PREBACI NA
Hrvatski

What does GONG do?

 

  • Free and fair elections - GONG is the pioneer of monitoring the electoral process in Croatia, which provided the original impetus for its establishment in 1997. Since then, as many as 20,400 GONG election observers have monitored elections on the local, national and EU levels. They have also participated in various trainings of election observers and conducted international election observation missions throughout the world (Ukraine, the USA, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, and more). GONG has persistently advocated for the introduction of higher standards of election regulations, particularly when it comes to monitoring of election campaign financing. GONG played an important role in setting up a standing and professional State Election Commission in 2007. We pointed to the inadequacies of the election process by disclosing “dead people voting” in 2005 and contributed to a series of amendments of election regulations - such as the Political Activity and electoral Campaign Financing Law (2011, 2014), The Law on the Voter Registry (2012), and The Rules on Conduct of the Electronic Media with National Concessions in the Republic of Croatia During the Election Campaign (2014). During the election campaign for the European Parliament, GONG informed and educated citizens about the voting process and purpose of the election. GONG did this prior to the elections for the European Parliament when the state institutions neglected to do so. As the election system and the level of knowledge of various actors have improved, GONG increasingly relies on non-anonymous citizens’ alerts, and monitoring of the work of bodies involved in the election process.
  • Citizens have the right to know – free access to information has become a Constitutional right in 2010 after a series of research papers from GONG on the implementation of the Access to Information Act revealed numerous shortcomings. It is also thanks to GONG and its advocacy and analyses, that Croatia established The Information Commissioner in 2013, an independent national body charged with protecting the right of access to information. In cooperation with the organisations Code for Croatia and mySociety, GONG created the web portal We Have the Right To Know where citizens can demand information from competent authorities.
  • Publishing of agendas of Government’s closed session– all previous governments used closed sessions to allocate hundreds of millions of kuna without transparent criteria. Since 2007 GONG had persistently criticised this practice, and in 2012 was there a change of practice: the Rules of Procedure were amended, and the Agendas of closed sessions finally published.
  • Official Gazette to the People – in 2001 GONG’s move prevented the Government from charging the content of the Official Gazette.
  • Initiative 22% less worthy – despite the announcement that foreign donations to NGOs will be VAT exempt, the Ministry of Finance did not do so. The Church however, is exempt from the same obligation. The then Minister of Finance Ivan Šuker tried to ‘silence’ GONG, Green Action, B.a.B.e and HHO by promising them a favourable status. The NGOs rejected the offer demanding the same rules for everyone. 
  • LOTUS research – the first two-year research of transparency in work of local governments in Croatia, which has been conducted in every county, city, and municipality in Croatia. The aims of analysis were to make recommendations for greater transparency, to improve cooperation between local governments and civil society, as well as to improve the functioning of local governance. Inspired with this research, the Ministry of Justice conducted its own research in 2012.
  • Platform 112 and “Monitoring of the EU negotiations” – This was initiated by 60 different NGOs who have been engaged in the protection of human rights, democratization, peace building, prevention of corruption, and the protection of public resources. They formulated 112 requests containing priorities and specific measures for Croatia in order to ensure that the activities of formal institutions, individuals and political elite are based on the rule of law. The Platform 112 had been doing its own “shadow monitoring” during the negotiation process with the EU, respectively the Chapter 23, and had been writing its own reports on the progress of Croatia.
  • Open Parliament – On GONG`s initiative, the Croatian Parliament (Hrvatski sabor) has decided to open its doors to its citizens, and to include external experts in the work of various Parliamentary Committees, and ensuring that experts and civil society are included in the work of the Parliament as well. In 2001 GONG launched the Internship program in Parliament and in the Government, through which the best students from the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Political Science were included in the work of respective institutions, whereas today the Croatian Parliament implements the programme on its own. Today, Croatian Parliament is the most opened institution that includes in its work NGOs, as well as the academic community through various Committees, and round tables, while citizens have right to attend plenary sessions.

