Project : Your Voice

The Interactive Civil society - Policy Making Initiative in Albania funded by Hans Seidel Foundation Albania

Local citizens’ initiative and interactive policy making can be seen as processes of self - organization where (organized) citizens and social interested groups spontaneously come to a common action. Informal citizen’s initiatives often arise from dissatisfaction with the actions of governments and function as a response to proposed government policy. Citizens and social groups often see that resistance is useless and then they switch to a more proactive way of resistance by developing plans on their own initiative. This project focuses on how processes of civil society and policy making come about, develop and change, though interaction and bonding among citizens and public officials. Information exchange, learning and mutual experience will promote new patterns of relationship. A form of participatory democracy enters a representative democracy, which could lead to re orientation of existing democratic institutions.

The project will be implemented in 7 district areas in Albania, as regional pole of development: Tirana, Durres, Shkoder, Elbasan, Korce, Gjirokaster and Vlore. The project will be run from The center for Comparative and International Studies / Qendra per Studime te Krahasuara dhe Nderkombetare (QSKN). The project will last 3 months and have two phases including 6 round tables each of the phases and in the end a plenary one in Tirana ( total 13 meetings).

The Interactive Civil society- Policy Making Initiative involves the development of consultation mechanisms that will help the politicians to assess the impact of National policies and reforms (or absence of them) on the ground. These mechanisms are: - a feedback mechanism, which helps collect spontaneous reactions. It uses existing networks and contact points as intermediaries in order to obtain continuous access to the opinions and experiences of citizens;- a consultation mechanism, which is designed to receive and store rapidly and in a structured way reactions to new initiatives. For this reason, an e-based communication platform will be build stressing the importance of involving these organizations in its consultation processes.

First round meetings: In the first faze the group of citizens (representatives of local NGOs, chamber of commerce, media, trade unions, professors from Universities) will make connections with each other in an informal way to show their interactions and competences, to test the reaction, and to develop knowledge regarding important procedures and sensitivities within the political arena. Professional speakers from the field of economy, law, social affairs and media will interact with participants. Although the target groups of consultations vary according to the circumstances, all relevant interests in society should have an opportunity to express their views. In the end of the first round meetings each district should have its discussion platform ready for the second round.

Second round meetings: In the second phase we will have a concrete interaction and consultations with civil society groups mentioned above with the Members of the Parliament. These meetings will give the opportunities to the MPs to listening to offers from civil society in advancing their national and regional political initiatives. The members of the Parliament will make use of such consultations and will be grateful to those NGOs taking the lead in raising civic and political issues. In this context, civil society organizations will play an important role as facilitators of a broad policy dialogue. There are, however, many reasons for arguing that these consultations are worthwhile.

Firstly, the voices of various groups – including youth representatives, private development initiatives and the media – which are more fragmented and less organized deserve a platform as they play a valuable role in local and national development or provide a valuable additional perspective. Secondly, if a wide variety of actors all over Albania are to be involved in implementing a future political agenda and framework for the Democratic Party, it is also important to involve them in discussions about how that framework is formulated. The future agenda should be an agenda for all and offer more opportunities for various groups to be involved.

Thirdly, the actual 2015 political discussion provides a momentum which inspires many people to become engaged in the discussion about the future of Albania. This engagement is valuable in itself, especially at a time when it seems the wider public have lost interest in politics working for this country. Fourthly, it is important to learn more about the views of civil society groups and the Albanian public on the post-2015 agenda. As the findings of the debates indicate, Albanian citizens do not associate political development with sustainability and do not feel it is the responsibility of a wide range of actors to be part of the implementation process and achieve the future goals. While this might not come as a total surprise, the findings are still important as they underline that more work has to be done to engage citizens in the current and future development political agenda.

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