Partners for Change in Albania’s remote areas. Empowered citizens for participatory development

29 Jan 2013

imageUNDP Country Director, Ms. Yesim Oruc giving her speech at the conference. Credit: UNDP Albania

A national conference “Partners in Rural Development” brought together civil society partners, government officials, media and development practitioners.

The findings of two policy briefs: “What are donors doing wrong- the government and civil society in Albania” and “Participatory Rural Development in Albania: Actual state and future challenges”, were also presented at the conference. The two policy briefs reveal evidence and provide alternatives that need to be considered by all key actors to ensure a vibrant civic sector and a smooth road of reforms for integrated rural development in the context of, but not limited to EU accession.

Participants also focused on the issue of participatory rural development. Discussions and debates were encouraged by the findings of the policy brief “Participatory rural development in Albania: Actual state and future challenges”. The study examines the European best practices of participatory development, the situation in Albania and provides specific recommendations including the establishment and the operation of national rural network, improvement of the legal framework, financial support for several initiatives.

The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection, Mr. Genc Ruli during his speech highlighted the role that civil society has played and can play for the development of rural areas, and referred to government’s efforts to support agricultural development and farmers through efficient funding schemes. The Minister went on to note that currently the ministry is orienting its work towards the drafting of the new Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development giving a new dimension to the inclusion of contributions by all key stakeholders in rural development.

UNDP Country Director, Ms. Yesim Oruc highlighted: “The Empowering Civil Society in Remote Areas- project emerged as a necessity in the light of the findings and evidence revealed through the Civil Society Index for Albania (2010) a joint undertaking of UNDP Albania and IDM. Namely, the Index provided a detailed framework of information on the progress, achievements and challenges for Albanian civil society in which context, the lack of an active civic sector in remote areas was pointed out as one of the main concerns.” Ms. Oruc also noted that the project was focused on the revitalization of civil society in rural/remote areas and promoting good governance and civic engagement, while attempting to establish a successful experience and best practice of coordinated actions among donor organizations, civil society in Tirana and rural regions, state actors and donor organizations.

“The evidence and recommendation for action in this regard become more pressing given the fact that almost two third of Albanian citizens reside in remote areas – villages and small towns -– and the lack of civic inputs to governance and other important sectors has a direct reflection on the concerns, priorities and quality of lives of such communities of citizens. The UN objectives for civil society development in Albania consider particularly important people’s participation and empowerment to take active part in policy formulation and decision-making – UNDP Country Director said”

During his welcoming speech the head of IDM, Mr. Sotiraq Hroni highlighted that "the programme mobilized different decision-making stakeholders towards inclusive policies and strategies for participatory development in rural and remote areas”.

All those interventions were part of a project “Strengthening Civil Society in Rural and Remote Areas” implemented by Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) and supported by UNDP.

The project, amongst others, mapped the needs, improved capacities and supported CSO actors and their partners from both public and private sector in 40% of Albania’s territory, including the regions of Berat, Elbasan, Gjirokastra and Lezha. The communities of these areas benefited from direct activities supported by the project as well as by the joint initiatives of IDM and local, rural/remote NGOs.