We introduce$objective partial groups$, of which the linking systems and$p$-local finite groups of Broto, Levi, and Oliver, the transporter systems of Oliver and Ventura, and the $${\mathcal{F}}$$ -localities of Puig are examples, as are groups in the ordinary sense. As an application we show that if $${\mathcal{F}}$$ is a saturated fusion system over a finite$p$-group then there exists a centric linking system $${\mathcal{L}}$$ having $${\mathcal{F}}$$ as its fusion system, and that $${\mathcal{L}}$$ is unique up to isomorphism. The proof relies on the classification of the finite simple groups in an indirect and—for that reason—perhaps ultimately removable way.