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Open Society Foundation Albania (OSFA) 2014-2017 Strategy Plan

Summary

This strategy takes aim at the paramount open society challenges in Albania: constitutional reform, impunity, citizen apathy and distrust, election reform, and the marginalization of vulnerable groups. It eschews patchwork in favor of addressing the fundamental problems lying at the core of Albania’s illiberal (and intolerant) democracy.

OSFA’s theory of change is premised on the notion that in order to achieve and sustain the transformative goals presented herein, it must steadily build local demand for better governance. The 2014-17 strategy is fashioned in that spirit and will reshape the way in which the foundation functions. Most importantly, OSFA will increasinglythough not exclusivelyturn to a new set of partners to help bring this agenda to fruition. This will imply more investment in organic constituency groups. Secondly, the goals highlighted in this strategy are cross-cutting and highly interrelated. Gone will be the programmatic silo approach of the past.

If successfully implemented, Albania’s constitution will be reformed so as to reinstate a balance of powers between the executive and the judiciary. Perpetrators of transgression will feel more exposed to the justice system and citizen groups will become more emboldened to react to wrongdoing and demand public accountability. Concerted local oversight and expertise will pressure political parties to hold freer and fairer elections. Roma and vulnerable groups will receive better-quality services, underpinned by improved legislation, policies and resources to accommodate their special circumstances and needs.

But is success feasible? In short, probably and partially. Some goals will most certainly be achieved. Momentum on other big issues will have at least conferred them sufficient traction to be subsequently advanced, or achieved, by OSFA and its partners come 2017.

Social trust has been withering in Albania. Disillusionment in the political class, disputed elections, pervasive impunity and a downtrodden economy have taken their toll on the local psyche. In this morass, however, the foundation sees room for optimism. The fermenting of public discontent on a range of issues over the past few years has moved the population to start taking action. The surprising results of the June 2013 electionpartially seen as an expression of that discontentbrought to power a new set of actors vowing reform. This opportunity needs to be seized.

The EU’s soft power, and the prospect of being offered candidate status in the coming years, also offers leverage for the foundation’s goals. Irrespectively, this strategy relies heavily on creating a ‘Plan B’ — genuine domestic demand for democracy and good governance, for which the pull of the EU cannot substitute. Engaging expert civic groups, coalitions of mobilized constituencies and the international actors sharing OSFA’s principles, the foundation believes significant headway can be achieved through this plan of action over the coming four years.

It will take time to gauge the ultimate success of this strategy, given the formidable set of issues it addresses. Still, as the Work Plan indicates, OSFA anticipates reaching important milestones in 2014.

Foundation History and Context

OSFA was established in 1992 as Albania emerged from decades of brutal one-party rule. Since then the foundation has played varying roles in Albanian society. Over time it gravitated from what was largely a development agenda to one that mixed capacity building with challenging state power. This was a slow process, complicated by a fear of engaging in work that would be deemed too political. People outside of civil society circles would sometimes remark that the foundation had disappeared. That view derived partly from reduced local grantmaking, especially fellowships, but it was also a sign that OSFA was absent from public debates.

More recently the foundation has emerged as an activist policy institute. It conducts original research and polling, puts that information into the public realm and advocates for specific remedies in concert with local civil society, the embassies in Tirana or other donors. Operating in a highly polarized political environment, the foundation uses international standards and original research to buttress its views. These efforts have managed to annoy both poles of the political spectrum, though without closing off access to the political parties. They have also raised the foundation’s reputation with the international actors in Tirana and with Brussels, opening the door for consultations with the international community about what it might say and do in Albania. In short, OSFA has become a player on key issues at the national level and, to a more limited extent, in international circles.

The foundation has increasingly linked its policy arguments with constituencies. For example, the Roma program works with young Roma activists; the Education program engages parents and teachers; the Rule of Law program supports litigation on behalf of individuals or families whose rights have been abrogated in specific instances. Based on these experiences OSFA will expand its work with these and other such constituency groups going forward.

A portion of this strategy is built around the notion that it is easier to mobilize people around issues than values.

