Local democracy week presents successful civic initiatives

Press release, 06.05.2019

An increased interest in civic actions that demand good local governance was emphasized during the ‘Local Democracy Week’ by Swiss-funded ‘LëvizAlbania’

Eligerta Hasidja (right) lobbied for more representation of disabled persons in local elections. In several towns of Elbasan county the initiative wants to have at least one disabled person in each municipal council.
Eligerta Hasidja (right) lobbied for more representation of disabled persons in local elections. In several towns of Elbasan county the initiative wants to have at least one disabled person in each municipal council. © FDFA / Elton Baxhaku

From 23 to 26 April the Swiss-funded ‘LëvizAlbania’ project hosted the ‘Local Democracy Week’ – a series of events to present and discuss initiatives and actions that improve local governance. From food safety, inclusion of rural areas, municipal finances, youth activism and kindergartens, the activities involved hundreds of actors engaged in local democracy in Albania.

“I am glad that civic activism in Albania is increasing and that Swiss support is able to contribute. I am glad that we are playing a part in mobilising citizen engagement. The final aim is: functioning, democratic and effective municipalities, serving their citizens with their best efforts”, said Swiss Ambassador Adrian Maître, at the closing event.

At a time when a strong engagement of citizens is necessary in Albania, the week of events highlighted some successful examples of groups and individuals who were able to raise awareness on issues and press for better responses from local government.

In the first activity, a debate on food safety took place – an issue of great concern recently. “The situation is alarming and it risks contamination of the whole food chain and even become a source of infectious diseases. A major intervention and legislative changes are needed, because in the current situation local government has very little power to improve the trade conditions”, said Granit Sokolaj referring to a monitoring of 10 cattle markets his project conducted.

At a forum on municipal services held in Gramsh, the topics of inclusion of rural areas and the role of citizens’ participation were discussed. “The responsibilities and duties of all citizens today in Albania mean participation, engagement, and action. This includes also those citizens who live in more remote, rural or peripheral settings”, said Debora Kern from the Embassy of Switzerland.

The latest report on municipal finances for 2018 was presented during a round table where independent experts discussed the findings on how the 61 municipalities are performing financially. “As we try to empower and engage citizens in local democracy, we need to look at how municipalities are involving them regarding finances and budgets”, said Swiss Ambassador Adrian Maître at the event.

The Local Democracy Week concluded with a presentation of the main achievements by ‘LëvizAlbania’ in the last four years of supporting civic engagement and local democracy.  

During its first phase the project supported 166 initiatives and actions from groups and individuals from 56 municipalities – from a total of 1,298 proposals received. It also trained and coached civil groups and activists on project conception, proposals, funding, and networking. A wide range of initiatives have been supported so far that touch on many aspects of local issues, including environmental protection, public finances, and municipal transparency.