2024: Crisis Management Days Book of Abstracts
Security and Protection (National and International Security, Corporate and Information Security, Disaster Risk Reduction)

Croatian disaster risk management legislation gap analysis

Zaviša Šimac
Civil Protection Directorate, Ministry of the Interior
Nataša Holcinger
Civil Protection Directorate, Ministry of the Interior

Published 2024-05-20


  • Croatia,
  • Disaster Risk Management,
  • Disaster Risk Reduction


Damages caused by disasters have already become a global, regional, and local governance problem that lacks effective legislative frameworks (Manyena et al., 2013). Despite numerous disastrous events and mounting natural hazard event damage and losses (MinFin, 2024) in the last ten years, disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction are far from getting the needed resources, acceptance and understanding in Croatia. National policies and legislation on disaster risk reduction are vital for shaping efficient disaster risk management implementation (Bang, 2021). Disaster risk management legislation is the foremost instrument to shift focus from unsustainable disaster response towards risk reduction. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, with its seven targets and four priorities, represents an outline for implementing disaster risk reduction measures to save lives, livelihoods, health, and assets(UNDRR, 2015).

This research weighs and analyses current Croatian disaster risk management legislation and policy against the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 -2030 (UNDRR, 2015). The research aims to identify legislative gaps for improvement. Qualitative research assessed Croatian's ability to mitigate, assess, respond to, and recover from disasters caused by earthquakes, forest fires, floods, and landslides. Croatia aims to align its disaster risk management policies with international commitments. Notably, it adheres to the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR, 2015) and the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development(SDG, 2015). The Republic of Croatia has established a robust national emergency management system. Under this system, the government oversees civil response activities, with the Civil Protection Headquarters coordination and support from the operational forces defined by the Act on Civil Protection System, emphasising firefighters, the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service and the Croatian Red Cross Croatia. With an already established emergency management system, Croatia recognises the importance of shifting from a reactive to a proactive disaster risk management approach. The Croatian Disaster Risk Reduction Platform was established to achieve an integrated DRR policy.

While most initiatives originate at the national level, sectoral strategies, legislation, and activities need better alignment. Several legislative pieces define sector-specific DRR measures, including the Water Act (HV, 2019), which addresses water-related risk management. The Act on Civil Protection System (MUP, 2015) partially defines disaster risk management planning, focusing most on response. The Act on Regulation Protecting Forests against Fires (HŠ, 2014) focuses on forest fire prevention. However, more substantial implementation of the National Disaster Risk Management Strategy (MUP, 2022) mitigates gaps in current legislation. Although the Strategy should even further consolidate existing sectoral approaches and outline a unified framework for risk reduction, the absence of overarching legislation such as the Disaster Risk Reduction Act poses a significant obstacle to achieving all recommendations laid down by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Priority 1: Understanding disaster risk implementation into national legislation needs significant political will and a push towards mainstreaming planning based on an understanding of disaster risk in all its dimensions of hazard characteristics, vulnerability, capacity, and exposure of people and property.

Although Croatia has established a National Disaster Risk Reduction Platform and its counterpart on regional and local levels, there is still a significant gap in sectorial coordination, defining roles and responsibilities, coherent policies, and incentives for public and private sector willingness to implement disaster risk measures. The current state makes Priority 2: Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk only partially implemented. Croatia has yet to gain knowledge of the importance of investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience, as outlined by Priority 3. Implementing and investing in structural and non-structural measures are pivotal in securing resilient local government and can lead to the growth and sustainable development of local communities and, consequently, a resilient Republic of Croatia. Nevertheless, some steps are taken in a positive direction, such as risk transfer in agriculture. The national government offers incentives on insurance policies, which can lead to public and private sector investments in disaster risk reduction measures. Croatian disaster preparedness is defined in detail with civil protection plans on all three levels of government, national, regional and local, operational forces plans and civil protection plans of legal persons of civil protection interests defined by the Act on Civil Protection System and sectorial standard operating plans. However, the legislative has yet to define recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction plans, and the opportunity to «Build Back Better» through integrating disaster risk reduction measures. New legislative pieces were developed each time for the 2014 Slavonia flood and recent earthquakes in Zagreb and Petrinja, making recovery somewhat ineffective and showing the importance of implementing Priority 4. of Sendai Framework Disaster Risk Reduction.

An analysis of Croatia's disaster risk management legislation and policy suggests four areas of interest. Improvement in the Croatian disaster risk reduction system should be focused on (1) battling political disinterest and improving engagement, (2) decision-making authorities, (3) capacity building, and (4) improving risk assessment, developing relevant data with objective and uniform disaster database, both sectorial and local. The conclusion is that while the wording has changed, the disaster risk legislation has not significantly moved from responding to natural hazard events to vulnerability and resilience. Shifting the focus to dealing with vulnerability and resilience is only possible if overall disaster risk management legislation is developed and one sole coordinating authority, independent of sectorial/hazard-competent organisations and response authorities, is established.


  1. Bang, H.N., 2021. A gap analysis of the legislative, policy, institutional and crises management frameworks for disaster risk management in Cameroon. Prog. Disaster Sci. 11, 100190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pdisas.2021.100190
  2. HŠ, 2014. Pravilnik o zaštiti šuma od požara [WWW Document]. URL https://www.zakon.hr/cms.htm?id=12201 (accessed 4.15.24).
  3. HV, 2019. Zakon o vodama [WWW Document]. URL https://www.zakon.hr/z/124/Zakon-o-vodama (accessed 4.15.24).
  4. Manyena, S.B., Mavhura, E., Muzenda, C., Mabaso, E., 2013. Disaster risk reduction legislations: Is there a move from events to processes? Glob. Environ. Change 23, 1786–1794. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.07.027
  5. MinFin, 2024. Prijavljene štete po vrstama prirodnih nepogoda po županijama [WWW Document]. Prijavljene Štete Po Vrstama Prir. Nepogoda Po Župan. URL https://mfin.gov.hr/istaknute-teme/koncesije-i-drzavne-potpore/prirodne-nepogode/prijavljene-stete-po-vrstama-prirodnih-nepogoda-po-zupanijama/3050 (accessed 4.15.24).
  7. MUP, 2015. Zakon o sustavu civilne zaštite [WWW Document]. URL https://www.zakon.hr/z/809/Zakon-o-sustavu-civilne-za%C5%A1tite (accessed 4.15.24).
  8. SDG, 2015. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN General Assembly, New York.
  9. UNDRR, 2015. Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 - 2030. UNDRR, Sendai.