Associations and Foundations Law (LAF) provides the legislative framework for activities of non-governmental organizations. This law exists on the State level (2016) and entities (FBiH 2002; RS 2001) as well as in Brčko District (2002). Since the law defines CSOs as citizens’ associations and foundations, any person or legal entity can form an association or foundation for a purpose in accordance with the Constitution and legislation.
The Law on Associations and Foundations was amended in November 2016 to reflect requirements and recommendations of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The amendments require updates to the registries to make them more accurate, require CSOs to provide more detailed financial reporting to State agencies, and allow any legal entity, including State bodies, to establish non-profit organizations. These new requirements are expected to increase the transparency of CSOs, without hindering CSO operations or placing onerous reporting requirements from CSOs. In particular, associations and foundations are required, according to the latest amendments to the law, to submit to the Ministry of Justice of BiH a financial and performance report, which the Ministry will publish on their website.
Since then, according to the Entity Laws, all CSOs are already obliged to submit financial reports to entity financial agencies, the new regulation at the State level is just an additional complication of the administrative procedure. The problem could be solved by coordination between the Ministry of Justice of BiH and the entity financial agencies. Furthermore, this makes a kind of discrimination against CSOs registered at Ministry of Justice at State level, since CSOs that are registered at other levels do not have this obligation.
0 – 20 Fully disabling environment20 – 40 Disabling environment
40 – 60 Partially enabling environment60 – 80 Enabling environment
80 – 100 Fully enabling environment
The new law introduces the category of “public interest” for programs and projects that can be proposed by all CSOs. According to the changes, the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, based on a public call or competition, conclude contracts with associations and/or foundations for the implementation of programs or projects of public interest. Activities of public interest of the association and/or foundations in particular are the activities that contribute the promotion of: human rights, rights of persons with disabilities, protection of children with disabilities, rights of national minorities, equality in combating discrimination, protection against violence, activities of children and young people, combating various forms of addiction, developing volunteering, humanitarian activities, social protection, environmental protection, nature protection, human health protection, arts, education, culture and all other activities which by their nature may be considered to be activities of public interest.
However, research shows that not all CSOs support this solution. The public interest as such is subject to change and therefore it would be better if it is defined by by-laws or by Tax Laws than by LAF itself. Among the public interests listed in the Law on Associations and Foundations of BiH, most segments are not within the jurisdiction of the state level of government at all, which makes the law unenforceable. On the other hand, the tax benefits that the CSOs can realize by implementing activities of public interest are not at the BiH Council of Ministers’ jurisdiction, but the exclusive competence of the entities, so the question of the appropriateness of this legal provision is raised.
The registration process has been implemented at 18 levels (State, FBiH, 5 Regional Courts in RS, District Brčko and 10 Cantons) independently from each other. The Ministry of Justice BiH established the Integrated e-Register the all registered associations and foundations with basic information about them – name and acronym, address, responsible person, registration number and place of registration. In practice, associations are free to work at the whole territory of BiH wherever they have been registered. The exceptions are that some local communities insist that only associations, with offices at their territory, can be awarded from the local sources for grants in order to develop local civil society. Such statement is noted in most of the local Agreements between Mayors and CSOs.
In accordance with CSOs statements as well as FOAI statements there are no cases within the registration process where freedom of association was banned or limited. The main remark for registration is that Ministry of Justice BiH is very strict in requesting the appropriate and full application, comprising the all necessary documents, properly filled in and created. At the lower levels the registration is going smoothly, without any complaints from the CSOs.