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Partners for Change in Rural Areas: Strengthening Citizens for Participatory Development

National Conference; January 29 2013, Hotel Tirana International

Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) in cooperation with the UNDP office in Tirana organized at “Tirana International” Hotel the National Conference: Partners for change in rural areas: Strengthening citizens for participatory development.

Participants in this conference included high government representatives like the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection Mr. Genc Ruli, Members of Parliament, representatives from International organizations like Mr. Francois Begeot from the EU Delegation in Tirana, the Director of UNDP Albania Mrs. Yesim Oruc, directors of civil society organizations that focus in rural and remote areas, rural development experts etc.

During his welcoming speech the Director of IDM Mr. Sotiraq Hroni thanked all the stakeholders that contributed and supported the programme “Strengthening Civil Society in Rural and Remote Areas”, undertaken in the regions of Gjirokastër, Elbasan, Berat and Lezhë. This programme aimed to mobilize different decision-making stakeholders towards inclusive policies and strategies for participatory development in rural and remote areas.

Minister Ruli, in his speech stated the importance that civil society has for development of rural areas, focusing on the efforts of the government to fund agricultural development and farmers through efficient funding schemes. According to Mr. Ruli currently MAFCP 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 for developing rural areas in Albania.

The Director of UNDP Albania Mrs. Yesim Oruc stated that this programme comes in response to the needs of rural communities at a time that UNDP’s main objectives treat as priority strengthening of civil society that operates in rural and remote areas. Mrs.Oruc assessed that the inclusive approach by governance and decision making stakeholders is the basic factor for the success of this project. This contributes to the aim of sustainable development and encouragement of local capacities in the regions of Berat, Gjirkoastër, Lezhë and Elbasan.

The coordinator of ECSRA project Mrs. Elona Dhëmbo presented a short panorama of the main phases and extension of the programme focusing on its products and results. The conference continued with the two organized panels when IDM experts presented two policy briefs “What are donors doing wrong. State and civil society” and “Participatory Rural development in Albania: Actual state and future challenges”.

During the first panel the speakers focused mainly on the experiences during the implementation of the ECSRA programme within the last 18 months as well as in the findings of the policy brief “What are donors doing wrong, state and civil society.” The study presents in a summarized way the problematic approach for civil society development in Albania, focusing on the donors’ agendas which not always represent the real needs of civil society and communities, to the lack of a complete legal framework, to the non coordination with main stakeholders at local level etc.

Meanwhile during the second panel participants focused on the problematic 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” that analyses the European best practices of participatory development, the situation in our country and formulates specific recommendations including the raising and functionoing of a national rural network, improvement of legal framework, financial support of undertaken initiatives etc.

During the two panels of the conference, participants from civil society, central government structures, independent experts etc, had the chance to discuss and share their views and concerns on different aspects of the problematic of strengthening civil society in rural and remote areas giving an inclusive character to the debate.

This national conference marks the end of the 18 months project “Strengthening Civil Society in Rural and Remote Areas” implemented by IDM with the support of UNDP Albania.