In June 2013 national elections brought to power a new government with a reformist agenda. From early on the foundation debated how to treat these elections in the context of this strategy development process. In the end the decision was straightforward: while the ease or difficulty of achieving various goals in this strategy may have varied based on the election outcomes, the objectives being sought, the principles being pursued and the approaches being taken by the foundation will remain largely constant irrespective of the election results. Given the change in power, the foundation is cautiously optimistic that the goals it has elaborated in this strategy have been made somewhat more feasible to achieve.

Mounting a strategy of this scope necessitated OSFA making difficult choices about what to give up. It is shedding its support to local government, its capacity building for public institutions, its EU awareness raising efforts, its civil society networking (other than election monitoring), and its open calls on anti-discrimination.

OSFA’s activist agenda has translated into a portfolio of activities largely driven by foundation staff. This is a dramatic shift from how things were structured in the mid 2000s when the foundation established the Network for Open Society in Albania (NOSA). NOSA was a failed experiment that pre-identified a small group of NGOs to implement the foundation’s broad goals. In a sense, OSFA outsourced its business to the NOSA network and in doing so, undermined the competitive marketplace of ideasboth within NOSA and across civil society more broadly. Undoing NOSA and taking back the strategic and operational reins has been the most serious inflection point in recent years.

To guide the change in foundation leadership in 2009, OSF Senior Management commissioned two independent evaluations of OSFA’s work. Those reports were extensively relied upon in overhauling the thematic programs and management of the foundation. The result has been a far greater focus on transformative and operational activities and an almost entirely new and dynamic staff.

Fealty to Fields

I. Electoral System Reform: Until this June, Albania was the only country in its region with an EU perspective that had never held a free and fair election. Despite the clear-cut victory of the Socialist-led coalition, elections remain highly problematic. The verdict was clear, but the process was not clean. The electoral campaign was marred by serious violations of the Central Electoral Commission, misuse of governmental resources, undue pressure on public administration, and fraud. Several complaints were filed contesting irregularities in the vote count in two regions. Final counting changed the result in one of the regions. It was the wide-margin ‘difference’ in ballots cast that made the difference in producing a clear victor, but it did not result in behavioral change by

the political players. Election standards remain a serious issue that need to be systematically addressed. Two of the foundation’s partners will work towards this end.

OSFA supports the Domestic Observer Coalition and the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections. These are the two strongest coalitions in a field of some 40 local organizations involved in election monitoring. During the 2011 local elections, OSFA’s partners flagged irregularities at polling and ballot-counting stations, and undemocratic procedures at the Central Election Commission. They distributed widely-read bulletins critiquing the election campaigns and they developed a manual for local election observers. But this wasn’t enough.

The two coalitions will establish an “Election Situation Room”, inspired partly by successful OSF interventions in West Africa. The Situation Room willfor the first timeempower a collaborative of those Albanian organizations active in election monitoring that meet certain criteria (e.g. non partisan, technically capable). Too often these disparate groups have undertaken fragmented interventions that have produced fragmented results. Under this new approach, the participating organizations will work in concert to set up an alternative election monitoring processes. This model will allow groups to achieve the benefits of synergy while continuing their individual efforts. It will enable them to provide authoritative analysis in real timeusing integrated IT/software/new mediaand respond rapidly to events.

By equipping nonpartisan and capable local actors, the foundation expects that election reports will detail in stark language the true state of affairs, and will put additional pressure on political actors to conduct elections with greater integrity. Situation Room reporting will also be used to influence OSCE/ODIHR, EU and US reactions to Albanian elections. The Situation Room will remain active throughout election cycles, including to review electoral legislation, to tap into global expertise on monitoring, and to conduct advocacy with international actors in non-election years.

The first authoritative test run of the Situation Room will be local elections in 2015. By the time national elections are held in 2017 the foundation anticipates the Situation Room being a highly credible and unified force that will be able to influence the organization and management of elections, the integrity of polling day, and the way in which the OSCE and other international organizations report on Albanian elections. Because the Situation Room brings together such an array of specialized organizations, it will also be able to coordinate niche aspects of election monitoring, such as media coverage, voting barriers for persons with disabilities, compliance with gender quotas, and others.

