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By Elton Stafa

In 2016, Albanian local governments became solely responsible for providing protection and social services to some of the most disadvantaged groups and individuals in Albania. Local governments are now responsible for the creation and administration of social services at the local level for a multitude of groups including those with disabilities, victims of trafficking and violence, and the elderly.

Management of these services is often quite costly and can include building and maintaining physical structures such as social houses and service centers as well. The shift in responsibilities was sudden, and the lack of preparatory planning has caused complications for local governments, with many initial challenges remaining unresolved four years later. Even today, legal responsibilities and financial resources for this decentralized mandate have not been clearly defined or regulated.

Large gaps between service expectations and insufficient financial allocations from the Central Government result in many falling through the cracks, potentially leading to additional marginalization of these vulnerable citizens and opening the door for exclusion from communities and radicalization.

To assist Albanian national and local policymakers facing such challenges, the PLGP is drafting a policy brief: “Albanian Local Governments’ Role in Providing Social Protection and Healthcare”. For the first time since decentralization in 2016, this brief addresses the major challenges faced at the local and national levels by policymakers in terms of the regulation, administration, and financing of these crucial health and social protection mandates.

By mapping out these newly decentralized responsibilities (along with the bottlenecks in regulatory and financing processes), we can see more clearly where the structural challenges lie. Proposing an open dialogue process between the two levels of government, along with more rigorous financing mechanism, the brief provides recommendations to advance the agenda beyond ownership of service provision and into implementation to better protect citizen safety and quality of life.

Once finalized, the findings will be shared with relevant stakeholders via an online round table to discuss the way ahead to improve the legislative and financing frameworks for these vital local government responsibilities.

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