Croatia has a two decades long history of civil society, which began to develop slowly from the early 1990s when citizens became aware of the opportunities and ways in which human rights organizations might function. However, the development of the civil society in the country was not encouraged until the late 1990s and the early 2000s when the government passed the Associations Act and established the National Foundation for Civil Society Development.
The human rights organizations and other civil society initiatives in Croatia have greatly contributed to the country’s transition to democracy by putting pressure on the government to adopt democratic values and policies. This led for the country to successfully become the European Union member in 2004. Today, Croatia has around 20.000 registered civil society organizations that are mostly concerned with human rights violations of vulnerable groups, health, humanitarian aid, child protection, youth policies and civil war victims. Therefore, this article offers an overview of the ten most active and publicly recognized human rights organizations in Croatia that are open to share their expertise and knowledge in the fields they are mostly concerned about.
The human rights organization B.a.B.e was founded in 1994 with the purpose of promoting and protecting women’s human rights. During the years of active work, B.a.B.e has been recognized publicly for the uncompromising struggle for the respect of human rights of all citizens in the country as well as for its commitment in advocating gender equality. The focus of the organization is put on ensuring equal opportunities for all genders in all areas of social life by acting as an expert center for gender equality issues.
Documenta was founded with a goal to encourage the process of dealing with the past and establishing truth and objective facts about massive violations of human rights on the territory of Croatia during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Documenta actively contributes to the development of individual and social processes of dealing with the past. The goal of the organization is to build sustainable peace in Croatia and the Western Balkans region by deepening dialogue, initiating public debates, collecting data, publishing research on war events and crimes and monitoring war crimes trials at the local and regional levels. The organization is also active in advocating the establishment of Regional Commission for establishing the facts about war crimes in the territory of the former Yugoslavia (RECOM) and in order to achieve this goal it cooperates closely with associations of families of the missing persons, civic initiatives, governmental institutions, the media and international organizations.
The CCHR was established in 1992 as a response to massive human rights violations in Croatia. Since then, it has grown into respectable and internationally recognizable non-governmental organization for the protection of human rights as well as for delivering humanitarian aid. The organization has been very active in organizing searches for missing and displaced persons in Croatia. The organization also established SOS telephone line in its office in Zagreb, which is opened for anyone whose human rights have been violated. The goals of the CCHR are promotion of human rights standards and civic freedoms in Croatia and the region while building and sustaining an open and democratic society.
The CHCH was founded in March 1993, first as a branch of the International Helsinki Federation. Since April 2003, the CHCH acts as local non-governmental organization run by independent intellectuals, artists, lawyers and journalists committed to the protection and promotion of human rights. The organizations is committed to promoting and implementing the principles of the Final Act of Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe since 1975, which encompasses development of democratic institutions, promotion of the rule of law, detection of human rights violations and assistance to victims of violations of human rights and those whose rights are threatened.
The HRH is a network of civil society organizations that was founded with an aim to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. During the seven years of active work, the HRH has become the center of expertise on human rights and it has been recognized as a central organization for the protection of human rights by the public. The HRH participates in the protection, promotion, development and advancement of human rights through research, monitoring, advocacy and education while paying special attention to implementation of the regional and international declarations, covenants and conventions on human rights.
The Women’s Network Croatia gathers organizations, groups and initiatives that recognize women as socially discriminated and politically marginalized group. The Network opposes the patriarchal system and all forms of gender discriminations. It works on the basis of the already agreed feminist principles which include the recognition of the fundamental rights of women, women’s solidarity, antimilitarism, non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, gender, race, religion or national origin, age, sexual orientation and mental or physical differences. The network also actively advocates for recognition of the right of women to decide about their bodies and reproduction, abortion rights as well as ensuring the availability of contraception.
The Croatian Youth Network was established since there was a need for cooperation and improved communication among youth non-governmental organizations in Croatia, regardless of their political, national, sexual, religious and cultural identities as well as identities of young people they represent. The Network advocates for the interests and needs of young people in Croatia and builds partnerships with governmental institutions in order to reach correct implementation of youth policies.
The APEO is concerned with meeting the needs and protecting human rights of people with disabilities by providing educational activities and technical support. The organization works on improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities while being involved in social and humanitarian activities and generating of systematic solutions for attainment of human rights of this vulnerable group of people.
GONG was established back in 1997 with a goal to encourage citizens in Croatia to actively participate in the political processes. The goal of the organization is to elevate and promote civil and other human rights by celebrating and encouraging culture of dialogue, responsibility and transparency in the public areas through research, advocacy and education while collaborating with individuals and other organizations that share the same or similar values.
Domino is a non-profit organization based in Zagreb. Its mission is to question the traditional and opressive norms in transitional societies by examining cultural values, media and public policies through cooperation with local and international organizations. The organization’s task is to detect norms that disable the freedom of art and queer expression while providing an adequate social environment that enables individuals to freely express themselves. The four major programs through which the organization realizes its mission are arts and culture, media, education and politics.