Through its support to this field OSFA hopes to learn two things: methodologically, whether up to 40 organizations can effectively collaborate around an issue of such pressing importance, and; substantively, whether the collective voice of these organizations can ultimately influence political party behavior.

OSFA will support the Situation Room partners with grants and by tapping them into OSF expertise on this topic in West Africa. In addition to OSFA, USAID has traditionally been the paramount sponsor of election monitoring in Albania, and it has informally endorsed, and is interested in co-financing, aspects of the Situation Room approach.

II. OSFA will sustain its traditional fealty to Equality & Inclusion by focusing its efforts on those vulnerable groups that are ignored and neglected by the state, underserved by other donors but who have loyal advocates in civil society pioneering approachessuch as deinstitutionalizationconsistent with OSF values. These include:

1) persons with mental disabilities, 2) terminally ill patients in need of palliative care, and 3) rural women suffering from domestic abuse. OSFA has a specialized cadre of partners that lead it in the formulation and innovation of responses to these challenges.

II/a: Rights of People with Disabilities: OSFA is alone among donors in Albania in its support for the deinstitutionalization of people living with mental health problems. The social stigma, negligence and abuse patients face have all contributed to a disturbing increase in suicides within this community. To protect the dignity of persons with disabilities the foundation collaborates most closely with the Center for Mental Health Development, an organization originally launched by the WHO which has amassed a wealth of experience in

providing proactive community-based alternatives to people suffering with mental health challenges. The Center led the development and implementation of national reforms on mental health and has established experimental, community-based services. It is also in the process of constructing a Mental Health Interest Group comprised of users, family members, health care professionals and other stakeholders to advocate for the implementation of the rights-based approach stated in the new Law on Mental Health in Albania. That law is in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was recently ratified by the Government and which satisfies an important stipulation towards EU integration. OSFA supports the Center with grants and in 2014 aspires to improve community-based services in four cities, experiment with new forms of advocacy to advance the deinstitutionalization processes across the country, and challenge societal attitudes towards persons with mental disabilities. OSFA will also support the transfer of international best practices to Albania with regard to the treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental disabilities.

II/b: Challenging the Health Establishment to Protect Human Rights: The need for palliative care services is particularly acute, given the surge in cancer-related deaths and the ramshackle health care system in Albania. Through partners like Ryder Association Albania, OSFA is the only donor working to establish a functional system of palliative care, to be ultimately funded and sustained by the public budget. In parallel to providing critical domiciliary care, Ryder has been at the forefront of constructing standards for palliative care in Albania. It has remained focused on this niche programming for years and has made good headway (palliative care did not exist in Albania beforehand). OSFA supports Ryder with grants and by linking it to professionals at the international level to share experiences. In 2014 OSFA’s goals are to succeed in having palliative care formally adopted as a core component of the health care system, and to expand such services to five of Albania’s twelve regions. OSFA coordinates this support with OSF’s International Palliative Care Initiative, which matches funds to Ryder.

II/c: Gender Equality & Women’s Leadership: To address gender-based discrimination and abuse, the foundation has three principal partners: a) the Gender Alliance Development Center, an OSFA spinoff that undertakes high-quality research and advocacy on women’s rights and the gender pay gap; b) the Coalition of Women’s Organizations against Trafficking and Domestic Violence, which works to reintegrate victims of abuse into society and was instrumental in developing and advocating for the successful passage of the National Strategy against Domestic Violence, and; c) the Institute for Public and Private Policies which develops and monitors the implementation of local action plans against gender discrimination and domestic violence. Based on their decades-long experience, OSFA’s partners are increasingly convinced that empowering women economicallyand thereby reducing their dependency on menoffers them the best prospect of breaking free from the trap of domestic violence. In 2014 OSFA’s partners intend to focus on such interventions as entrepreneurship training and micro-loans that reduce women’s poverty, especially in rural and remote areas that are completely underserved by other donors.

