Several new possibilities for environmental NGOs open after NGOs’ Act entered into force
Polona Valič, environmental NGO net Plan B for Slovenia Senka Šifkovič-Vrbica, Legal Information Centre for NGOs (Slovenia)
On 14th of April 2018, the Non-governmental Organizations’ Act entered into force in Slovenia. The initiative for the Act is more than ten years old, yet only the current Minister of Public Administration included the Act into his program. Preparation of the Act was carried out by the NGO Service Department at the Ministry of Public Administration and was an example of an open and inclusive procedure. The working group for preparing the Act was composed of non-governmental representatives and representatives of the ministries in a ratio of 50/50.
The Act brings a more orderly systemic framework and a support framework for non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
The newly adopted act brings a solution for which Slovenian NGOs have been working for a long time - the Act will enable non-governmental organizations working in the area of environmental protection to acquire the status of a society acting in public interest in the area of nature conservation. So far, until this Act, only associations could acquire the status, not institutions or institutes. Therefore this will bring new opportunities for NGOs to participate in all administrative and judicial procedures now.
NGOs will acquire the status of a non-governmental organization acting in the public interest in a certain area if the work in this field exceeds the interests of the NGOs' founders or its members and, if it is in general benefit. The status can be acquired in various fields, including human rights protection, environmental protection, nature conservation, spatial planning, animal protection and conservation, agriculture, forestry, rural development, development of non-governmental organizations, the development of the information society, science and other fields. Other laws may define the activities in the public interest in more detail.
Conditions for acquiring the status of public interest NGO
The status can be acquired in several areas. Granting of the status is decided by the corresponding ministry. The conditions for acquiring the status for NGOs are as follows:
- the members of NGO cannot be a legal entity governed by public law,
- activities, which are in the public interest, are defined in the founding act of the NGO,
- the NGO has operated at least two years before the submission of the application for obtaining the status,
- the NGO has carried out and can present significant achievements in its field of work in the last two years,
- in the last two years before submitting the application, the funds of the NGO were mainly used for carrying out activities in the public interest in the area referred to the second paragraph of this Article and the NGO has regularly implemented programs, projects or other activities with the purpose and objectives in the public interest,
- the NGO has at least a two-year program of future activities in the field referred to in the second paragraph of this Article, which includes the regular implementation of activities in the public interest,
- whose nature is particularly severe and has not been convicted by a final judgment for a criminal offense,
- there are no bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings initiated against the NGO.
Detailed criteria are on the way
For NGOs working in the public interest in the field of Nature Conservation, the law amends the Nature Conservation Act in a way that all status forms of NGO are eligible to obtain the status, not just associations, as it was before. The Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning has not issued a regulation on detailed criteria for presenting the major achievements in the field of Nature Conservation yet, but will have to do that within a year.
The story was first published in J&E Newsletter Network News, Issue 2018/2, 24th May 2018.