Updating the Decentralization Action Plan
The PLGP is supporting the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to update and extend the Action Plan of the National Cross-Cutting Strategy for Decentralization and Local Governance (NCSDLG) 2015-2020, approved in 2015, with the support of the PLGP. For four years the Strategy has served as Albania’s roadmap for advancing decentralization and strengthening local government. While most of the policy actions included in the strategy have been implemented, there remain some challenges that need to be addressed as the policy and institutional contexts have evolved over the past four years. To this end, the MoI requested support from the PLGP to update the Action Plan and extend its timeline until the year 2022.
The process of updating the Action Plan of the National Crosscutting Strategy for Decentralization and Local Governance (NCSDLG) started in early March 2019 under the auspices and leadership of the MoI. Between March and June 2019, several foundational meetings were conducted with line ministries and other stakeholders, including Albania’s two Local Government Associations (LGAs). These meetings oriented the update of the Action Plan for greatest efficacy in alignment with sectoral priorities and were considered in tandem with the processes of designing and updating relevant sectoral strategies.
Overall, there is an enhanced understanding among stakeholders on the progress of decentralization and the steps which should be taken to strengthen Albania’s 61 municipalities. However, there are unresolved issues and serious challenges ahead. The PLGP recognizes that while resources available to local government have increased during the last three years, challenges in the financial framework persist. The updated Action Plan outlines a number of specific actions that if taken should improve both the financial foundations and performance of local governments. Secondly, the updated Action Plan envisages a number of policies to build the capacities and overarching enabling environment for local governments to carry out the new functions. It is important to recognize that the decentralization of public services and subsequent transfer of new responsibilities to local governments exceeded anything envisioned in the 2015 NCSDLG. This transfer or decentralization has created a number of issues that now need to be addressed: inadequate financing is a recurring issue for most new functions leading many local governments to view these new functions as unfunded mandates; responsibilities for investment, establishment of standards, and monitoring of performance are unclear or conflated with previous guidelines; and the division of administrative powers should be set forth in the regulatory framework, as it currently lacks clear delineation as well. The updated and extended draft Action Plan was shared with the MoI in July, and it is expected that the draft will be shared and consulted on with local governments over the coming months before final approval is given by the GoA.