Public Interest Media: As an umbrella service to its Equality & Inclusion work, the foundation also supports the Albanian Media Institute (AMI) and the Active Media Center (AMC) to monitor media coverage related to vulnerable groups, develop the skills of journalists covering diversity, and create multimedia and print content related to vulnerable groups and their rights. AMI is an OSFA semi-spinoff that specializes in journalistic training and media policy and research. AMC brings together journalism students and young activists to jointly foment a new spirit of active citizenship by coaching them to produce multimedia exposés on socially progressive issues, like vulnerable groups.

Foundation Concepts and Initiatives

OSFA’s big ideas include: 1) Reforming the constitution to reestablish a system of checks and balances, 2) Challenging Albania’s pervasive culture of impunity, 3) Empowering citizens to be more effective accountability advocates, and; 4) Establishing a new and invigorated advocacy platform for Roma. The goals and ideas presented herein are interrelated and mutually supportive. They have been deliberately fashioned as a

collective envelope of interventions, since success in one area directly influences the prospects for success in every other. Each initiative is to some degree dependent on the others. They are taken in turn below:

I. Constitutional Reform: Revisions to the Albanian constitution in 2008 dramatically eroded the country’s system of checks and balances. In order to bring about transformative change, especially with regards to the rule of law, OSFA will spearhead a broad-based coalition of actors to develop, shape, and advocate for significant constitutional reform. Achieving this will not be easy or quick. There are vested political interests in preserving the status quo. Yet OSFA and its civil society partners recognize that many of the challenges they regularly confrontfrom pervasive impunity to endemic corruptionstem from structural deficiencies in the constitution. As such, the foundation feels compelled to take on this challenge.

OSFA will pursue constitutional changes that push Albania towards becoming a state of institutions rather than a state of parties. Changes that help to instill checks and balances between the legislative, executive and judicial branches; that strengthen the role of the president; that reduce political influence in the appointment processes of Constitutional and Supreme Court judges, and; that increase the independence of public institutions such as the General Prosecutor’s office, the Statistical Office, and the Ombudsperson.

The newly-elected governing coalition has pledged to reform the constitution. OSFA will work with itwhere possible and appropriateto hold it to this commitment, while working to lead and shape its outcome. The Government has 84 of the required 94 votes to amend the constitution, meaning that consensus-building with the opposition will be needed (and is highly desirable from a democratic standpoint). By taking a proactive role in this process OSFA will ensure that constitutional reform is advanced in a transparent, inclusive and democratic mannersomething none of the political parties can be trusted to do.

While reaching out to political forces, OSFA will also convene stakeholder groups to analyze the constitution’s weaknesses, develop reform proposals, publically debate those proposals, and, most importantly, rally the population to demand constitutional reform. To be sure, many of OSFA’s civic partners have differing views on the specific reform solutions that should be proposed. The foundation’s job will be to help flesh out, analyze and rigorously probe these ideas with stakeholder groups to discern their merit and relevance to the Albanian context.

These stakeholder groups will include a wide array of civic partners, including: the Civil Forum (of Former Albanian Presidents), former authors of the constitution, law faculties, the media, and international actors with leverage in Albania, such as the Venice Commission, the CoE, and the EU Delegation. OSFA will put forth citizen petitions and organize university debates and media campaigns around this issue.

Having been raised in the 2013 electoral discussions, now is the optimal time for the foundation to seize the momentum and begin its push for constitutional reform. OSFA is the best-placed organization in Albania to take on this challenge. It has the convening power required to corral the multitude of domestic and international actors needed for this campaign. It is seen as politically neutral in a country dogged by political polarization. It has already prepared several studies on legislation concerning parliamentary investigative commissions, judicial independence and the Constitutional Court. This campaign would build on the conclusions and recommendations of those inquiries.

