In May 2003, the Parliament of Croatia enacted the new Law on Humanitarian Assistance (Official Gazette, No. 96/2003), which supersedes the 1992 Law on Humanitarian Assistance. The new Law provides for a more comprehensive definition of humanitarian assistance and permits all recognized forms of NGOs in Croatia – and not only associations – to deliver humanitarian assistance. A foreign NGO may also engage in rendering humanitarian assistance, provided it has a branch office registered in Croatia. Other major features of the Law include the following:
The Law clarifies the procedures for providing humanitarian assistance. Officially registered NGOs whose statutory goals include providing humanitarian assistance must obtain approval from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare prior to rendering humanitarian assistance. For the first time, however, informal groups and initiatives can provide humanitarian goods on an ad hoc basis to those in need without the Ministry’s approval, provided they notify the Ministry in advance about the specific activities they seek to engage.
The Law deems “humanitarian organizations” (i.e., officially registered NGOs whose statutory goals include providing humanitarian assistance) to be “public benefit” organizations that enjoy «special legal» status. The Law does not, however, clearly define the benefits and obligations of this special status or how “public benefit” status relates to “custom, tax and other benefits”, which are also envisaged by the new Law;
The Law requires that the government provide humanitarian organizations with information relevant to their activities and that the government cooperate with those organization on matters of common interest.
ICNL provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in drafting the Law. ICNL would like to thank USAID for its ongoing support of its work in Croatia.