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Civil Society Forum „Civil Dialogue in Croatia and Slovenia: Exchange of Experience and Good Practice“

The aim of the forum was to enable an exchange of experience, knowledge, and good practices in the area of civil dialogue between Croatia and Slovenia, but also to create a forum for discussion among all interested state and non-state actors from both countries on how to improve existing practices of democratic participation. At the same time, the discussion was also placed into a wider European perspective provided by representatives of the EU institutions and European NGOs.
The event was opened by Head of the Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs, dr. Igor Vidačak, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Commission in the Republic of Croatia, Mr. David Hudson, Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to the Republic of Croatia, His Excellency dr. Milan Orožen Adamič, and representative of Vice-president of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and Minister of Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity, Ms. Jadranka Kosor, State Secretary Mr. Stjepan Adanić.
The forum was composed of two panel discussions. The first discussion entitled Institutional Framework for Civic Participation, moderated by Head of the Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs, dr. Igor Vidačak, included representatives of Croatian, Slovenian and European NGOs, and state administrative bodies. Irma Mežnarić from Slovenian Ministry of Public Administration presented the existent framework for citizens’ participation in making of public policy in Slovenia, along with proposals of its improvement including the introduction of electronic forms of democratic participation. Tina Divjak from Slovenian Legal-Information Center for NGOs underscored the (dis)advantages of Slovenian institutional framework for civic participation from the viewpoint of her NGO, advocating the thesis that a quality legal framework is a necessary condition for development of civil dialogue. Toni Vidan, President of Croatian Council for Civil Society Development presented some major elements of institutionalized dialogue between civil sector and state institutions in Croatia, highlighting the necessity of finding better solutions for establishing formal framework for both consultations and definition of the status of public benefit organizations. Anne Hoel from the European NGO Social Platform described the institutional structure of the civil dialogue at the European level, emphasizing the role of her NGO and the European network Civil Society Contact Group.
Within the second panel discussion entitled Cases of Good Practice of Civil Dialogue, moderated by President of the Council for Civil Society Development, Toni Vidan, representatives of Slovenian, Croatian and European NGOs focused on concrete cases of good practice of civil dialogue. Jože Gornik from Slovenian Centre for Information Service, Co-operation and Development of NGOs presented the procedure of selection of NGO representatives in governmental advisory bodies carried out by his NGO, described the current project entitled “European Parliament and NGOs: Strengthening of the Dialogue” and depicted the ways of dialogue between Slovenian Government and NGOs during Slovenian Presidency of the EU. Representative of the same NGO, Lidija Mesarič, demonstrated a good practice of including NGOs into the making of Slovenian State Development Program and National Strategic Reference Framework 2007-2013. Ariana Vela from Croatian NGO GONG pointed out some cases of good practice of participation of Croatian NGOs in policy-making processes through demonstration of various forms of their cooperation with governmental bodies, focusing on the possible ways of improvement of existent practices of the civil dialogue. Representative of European NGO European Public Health Alliance, Caroline Bollars, depicted the role of her NGO in the processes of making of European public policy, presenting a case of positive experience in both vertical level of the civil dialogue (the case of European Program of Public Health 2008-2013) and horizontal level thereof (the case of forming Coalition for Health in Slovenia).  
The entire discussion which was enriched by active participation of many other participants of the forum gave birth to many concrete solutions and suggestions that might serve as a valuable contribution to the drawing up of the Code of Good Practice for Consultations - the latter was commenced by the Office for Cooperation with NGOs in cooperation with the Council for Civil Society Development. The forum also demonstrated a large potential for further exchange of experience between Croatia and Slovenia in the area of strengthening capacities for development of the civil dialogue as well as other forms and areas of cooperation including drawing upon resources from European and other funds with a view to strengthen capacities of Croatian and Slovenian NGOs.
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