GONG past initiatives related to civil society and its development
Strategy for Development of Civil Society
Due to increased demands for development of civil society, it was necessary to create a Strategy for Civil Society Development. Therefore, the Government of Croatia has formed a working group to draft the document. GONGs’ representatives were invited to the working group and participated in drafting the Strategy. After the completion of Strategy, there have been public debates held in Zagreb, Rijeka, Split and Osijek followed by the adoption of the Strategy by Croatian Government. The National Strategy proposal was adopted by Croatian Government on 12 July 2006 and the Operation Plan on 1 February 2007.
To find out more information, click on http://strategija.civilnodrustvo.hr
Code on financing CSOs
The proposed Code regulates standards and principles of administrative bodies’ conduct in relation to granting financial donations procedures in order to insure transparency of procedure and more efficient usage of funds. The main principles of granting financial support are setting the financing priorities, announcing tenders with clear conditions as well as insuring project and programme assessment by experts. Finance providers (donors) are obliged to establish expert bodies, mentioned in the above paragraph, as well as insure that the members are representatives from state administrative bodies, experts and civil society. In terms of tender implementation it is necessary that the proposals are unfolded by commission, the results are publicly announced and participants informed in writing and that the financing contract is signed no later than 60 day upon the closure of tender.
Associations are obliged to fulfil the following conditions:
– listed in Croatian association registry
– support Constitutional values
– conduct activities demanded by community needs
The role of Council for Civil Society development is strengthened in terms that the Council follows, analyzes and evaluates granted state budget supports on reports received from donors. The Parliament Committee on Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities placed most concrete propositions for Code improvement which were mostly referring to appeal procedures and mechanisms. Furthermore, they emphasized the need for more clear regulation of financing priority publications during one fiscal period.
The discussion in the plenary session indicated strong support for adoption of the Code by most caucuses as well as the Government representatives. Therefore the Code was adopted by MPs on 2 February 2007.
Law on Voluntarism
The concept of voluntarism in Croatia is not regulated by one act which would enfold all the aspects of voluntarism, solve the problems of volunteering organization and beneficiaries as well as offer legal foundations to ensure basis for domestic and foreign volunteers’ status resolution. The volunteer process itself is regulated sporadically and is being mentioned indirectly by several different laws, such as Labour law, laws which regulate health and pension insurance, tax laws, Law on obligatory relations etc. Whereas the mentioned law do not contain definitions of voluntarism, volunteering process and do not regulate rights and obligations of beneficiaries and well as other important aspects, it was necessary to star advocating the adoption of integral Law on voluntarism.
Due to those references, GONG’s representatives, together with other NGO representatives, participated in drafting and completion of the Law, inside a workgroup which was re-established after a one year pause by Ministry of Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity. After the completion of the document and numerous public discussions the Government has placed the Law on Voluntarism in Parliament’s procedure. The Proposal was adopted in February 2007.
Request for resignation of Governmental Office for NGOs’ Chairperson and for new Strategy for Civil Society Development
After the Chairperson of the Governmental Office for NGOs gave a scandalous interview in 2005 to “Glas koncila” newspapers, NGOs (among them GONG), international organizations, several political parties and institutions petitioned for Chairperson’s (Mrs. Cigelj) resignation because of the homophobic statements and insinuations about the “treasonous” affairs of Croatian associations and accusing the international donors of political ambitions contrary to Croatian laws. GONG has also participated in a public discussion on drafting the Strategy on development of civil society and together with the majority of NGOs publicly asked the process to be stopped because of lack of transparency, competence and methodology as well as content flaws.
Initiative on VAT exemption – “Erased” and “22% Less Worth” actions
In May 2004, Ministry of Finance changed the decree that provided VAT exemption to all NGOs. Under the Law on VAT, only humanitarian, health, educational, cultural, scientific, religious and social institutions are exempted from customs tariffs and VAT on international donations, which is unfair toward other NGOs.
Three Croatian NGOs, GONG, B.a.B.e. and Zelena akcija, protested against the decision because it undermined the efforts of civil society to establish favorable rules for their financing. We held a meeting with Minister of the finance, but except the Minister’s offer to return VAT to these NGOs, which they refused, nothing was solved. NGOs suggested joint working group of representatives of the Ministry and Taxation office, civil society (unions, NGOs, National Foundation for Civil Society Development) and donors, which was accepted, but only one meeting was held due to the opposite concepts of problem solution.
Two press conferences were held and, except media, representatives of the international community, Government at NGOs were kept informed. However, there was no good faith on the part of the Ministry and Government and the issue has not been resolved, despite the protests of civil society and international community. We believe that foreign currency financial inspection that came to GONG on the day of our press conference was a response of state institutions to our initiative!
In addition, during Parliamentary session on which the Law on VAT’s changes were discussed, GONG representatives were expelled from the Parliament gallery for having orange T-shirts saying “Worth 22% Less” and “Erased”.
We cooperated with several MPs in order to amend the Law on VAT and include VAT exemption on foreign donations for all NGOs (not only humanitarian, sports, religious and educational) but, since those MPs were opposition MPs, their draft amendments did not pass.
Initiative to enable civil service in GONG
In 2003 GONG requested to be enlisted as an organization in which a civil service (instead of regular military service) will be allowed.
“Open Squares” campaign from 1999 was organized against Law proposal on public gathering, which limited the constitutional right for public gathering and peaceful protest of citizens. The law proposal was temporary intermitted in parliamentary procedure, but adopted at the end of 1999.