it literally considered any sort of activities that were not according to the state control as a threat, this system treated such independent organizations that worked in order to expand the horizons of liberty in a very brutal and harsh manner (Puddington, 2008).
However, it is noteworthy that today even in all these countries of Central and Eastern Europe the freedom of association is very popular and this popularity of the freedom of association basically shows the extent of the fundamental changes that took place in this world since the end of Cold War (Aaron and Katherine, 2007). A lot of democratic transformations that have occurred in the past few decades in countries such as Ukraine, South Africa, Philippines and Serbia have been influenced by the freedom of association as it has played a very important role in these transformations (Aaron and Katherine, 2007; Puddington, 2008).
In the past few decades there has been an emergence of a new wave of authoritarianism and its major target is the civil societies (Estreicher, 2008). Due to this new trend of authoritarianism in many parts of the world, the freedom of association is being refused or not accepted as it was in the past and the reason for such responses are the associations or organizations that have been trying to pressurize groups such as human rights organizations, independent trade unions, political parties, groups that assess corruption or scrutinize abuse by security services; groups that champion minority rights or religious freedom, women's advocates and organizations that seek legal reform (Estreicher, 2008). They have been trying to provide people with a voice of their own so that they can express their opinions to the world, all these organizations and associations are being pressurized by these regimes in order to eliminate all types of sources of dissent and opposition (Estreicher, 2007 and 2008; Puddington, 2008).
It is very evident from a number of studies that freedom of association is under threat. Studies have shown that except for sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe the associational rights have been declined in almost all the other regions of the world in the past recent years. In the former Soviet Union, Middle East and North Africa these associational rights are under particular pressure (Cihon, 2010).
It is also evident from this study that Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region are the ones in which the most pronounced declines have taken place in the past few decades although, in a few cases the declines are not very damaging to the country's long-term democratic prospects but at the same time a lot of cases have been shown in the study which shows the setbacks faced by the free institutions due to the forced or deliberate policies of the state (Cihon, 2010).
It has also been found by several studies that the rights of the trade unions which consisted almost solely of the associational rights in the past are not functioning very well under the authoritarian settings and even in some incases under democratic settings as well (Cihon, 2010).
The prominent political and cultural trends of the 21st century which are in complete opposition of the campaign to limit the civil society have greatly enhanced international trade relations and have included enhanced freedom of movement within the states and also globally and expanded access to information. All these regimes that have been working to suppress the freedom of expression have passed laws to hinder the working of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and to ensure that their efforts are working, they have also silenced the press (Kozac, 2010).
Although the development in technology and the popularity of electronic media and internet has proved to be a hurdle for the authoritarian state's efforts to restrain press freedom, the evidences are still suggesting that the suppression of associational right probably won't be a difficult task. The core of the freedom of association is a right that is enclosed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is also included in several of the United Nations covenants as well as embedded in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the charters of regional bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and is also included in the agreements on worker rights that have also been adopted by the International Labor Organization (Kozac, 2010; Puddington, 2008).
The freedom of association is very important in an era in which many political parties and other organization's credibility has suffered as, the freedom of association can play a very important role in strengthening trade unions, NGOs and organizations that give voice to a common person (Atleson, 2008; Puddington, 2008).
Methods being used globally to control Freedom of Association
A number of similar techniques and tactcs are being used by different countries, which have been mentioned in several studies, to keep their civil societies in check but usually they have a suspicion towards the nongovernmental organizations. As the NGOs in these countries are considered very dangerous adversaries so usually these are controlled by the use of different tactics such as; involving the civil society groups to an extreme regime bureaucratic harassment and scrutiny (Atleson, 1983 and 2008).
For instance, Russian government officials, under the terms of a 2006 law, have the right to check the NGO records. In addition, the state also has the permission to suspend any NGO due to vague reasons as well and this is applicable to any organization if it clashes with the Kremlin policies. It can also cancel out any of the NGO's programs and these new authoritarian regimes hardly if ever let go of their wars against nongovernmental sector (ICFTU, 2006).
Instead what these authoritarian regimes do is, they differentiate the civil society groups in a way that they show some patience towards the groups who are not very ambitious or whose democratic credentials are limited while, literally penalizing the NGO's that challenged the power of leadership directly (ICFTU, 2006).
For case in point, Egypt is lenient towards those Islamic states that are not promoting or working on the anti-regime agendas. Another type of organizations that often gets a lot of support from Egypt are the ones that are against its peace treaty with Israel. In fact, Egypt also promotes such institutions to protest against the democratic reforms. Whereas, the organizations that are often shut down by Egypt are the ones that are in the favor of democracy. Similarly, Russia is a lot more patient towards the organizations that have nationalist or communist orientation than it is towards those having liberal and democratic point-of-views (Kirchner, Pascal and Michael, 2010).
The trade unions are under the pressure of the authoritarian regimes as well as they have still not separated the special kind of attention that the NGOs deserve. Since the end of the Cold War the organized labor has suffered a very difficult time and this condition has worsened even more in the last several years (Kirchner, Pascal and Michael, 2010).
The unions face a lot of pressure throughout the world, even in the areas where the freedom of association is very common. United States provides a very clear example of this kind of scenario as, most of the organizations and institutes there are given complete associational rights and the ability to strive, yet according to the United States legal environment is very difficult for the workers to get themselves involved in collective contract negotiations with the top management, form unions and achieve bargaining rights (Kirchner, Pascal and Michael, 2010).
As a result, in the mid 1950s, approximately 35% of the workforce was unionized but by 2007 the unionization figure for the private sector was 7.5% which is outrageously low for a country that is so developed. Even the countries such as United Kingdom and Germany have a less steeper union membership decline rate than United States (Kirchner, Pascal and Michael, 2010).
Recently a very important role has been played by the unions in the struggle for freedom in countries like Iran and Zimbabwe and these unions have also played a great role in the establishment and later on expansion of free organizations and institutions in many countries like Africa (Kirchner, Pascal and Michael, 2010).
Therefore, desipte the fact that the trade and labor unions had the right to the independent actions in the former Soviet Union, theoretically speaking, but the existence of these unions outside the party and national controlled labor federations is discouraged by the regulations and the laws. The countries that have been mentioned in this study have bad to…