 

 

ELECTIONS

Election supervision – non-partisan election supervision was not allowed during the 90s

 

  • The “Orange Amendment” on non-partisan election supervision – We the citizens supervise, was accepted in 1999 following the Decision of Constitutional Court. The “Orange Amendment” became a part of the Election law.
  • GONG became a guarantor of election credibility and an organization that educates the electorate through public campaigns.
  • Workshops: I Vote for The First Time – GONG has trained thousands of high school graduates on election law, public advocacy, and protection of their civil and political rights.
  • “Dead people voting” – public disclosure of manipulations with voter register during 2005 Presidential elections.
  • GONG has to date monitored 15 national elections and one referendum.
  • From 1997 to 2015, as many as 20,400 election observers from GONG engaged in election observation missions at local, national, and the EU level.
  • OSCE, National Democratic Institute, and the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations have invited GONG to monitor elections in the following countries: Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Albania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Israel-West Bank/Gaza Strip, Georgia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Spain, Macedonia, the USA, Kirgizstan, and Jordan.
  • Since 2007 Croatia has a permanent and professional State Electoral Commission, as a result of GONG’s continuous advocacy since 2000.
  • In 2014, GONG presented New electoral reform to the Croatian Parliament. This introduced a new coherent normative and institutional framework with the aim of increasing political accountability of politicians towards citizens, as well as the participation of citizens in electoral process.
  • Since 2012, GONG has advocated for the improvement of constitutional and legal framework for holding referenda at local and national levels, with the aim of strengthening civic initiatives on one hand, but also protecting the fundamental constitutional values on the other. Unfortunately, in 2013 process of constitutional reform failed, and the majority of parliamentary parties, with the exception of the Labour Party, showed no political will to continue with the changes.
  • In 2012 Croatia finally harmonized its electoral law with the Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, enabling equal suffrage to all disabled persons, including more than 16,000 people with intellectual disabilities who do not possess legal capacity. In the 2013 election, they could finally exercise their political rights by choosing their own representatives. This project was result of common efforts of Association for Self-Advocacy, GONG, and the Office of the Ombudsperson for Persons with Disabilities. The project was given the Zero Project award launched by Essl Foundation.
  • In 2012 and 2015, some GONG’s proposals on electoral law reform were accepted. These included cleaning up of voters’ lists, prohibition of candidacy to people convicted of serious crimes (e.g. war crimes or corruption), obligation for parties to collect enough signatures in order to candidate, and abolishment of so-called “list-holder” institute. Although GONG advocated for 3 preferential votes, the amendments introduced 1 preferential vote, with threshold of 10%,. However, the Croatian Constitutional Court repealed some of these provisions (obligations for parties to collect signatures and prohibition of candidacy for persons sentenced for serious crimes), and comprehensive electoral reform has not been carried out.

 

CITIZENS DO (NOT) HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW

Culture of secrecy

 

  • Hundreds of public panels and live radio shows were organized to provide citizens with the opportunity to ask questions to their local politicians, MPs, ministers, and occasionally, the President of the Republic.
  • Gazette to the people: GONG hacked official web-page of Croatian Official Gazette, with the aim of preventing the government to charge public content. This contributed to enforcing citizens` right of access to public information.
  • Citizens Have the Right To Know – access information became a constitutional right in 2010, largely due to GONG's research on the implementation of the Access To Information Act and persistant pointing to the deficiencies of the Act.
  • Agenda of the closed sessions of the Government were finally published on 15 March 2012. GONG had been warning about this issue since 2007, when we realized that previous governments distributed hundreds of millions of kuna on closed sessions without clear criteria.
  • Owing to GONG's analysis of the Data Secrecy Act, which exposed a number of shortcomings and violations of the constitutional right to information, the improvement of the legal framework and the establishment of the Commissioner for Information became a part of the final set of benchmarks for Croatian accession to the EU.
  • In 2014, GONG launched the pioneer project “Watch Out, the Budget!”, which was devoted to having citizens participate in the creation of the local budget. The project was implemented in cooperation with the Our Children Association Pazin, local authorities, and a number of civil society organisations in the city of Pazin. The project resulted in a model for civic participation which has inspired similar initiatives throughout Croatia.
  • GONG developed methodology and implemented two pioneer research of openness and transparency of local authorities (LOTUS 2009, 2011, 2014), and all central state institutions (DUH 2012) which served to promote a more open communication of public bodies and citizens.


