Last July 6 was presented in Tirana "Civil Society Index for Albania - In Search of Citizens & Impact", a study on Albanian civil society, conducted by the Albanian NGO "Institute for Democracy and Mediation" with the support of the United Nations Program for the development.
According to this study, the structure of civil society in Albania remains weak, and is characterized by low participation and poor relations between the actors that compose it. Furthermore, its dependence on politicians and influential politicians in Albania is clearly visible to all.
Before continuing with the analysis of the results of this study, we see what is meant by civil society. Civil society is placed within society and can be composed of a network of citizens who work to pursue the general interest. According to the sociologist Jurgen Habermas: "Civil society is made up of those associations, organizations and movements that at the same time welcome, condense and reverberate, amplifying it in the political public space, the resonance that social problems have in the spheres of private life.
The heart of civil society is therefore constituted by an associative fabric that institutionalises, in the framework of organized public spaces, the discussions that aim to solve problems concerning issues of general interest ". Another definition of civil society is given by the Center for the Civil Society of the London School of Economics:
"Civil society means the arena of spontaneous collective action directed towards common interests, aims and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, the family and the market, even though in practice the boundaries between state, civil society, family and the market are often complex and blurred. Civil society usually covers multiple institutional spaces and forms, varying its level of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organizations such as charitable societies, development NGOs, communities, women's organizations, religious, professional and commercial associations, mutual aid groups, social movements ".
It is therefore an organized public space that gives a voice to the citizens and allows them to act for the common good.
The sustainability index for NGOs shows that in Albania there is only a limited number of NGOs that can be defined as solid, the general environment is unfavorable and the sector remains heavily dependent on international aid. According to the study, the commitment of citizens in civil society initiatives is very low: 18,4% participate, even if the 57% declares its willingness to do so in the future. On the other hand, the attention of civil society is mostly focused on donor funding.
Civil society is represented above all by numerous small NGOs, largely fragmented and not connected to each other through national and international networks. The executive and executive structures of organizations are often weak, the tax regime that regulates them remains unclear and a Code of Ethics that would set standards and strengthen transparency does not yet exist. According to the study, 41,2% of NGOs refuse to document the funding received, and only 8% of them take decisions by convening the shareholders' meeting. The fact that 73,2% of NGOs organizes their work on donor's priorities and not on those of society is even more disturbing.
Millions of euros are funded each year by international and local donors for initiatives proposed by civil society organizations, but there are few figures that really benefit these initiatives.
The NGOs from time to time fill the luxurious rooms of the hotels, organizing some conference between friends or at most inviting some illustrious personages. Staff are often hired on the basis of specific projects and staff are usually asked to fill different roles and tasks, without a clear division of functions and responsibilities. These characteristics obviously have a significant impact on the professionalism of civil society actors.
A major problem of Albanian civil society is its weak relationship with public institutions. The small number of projects implemented in partnership between NGOs and government institutions, the few cases of procurement of social services assigned to specialized NGOs, together with the fact that very few organizations are involved in monitoring and advocacy activities on national policies, are clear elements which indicate the government's lack of a global strategy for cooperation with civil society.
Although the government has begun to consult third sector organizations in the development and definition of policies, these coordination mechanisms are not formalized and remain weak. The non-governmental organizations but also the autonomous institutions such as the Academy of Sciences, the Universities, the trade unions and the Albanian intellectuals have never had in these years of political pluralism in Albania, no relevance in the formation of governmental political choices, and do not have never influenced political party programs.
Not a few times civil society in Albania has been part of certain political maneuvers and even a promoter of the personal interests of certain politicians. In fact, many civil society activists have been candidates of political parties in the last elections.
No government and no political party has ever convened independent organizations or institutions to hear their opinions, to consider their proposals on certain issues relevant to socio-political life.
Among the government institutions there is not a specific department in charge of managing relations with civil society, whose participation in political life must be strengthened. In Albania most civil society organizations do not have the knowledge, skills, experience and resources to actively participate in the consultation process.
Another important area that would require greater intervention efforts is therefore represented by the training of civil society actors. A greater participation of civil society organizations in public life improves the quality of democracy because it is not only an essential element for the democratic public life and for the proper functioning of institutions, but also represents a crucial actor in building and strengthening public support for reforms.
The change imposed by external forces is not enough. In order to achieve the requisites necessary for EU membership, the involvement, commitment and active participation of civil society are fundamental.
Institute for Democracy and Mediation: idmalbania.org e Facebook
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