In February 2022, Human Rights House Zagreb (HRHZ) prepared a contribution to the call for inputs from the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association for purposes of his thematic report to be presented at the 50th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). Thematic report to the HRC will be dedicated to the study of trends, developments, and challenges regarding the ability of civil society organizations to access resources, including foreign funding. The Special Rapporteur has emphasized that access to resources is crucial to the existence and operations of civil society organizations, as well as to the sustainability of their contributions to political, social, and economic development. In the light of that, Human Rights House Zagreb submitted main observations concerning access to resources for civil society organizations in Croatia that are based on our experience and continuous monitoring of the environment for work and development of civil society in Croatia. The following main observations and trends were noted:
General conditions for work of civil society in Croatia have deteriorated in the past several years due to the combination of continuing issues and additional challenges that emerged in relation to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. Access to adequate funding for CSOs is considerably aggravated due to the ongoing lack of public initiatives or policies for civil society development that would foster conditions for work of civil society in Croatia. The National Strategy for the Creation of an Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development expired in 2016. The development of a new sectoral public policy on civic space has started but it has not yet been drafted or adopted. The National Program for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights expired in 2016 and a new one has also not been adopted for the fifth year in a row resulting in absence of policy measures for the support of civil society organizations active in protection and promotion of human rights.
Various obstacles and challenges in access to resources faced by civil society organizations in Croatia have been identified through research conducted in 2020 by Human Rights House Zagreb.
Finally, emergency measures adopted as a response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic reflected on the work of CSOs. Due to restrictions on movement and assembly, it was impossible to carry out certain activities such as education, conferences, and other events. Campaigns and other advocacy activities were more difficult to implement since the information about coronavirus dominated the media space. In April 2020, the Croatian Government did not include the civil society sector in the recovery measures when it announced mitigation measures for the consequences of Covid-19 epidemic intended for beneficiaries of EU funds and the Decision on restricting the use of funds foreseen in the state budget. Moreover, some counties abolished or put on hold financing of CSOs from the local budget which negatively affected the work of CSOs on the local level.
HRHZ will continue to closely follow the work of the Special Rapporteur and the presentation of the above mentioned Report to the HRC and will make use of the findings and recommendations in domestic advocacy for better conditions of work for human rights defenders and their organizations.
The whole submission is available at this link.
Photo: Universal Rights Group
Project A NEW BEGINNING – Sectoral Innovations for a Proactive, Progressive and Influential Human Rights Civil Society is supported with €199,909.82 of financial support from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA and Norway grants. Project is implemented by Human Rights House Zagreb, Center for Peace Studies, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights – Osijek and Human Rights House Foundation.