USAID’s “Planning and Local Governance Project” in Albania (PLGP) has worked at both the national policy level and at the local level since 2012 to promote acceptance of the principles of decentralized governance, and to disseminate and institutionalize practical and effective methods and techniques for municipal management. PLGP works with twelve “partner” local government units including: Tirana, Fier, Lushnja, Berat, Kuçova, Patos, Vlore, Saranda, Elbasan, Korça, Vora, and Kamza. In September 2017, PLGP was extended to continue our work to reinforce decentralization gains and assist local governments to better provide municipal services and economic development opportunities and to become more involved in addressing factors that can lead to violent extremism. Over the next two years the project will work in four main areas:
COMPONENT 1: GREATER PREDICTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY AND REVENUE POTENTIAL OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCES
PLGP will continue to work closely and cooperatively with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and MoSLI to advance fiscal decentralization reforms. A major milestone in Albania’s progress toward decentralization was achieved with the support of PLGP; on April 27, 2017, Parliament approved Albania’s first comprehensive LGFL. This was the culmination of years of support from PLGP helping to draft the law; thus, PLGP is best-placed to assist in refining it. The Consultative Council (CC), created with PLGP support, will create a feedback loop between municipal governments implementing the decentralization policies and national-level officials creating bylaws so that lessons learned through implementation are fed into the development of bylaws. Our support for the LGFL will increase local government autonomy and create the preconditions for more and better local public services through a transparent system to manage a combination of own revenues, shared taxes, and central government transfers. PLGP will support the MoF in drafting the bylaws and implementing LGFL provisions related to local taxation policy, tax sharing, and accountable public financial management. This will require cooperation with the Supreme State Audit Institution (SSAI) and the Public Procurement Agency (PPA).
COMPONENT 2: IMPROVE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICE DELIVERY
PLGP’s extension will allow for intensifying assistance to improve service delivery in six to eight partner municipalities. Technical assistance to municipal partners will be demand-driven and designed to build the capacity of local governments to serve their citizens better using approaches based on Tetra Tech’s QSIP methodology and tailored to PLGP. QSIP is a focused, concentrated campaign to improve service within an institution. It is led by municipal senior management with the active participation of key department staff and front-line customer service providers. QSIP is aimed at creating a “service culture” within local government, with the overall purposes to instill a customer- and quality-focused attitude, encourage more proactive behavior by staff, and implement practical and low-cost service improvements within the municipality.
COMPONENT 3: STRENGTHEN CIVIC ENGAGEMENT TO COUNTER VIOLENT EXTREMISM
Activities to prevent and counter violent extremism increasingly focus on providing resources at the local level, where the GoA is shifting its strategy to reflect the prevention needs at the community and individual levels. Our proposed activities capitalize on our experience integrating CVE activities in USAID governance projects, reflect an in-depth understanding of Albania’s local development context, and filter through the priorities of the GoA as supported and complemented by its donor partners. While Albania remains relatively free from domestic attacks and the radicalization of individuals that plagues other European countries, its emphasis on law enforcement instead of community resiliency must be balanced to build the trust of Albanians. PLGP will execute primary, secondary, and tertiary activities (see textbox at left) to CVE in two of the eight municipalities known to be most vulnerable, to be selected with USAID and GoA. At the primary level, we will ensure local governments and CAPs are aware of the trends towards extremism in Albania and the resources available to them. For vulnerable communities, we will enable secondary inventions such as community service and job training programs for youth. We will build skills and networks for tertiary interventions in situations where radicalization could or has occurred, and fill the gap between law enforcement and civil society with Local CVE Forum of trained responders.
PLGP recognizes that, in Albania as elsewhere, violent extremism often stems from a young person’s disconnection from the mainstream community, feeling underserved by the formal sector, and lack of gainful or meaningful employment. All PLGP components contribute to combatting violent extremism by helping fill a void where government and communities are not yet able. Activities under Component 3 are meant to bolster the positive effects of PLGP’s other components with an explicit focus on increasing awareness of and resilience to the drivers of radicalization in Albania, as analyzed and presented in 2016’s “Albanian National Strategy-Countering Violent Extremism.” We are committed to coordinating activities with other USG and donor-driven CVE efforts, channeled through the GoA’s National CVE Coordinator.
COMPONENT 4: PROMOTE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION
Component 4 proposed activities will support municipalities as they strive to manage growth and development in compliance with strategic planning instruments. Building upon formal training on PLGP’s “Planning Toolkit,” we will provide intense coaching to execute the process of planning to inspire economic growth. Ongoing support is required by local and national officials to implement the three dozen approved or submitted General Local Territorial Plans (GLTPs), whose framework for investment and land use will enable economic development. We will support local economic development in Albania by applying Financial Instruments for Land Development (FILD) in the framework of Local Development Plans (LDPs), instruments that contain feasibility assessments and the results of stakeholders’ negotiation. PLGP will also provide training and coaching to municipalities to undertake LDPs and FILDs, while completing building permit submissions. LDPs and FILDs constitute a critical step in building development partnerships and enabling municipalities to access private and public funding opportunities through bankable projects. Close coordination with the Ministry of Urban Development (MUD) and National Territorial Planning Agency (NTPA) will ensure the national government fulfills its mandates to enable municipalities to plan and grow.