OPEN PARLIAMENT

Institutions open to citizens

  • Until 2000 citizens did not have the right to visit the Croatian Parliament. After GONG started its Open Parliament initiative, the Parliament open its door to citizens, and GONG brought thousands of high school students and other citizens from all over Croatia to meet their parliamentary representatives.
  • In 2001 GONG launched the Internship Programme in the Parliament and the Government. The programme enabled the students of law and political science to gain valuable professional training, working directly with a parliamentary representative. The Parliament later adopted the Internship Programme and now implements it independently.
  • Monitoring the process of appointing the judges of the Constitutional Court: GONG required a transparent process of selection based on integrity and professional expertise of the candidates through public debates and public hearings.
  • Most Parliamentary Committees introduced external members, thus making the Parliament more open to civil society and experts.
  • GONG organized a series of round tables and conferences in the Parliament on topics including access to information, transparency of local self-government, voters’ lists, election reform, referenda, participatory budgeting and good governance. These events served to improve the dialogue between MPs, civil society organisations and citizens.


(ANTI)CORRUPTION

Integrity of political rule

  • Financing of political parties and campaigns: since 2003, GONG has been pointing out the shortcomings of the legal framework and supervision of political financing. During the 2005 Presidential elections and 2007 Parliamentary elections, we publicly warned about the discrepancies in the spending that HDZ officially reported and the significantly higher estimates of the campaign expenses. The Act was improved in 2005, 2006 and 2011, and the legal process against HDZ and the former Prime Minister was initiated.
    • Initiative 22% less worthy – despite the announcement that foreign donations to NGOs will be VAT exempt, the Ministry of Finance did not do so. The Church however, is exempt from the same obligation. The then Minister of Finance Ivan Šuker tried to ‘silence’ GONG, Green Action, B.a.B.e and HHO by promising them a favourable status. The NGOs rejected the offer demanding the same rules for everyone. 
    • LOTUS research – the first systematic research of transparency of local governments in Croatia was conducted in each local authority (county, city and municipality) in Croatia – a total of 556 local self-government units. The goal of the research was to prepare recommendations for increasing transparency, improve cooperation between local governments and civil society, as well as to improve the functioning of local governance – the crucial areas for further development of democracy and participation of citizens in political life of their local communities.
    • We advocated for the improvements of the Prevention of the Conflict of Interest Law, monitored the appointment of the new members of the Commission for the Resolution of Conflicts of Interest, and prepared a proposal of a new comprehensive system for managing conflict of interest in different areas at all levels of governance (which has to yet been adopted).
    • GONG’s active participation in the Open Government Partnership Council contributed to increased participation of civil society organisations in this initiative and the creation and implementation process of OGP Action Plans from 2012 until the end of 2015. This process resulted in Republic of Croatia receiving praise for the quality and implementation of the Action Plan. The e-Citizen (e-Građani) portal was recognised as the best project in Europe in 2015.
    • GONG’s advocacy and expert recommendations contributed to the participatory analysis of corruption risks, which was used in the process of drafting the new Strategy for Combating Corruption 2015-2020 (which was unanimously in the Croatian Parliament on 27 February 2015). Also, the Anti-Corruption Council was established, as an advisory body in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Strategy and the creation of related action plans). The Council includes external members.


