In his first thematic report to the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association clarified that an
Associations may take a variety of diverse forms, including, but not limited to, civil society organizations, clubs, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious associations, political parties, trade unions, foundations or online associations. They may thus be formed for a variety of purposes: personal, cultural, political or otherwise. The key qualification is the freedom to function in unison towards some kind of joint goal. All of these different types of associations are protected under international law.