Anyone familiar with the phenomenon will tell you: Preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) is complicated. In Albania, factors creating violent extremism have shown to be more closely aligned to socio-economic struggles than to religious ideologies. No matter the factors, the challenge for the Government of Albania remains the same. How can it best serve and protect its citizens against those who would wish to cause them harm? The National Coordination Center for CVE was established in 2017 to address this issue. What started out as two motivated staff with a small office in the Prime Minister’s building, the CVE Center has grown exponentially to be regarded as a model for the Western Balkans with its approach to building community resilience and creating sustainable government policies. USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project (PGLP) was an early partner for the CVE Center.
“PLPG was one of the first projects that the CVE Center worked with, and the collaboration has been very successful and effective. Differently from other programs, PLGP’s work and connections in the field were complimentary to the CVE Center’s philosophy of working with local government units and citizens. One challenge for the Center is the creation, strengthening, and capacity building of local mechanisms which already exist in law, but are not functional. With PLGP, we began to address these issues through various joint initiatives. There are many activities that the Center will carry on and promote as best practices to be replicated moving forward. Working with PLGP the last two years has been a great chance to set the foundations for dealing with such a delicate topic which is so very important for Albanian communities.”– Rozana Baci, Expert on Civil Society and Security.
Interventions followed PLGP’s model of using data (such as our gender-sensitive municipal mapping assessments) to direct practical activities at the local level, ensuring they interventions were grounded in a fulsome understanding of communities as well as evidence for effectiveness. At the local level, PLGP worked with municipalities and existing or mandated civil society bodies that could sustain grassroots activities beyond project timelines and through political shifts. Simultaneously, PLGP and the CVE Center pursued national- and regional-level activities. PLGP embedded a Gender Expert within the CVE Center to provide input and focus on human security, including the needs and roles women and men in P/CVE. PLGP was pleased to partner with the CVE Center in conducting a National Conference for Frontline Defenders, bringing together 1500 individuals from ministries such as Education, Defense, and Health and Social Protection in a whole-of-government initiative.
To ensure the CVE Center could continue to advocate for change after the project, PLGP’s experts created a CVE Guide for Local Governments, and a brochure to raise citizen awareness, which were the basis for P/CVE trainings conducted in 21 municipalities. PLGP disseminated the training methodology and materials to CVE Center staff and other GoA ministry partners in a Training of Trainers. PLGP facilitated cross-border workshops with Kosovo and North Macedonia to identify trans-national issues unique to these communities and connect counterparts.
From a local perspective, the CVE Center identified Local Public Safety Councils (LPSCs) as the partner for P/CVE campaigns and information gathering about challenges in their communities. LPSCs were not yet established in some PLGP partner communities and in others lacked consistent membership, training, or reporting guidelines. PLGP’s CVE Expert supported the establishing of LPSCs in Bulqize, Dibra, Kamza, and Pogradec, and submitted a Policy Paper on P/CVE Referral Mechanisms to support the Center as they advocate for standardization and institutionalization of approaches.
Finally, PLGP facilitated the first Community of Practice Donors Coordination Meeting and created a Donor Coordination Tool. These interventions provided additional transparency to donors and those operating in the field and helped reduce duplication of efforts at the local level. Leveraging complementary efforts allows partners to build upon previous projects and continuously move initiatives forward together. An additional database, including reporting and communication software was customized to fit the CVE Centers operational needs and specialized training and support was delivered to ensure its sustainable operation. Increased efficiency of reporting to internal and external stakeholders and streamlined communication pathways allow staff to advocate from a data-driven position and provide on-demand reporting of current efforts across the country.
The CVE Center is now positioned to support local stakeholders and frontline practitioners to counter and prevent violent extremism in Albania and the region. USAID is proud to have contributed to its whole-of-society approach and strengthened lines of communication across levels of government and the donor community and looks forward to the CVE Center’s continued growth.