Albania is decentralizing at a breathtaking pace. The local governments and citizens have a hard time trying to keep up with these changes. “Bashki te Forta” project enables them to introduce practices of local governance that best meet their needs.
During over 45 years of communism, local governments in Albania followed detailed instructions from the center. Since then, municipalities, called "bashki" in Albanian, have engaged in a national process of decentralization and taken on challenging responsibilities.
But hurdles remain. They include lack of human and financial resources, poor public management skills and weak rule of law. Citizens are unhappy with public services provided by the local authorities. To accomplish more, municipalities raise taxes. But the Albanian people are not happy to part with their hard-earned money and finance governments that don’t deliver.
“Bashki te Forta” is empowering administrators, legislators and citizens in all 61 Albanian municipalities to break this vicious cycle by building efficient and effective local governance.
Information is at the core of Helvetas’ project. If municipal administrations collect high-quality and well-organized data about the services they provide, they know how to spend limited resources for a maximum impact. And they can monitor their own performance based on this information. Citizens, councilors (local legislators) and the national government can use the data to better steer municipalities and assess their work.
One can’t create trust in local governance without demonstrating results. In addition to improving the information available on all public services, we have chosen two areas to generate an impact: solid waste management and pre-school education. They often receive little attention from municipalities, yet they are seen as important by the citizens, especially women. In the last decade, Albania has doubled the amount of waste it produces, and official and unofficial landfills are filling up, sometimes right next to people’s homes. Pre-school education has been traditionally overlooked in the country, and kids from poor families are several times less likely to receive it than their rich peers.
The project also aims to empower the legislative branch – municipal councils. Even though they hold all the powers to make the administrations more accountable, in reality, they often lack skills and knowledge to fulfil this role. Through training and organizational development, municipal councils will learn to defend the interests of the citizens and encourage their initiative.
The project is a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) mandate implemented by Helvetas.