PARTICIPATION IN CIVIL SOCIETY INITIATIVES

We are stronger together

  • Right to public assembly: GONG had continuously advocated against the ban on public assembly on St Mark’s Square since it was introduced in 2005 until it was finally abolished in 2012.
  • Throughout 2011, GONG, Friends of the Earth Croatia, and Transparency International Croatia strongly advocated for the abolishment of the so-called “Golf Courses Act”. The Government, led by Jadranka Kosor, did so towards the very end of the EU negotiations process.
  • GONG assisted in the preparation and organisation of the collection of signatures for the first local citizen initiated referendum started in Dubrovnik by the „SRĐ IS OURS!“ civic initiative, concerning the planned golf resort on the Srđ hill.
  • In November 2013 GONG was one of the initiators of the CITIZENS VOTE AGAINST campaign, which enabled the active civic resistance to the discriminatory referendum initiative of the IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY aimed at introducing the constitutional definition of “marriage” which excludes same-sex couples. Although the initiative did change the Constitution, the VOTE AGAINST campaign managed to mobilize a wide circle of public figures and citizens on defence of equality and dignity of all citizens.
  • In response to the so-called anti-Cyrillic referendum in November 2013 which tried to reduce the rights of national minorities in Croatia to use their language and script, GONG as part of the Platform 112 in cooperation with the Civic Committee for Human Rights, launched the “ALL OF US – FOR CROATIA FOR US ALL” initiative. The public campaign sent the message that diversity is a wealth. Legal analyses prepared as part of the initiative reached the Croatian Parliament, Constitutional Court, European Parliament, and international institutions engaged in the protection of human rights. In August 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the anti-Cyrillic referendum initiative was unconstitutional.
  • GONG systematically trains teachers for conducting democratic citizenship education. We are one of the initiators of the GOOD Initiative focused on introducing a quality and systematic civic education in schools, despite strong opposition of political elites and illiberal civic initiatives.
  • In 2015 GONG participated in the referendum initiative „WE WILL NOT GIVE UP OUR HIGHWAYS“, which opposed the unjustified plans for the privatization of highways as an important development resource. The initiative collected a sufficient number of signatures to initiate a referendum, but the Government abandoned the detrimental plan.
  • GONG supported the advocacy initiative “NO VAT ON FOOD DONATIONS” through sharing its advocacy expertise and international contacts. The initiative became a crucial element in passing new regulation, which in December 2015 introduced VAT tax exemption on food donations. The initiative also resulted in the establishment of a high quality and sustainable system of collecting and distributing donated food throughout Croatia.
  • Through Platform 112 GONG participated in creating pre-election requests from political candidates for Croatian parliamentary elections in 2011, elections for the European Parliament in 2014, and parliamentary elections in 2015. After the elections, we monitored and promoted their implementation through public reactions, various actions and proposals of draft regulations and public policies.
  • GONG has supported research and advocacy efforts of a number of civil society organisations from all over Croatia, which provide social services and encourage social inclusion of marginalised groups such as children with disabilities, persons with chronic diseases, persons with disabilities of mental difficulties, homeless persons, gender and sexual minorities.


GONG AND EUROPEAN UNION

Preparations for EU accessions and meeting EU standards

  •  „Shadow monitoring“ – monitoring the implementation of the obligations from Chapter 23, and preparing reports used by European Union in its Progress Reports on Croatia.
  • Requests for publication on negotiating positions and inclusion of the public in the negotiation process.
  • Monitoring the EU referendum process,  and encouraging public debate on the Croatian EU accession.
  • GONG initiated the creation of the Platform 112, an informal coalition of 60 civil society organisations with a long track record in protection of human rights, democratisation, peace-building, anti-corruption, and protection of public resources (particularly the environment). Before the parliamentary elections in 2011, these organisations put together a set of 112 requests directed at all political options. These requests define the priorities and concrete measures for Croatia governed by the rule of law.
  • A member of GONG is a representative of Croatian human rights civil society organisations in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Thanks to this, GONG regularly participates in the process of creating positions of civil society and social partners concerning European regulations and policies, particularly issues related to social Europe, migrations, and enlargement policy.
  • In 2014, GONG joined the Croatian and European Stop TTIP! campaign which opposes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the USA and the EU due to its preference of big businesses, neglect of labour rights and environmental protection, and a lack of transparency in the negotiation process. Croatia was the 15th EU Member State to meet its national quota of signatures. As many as 3 million signatures were collected, and they were handed to the European Parliament.
  • GONG is a member of the Europe’s Campaign for lobbying transparency ALTER – EU, which demands the establishment of a mandatory lobbying transparency register, and points to problematic contacts between European politicians and officials with various interest groups, particularly corporations.
  • Because of our experiences of “shadow monitoring,” GONG has shared interests with civil society organisations in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We systematically support the work and the development of the Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina (http://eu-monitoring.ba/).