Turkish Parliament Adopts New Law on Associations

17 July 2004

On July 17 the Parliament of Turkey accepted the most progressive Law on Associations in over 20 years. The acceptance of this Law marks an important milestone for the strengthening of the legal framework for NGOs and for the general advancement of civil society in Turkey.

The Department of Associations was formed in 2003 as a special unit of the Ministry of Interior. Under the leadership of Dr. Senturk Uzun, this department played a key role in promoting reforms and advocating for more enabling legislation. This Department will be operationally active with offices in provinces across the country to ensure effective implementation of the new law.

TUSEV partnered with ICNL to provide technical assistance in the preparation of this law. The cornerstone of this assistance was a “Comparative Report on Associations Law,” which provided inputs on the intellectual framework for reform. The comparative report was initially submitted in June as the draft Law was being developed, and as a result TUSEV and ICNL were invited to review final drafts and submit further comments. Almost all of the provisions in the comparative report were accepted and integrated into the final draft which was approved by review commissions and Parliament.

Some of the major revisions include:

  1. Associations are no longer required to obtain prior authorization for foreign funding, partnerships or activities.
  2. Associations are no longer required to inform local government officials of the day/time/location of general assembly meetings and no longer required to invite a government official/commissary to general assembly meetings.
  3. Audit officials must give 24 hour prior notice and just cause for random audits.
  4. NGOs are permitted to open representative offices for federations and confederations internationally.
  5. Security forces no longer allowed on premises of association without a court order.
  6. Specific provisions and restrictions for student associations have been entirely removed; and children from the age of 15 can form associations.
  7. Internal audit (within the association) standards have been increased to ensure accountability of members and management.
  8. NGOs will be able to form temporary platforms/initiatives to pursue common objectives
  9. Government funding for up to 50% of NGO projects will be possible
  10. NGOs will be allowed to buy and sell necessary immovable assets.\

Though accepted by Parliament, the Law must still be signed or vetoed by the President. If enacted, TUSEV and ICNL will continue to provide comments and technical assistance on its regulation (the legal framework which prescribes procedures of the law). The regulation is critically important to ensure effective and even-handed implementation of the new law.

For additional information, please contact Filiz Bikmen at TUSEV or Doug Rutzen at ICNL.