NGOs, NPOs, associations
Disputes concerning NGOs, NPOs and associations are one of our most important specialisation fields. Since 1988, lawyer Hannu Lukkarila has been a regular contributor to the membership magazine of the Finnish Hunters’ Association, answering readers’ questions about NGOs. He has also taken care of dozens of dispute cases related to NGOs everywhere in Finland.
Finland is often called ‘the promised land of non-profit associations’. The Finnish Associations Act that governs the operations of NGOs and NPOs is purposefully brief and straightforward to enable ordinary people manage their associations without the help of lawyers. The leading principle of the Associations Act is the independence and autonomy of decision-making in NGOs and the equality of the members of a NGO.
In practice, this means that NGOs are able to make independent decisions on their internal matters by majority vote as they see fit. Members do not have the right to appeal such decisions as long as they are formally correct, i.e. the Associations Act and the specific rules of the NGO have been adhered to, and the obligation to treat members equally also in questions of decision-making has not been violated.
In many cases, the disputes arising are so severe that it is necessary to go to court. Court cases, however, always involve a substantial financial risk, because the losing party is almost always liable for the legal expenses of the winning party. A legal expenses insurance policy only covers the costs of one’s own lawyer under the circumstances cited in the policy. For this reason, it is important that a legal professional assesses the chances of success and the risk of possible costs before the trial.