Democracy & Justice

Why Associations Are Good for Your Health

By working together through associations, we can make sure our governments steer the right course through the pandemic.

by Jascha Galaski

We all want our governments to chart the right course through this pandemic; one that makes sure each of us has the support we need. Whether that's making sure doctors and nurses have the right protective gear or getting a minimum income to people who are losing their jobs.

We expect our politicians to get the best advice possible from scientists and other experts. And we know that governments talk to businesses about their concerns. But how do we make sure that politicians listen to us, the public? We need a way to tell our leaders what we're concerned about, so they take decisions that are good for all of us.

Sure, you can write to your member of parliament. But who pays attention to a few isolated voices? That's why we have the right to create and work through associations. This allows concerned citizens to work together and get organised, so that members of the public can join their voices and make themselves heard. Associations make democracy work properly by allowing us to talk to our representatives in between elections, while they're in power and taking decisions that affect us. There are lots of examples of how we use associations to steer governments towards the right choices. Here are a few.

Health care

All of us want to be healthy. It gives us the independence to do what we want, like spend valuable time with our loved ones and earn a living to support our families. That's why there is a human right to health care. But in recent years, most governments in Europe have been making cuts to the resources our doctors and nurses need. It is true that any health system would have a difficult time coping with a pandemic. But by making our health systems weaker, our governments have now made it much harder for us to care for people during coronavirus.

Doctors and nurses across Europe have been working together through associations that represent them to urge governments to invest more public money in protective equipment, staff and medicines. Although they have been slow to listen, many governments seem to be trying to do the right thing now.

Financial support

All of us want to know that during temporarily difficult times when we fall ill or lose our jobs, we will still be able to count on a basic standard of living. That's one of the reasons everyone pays taxes and social security contributions. And that's why we have a human right to social security.

In Germany, one person started a petition that asks the government to create a universal basic income. This petition has been signed by almost half a million people already. The idea is being seriously debated by politicians in many countries and is going to be introduced soon in Spain.

When we sign a petition, this is one simple way of adding our voices together to show politicians that we are concerned about something. This petition, like many others, is made possible by an association called There are many other associations that give people all over the world similar tools to tell their governments what they want from them.

Our freedoms

We all enjoy our freedoms. For example, everyone wants to be free to read and discuss the news, swap personal stories or move around knowing that we're not being watched by others. That's why we have the right to privacy. Because it gives us the liberty to think, talk, share ideas and live our lives free from judgment by others. Nowadays, we use the internet for almost everything and we carry mobile phones everywhere. This means that we leave an imprint of everything we do online.

Many governments want to take this personal information and use it to keep track of who is infected, where they've been, and whether people are staying home. Most of us would be happy to put our freedoms on pause if it helps to stop the virus spreading. We all want to look out for each other.

But how do we make sure that governments are only using this information to fight coronavirus? And that it is deleted after a short time, and stops being collected after the pandemic stops? A lot of governments aren't creating these safeguards for our privacy. They're just asking phone companies to hand over all our personal information.

Associations like rights and democracy groups are trying to make sure that governments accept limits on the amount of personal information they can collect about us. If our politicians don't listen, then it's possible for associations to go to court. This way they can ask a judge to stop the authorities invading our privacy any more than is really necessary to stop the spread of the virus.

A healthy democracy is good for your health

Associations help democracy work properly by building a bridge between the public and politicians. Our representatives are more likely to take decisions that are best for all of us, if we can tell them what's on our minds. Associations help our communities stay healthy and thriving because they keep our democracies healthy and thriving.


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