The process of NGO Law amendment in Kosovo – a brief description of civil society involvement
Prishtina, Kosovo – October 2010
Prepared by Taulant Hoxha – Program Coordinator at Kosovar Civil Society Foundation (KCSF)
Civil Society representative in the Governmental Working Group for the NGO Law drafting process
Even though civil society in Kosovo played a very important role during the apartheid time during the 90s, when the country was under Serbian occupation, the modern concept of civil society was introduced in Kosovo in 1999, after the liberation.
The large international presence, and in particular the need for easy funds for the after-war phase, created an excellent ground for a rapid growth of the number of NGOs, which were mostly working on the emergency, reconstruction, human rights and multi-ethnic reconciliation.
This immediate growth imposed the need of legal regulation of the sector, making the NGO regulation 1999/22 one of the very first regulations/laws of the UN administration in Kosovo. For that period, it was considered as a best practice in the region, introducing easy procedures for registering and numerous fiscal benefits for NGOs.
The first attempt of the domestic institutions to transform the regulation into a law dates back to 2005, when the Assembly adopted a new NGO Law, which was never signed by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) and thus never entered into force. The reasons for this blockage were restrictive provisions on the activities, registration and governmental monitoring of the NGOs.
The current Law on NGOs was adopted in February 2009, and civil society was involved in the process at the Assembly level, resulting with an acceptable law for both civil society and public institutions. However, only one year after its adoption, in March 2010 the NGO Law was again opened for amendments, officially because of some technical problems.
The initial proposed amendments by the government were considered too restrictive by civil society organizations, which advocated for their removal. These restrictions consisted on the proposals to:
– exclude student NGOs, sports NGOs, microfinance institutions and universities registered as NGOs from the scope of this Law;
– limit registration of NGOs to those which pursue a public benefit purpose, thus excluding the NGOs that pursue a mutual interest from the possibility to be registered;
– limitations on property and resources of NGOs, through exclusion of real estate and personal estate from among the list of possible incomes of NGOs; and
– non-proportional measures for failure to report on a number of requirements for NGOs with public benefit status , which will result on termination of NGOs.
The Government invited civil society representatives to participate in the working group for this Law and the drafting is still in the process, with the Governmental Working Group concluding its work in late September 2010. The Governmental Working Group, is comprised of representatives from government, civil society, tax administration, customs and other relevant institutions, and it worked for two months to draft a Law according to European and international standards and without the above mentioned restrictions. The next phase is the Assembly Commission and plenary discussions, before its adoption and signature from the President.
To read the full article, click here: A Civil Society Success Story From Kosovo.