OSFA will also draw on specialized expertise from within the Network to advance this process, namely from the Justice Initiative (constitutional reform analysis), the Think Tank Fund (sharing of regional experiences) and OSEPI (constitutional reform in EU Candidate Countries). OSFA would welcome a broader discussion with the network on the methods and ambitions we as an organization pursue with regards to constitutional reform. Outside of the network the foundation anticipates receiving expert and perhaps material support from other donors. The EU and US have significant influence and leverage in Albania and OSFA will lobby them to demand the re-establishment of sufficient checks and balances in the country (including making this a condition for further EU accession negotiations).

By the end of 2014 the foundation will have undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the Constitution chapters that need to be revised, including the identification of best practices and processes from other state constitutions and their potential applicability to the Albanian context. It will also probe the political class and society more generally to better understand the amendments that are likely to be welcomed and accepted. In 2015 the foundation will put forth a preliminary set of constitutional reform proposals developed by a broad- based and representative pool of stakeholders. It will have initiated public debates and discussions around this set of proposals. Through this process OSFA will have built a coalition of interested parties to assertively back the campaign for constitutional reform. Ideally, within four years the fruits of this campaign will result in positive constitutional reform. At a minimum, the parliament should be debating the proposals and the public should be energized around the cause. If the constitution has not yet been amended, the coalition will infuse this campaign into the 2017 election cycle through public discussions, debates, petitions and new media campaigns. In doing so it will seek to get firm, concrete and specific commitments from both main political parties to move towards fixing the broken system.

Pushing for constitutional reform is always a risky gambit. The foundation might be attacked politically by actors interested in preserving the status quo. The political parties could ignore the process; if they do, rallying public support and demand becomes even more important. The constitution could potentially end up in worse shape than it is now. OSFA recognizes these risks. But it believes that without constitutional reform much of civil society’s efforts to make Albania more democratic and accountable build on quicksand.

II. Challenging Impunity: In Albania, those with power and influence have little to fear if they break the law, and citizens have little faith in the rule of law. In response, OSFA is putting forth an initiative to chip away at this pervasive culture of impunity. It will do so by advancing four interrelated measures: public-interest litigation, investigative journalism, citizen mobilization and the generation of data and analysis on organized crime. In many instances all or most of these tools will be deployed in concert for maximum impact. By working with litigators, journalists and communities to collectively contest wrongdoing, perpetrators of crimes will feel more threatened and society will become more emboldened.

There are many causes behind Albania’s culture of impunity. Some are rooted in the construct of the constitution, as highlighted above. Others relate to judicial and police corruption, an outdated and deficient legal framework, inadequate techniques to investigate wrongdoing, organized crime, and insufficient public demand and outcry for the rule of law to be enforced.

OSFA is seeking to push the justice system towards a tipping point of greater accountability. The foundation will continue to support organizationslike Res Publicathat are undertaking high-profile public-interest litigation (i.e. against the Republican Guard for killing four citizens at a public protest, and against a cabinet minister for his involvement in the ammunition dump explosion in Gerdec that killed and injured over 300 people). In addition, it will partner with the Network of Human Rights Defenders to prosecute an ever greater number of cases against transgression. A key criterion for case selection will be the degree ofor potential fororganic constituencies to apply pressure on public authorities to bring about justice. The entry points will be the issues people care most passionately about: i.e. health, education, access to justice, jobs, and security. For instance, against the local mayor who’s embezzling community money; against those complicit in food contamination; against the dumping of toxic waste. OSFA’s set of partners around the country will specifically be charged with building trust with and links to community leaders to keep them dedicated to and involved in each case. 1

OSFA will also help bridge the divide between media and civil society to stimulate more targeted and higher quality investigative journalism through small grants and mentorship. It will unite its litigation partners with a cadre of journalists to collectively identify, investigate and speak out on vital issues. The foundation will create a new Internet platform designed to give independent and investigative journalists a safe place to publish. And it will train journalists on FoI legislation, human rights issues, libel and defamation, proportional language, and

1 If a judgment comes back in any of these cases that seems fraudulent (because the judge may have been corrupt) we can both appeal the decision and file proceedings against the judge as well or bring the case to the ECHR.

other key aspects of effective inquiry. OSFA will partner with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in rolling out this part of the initiative. 2

Widespread organized crime contributes to and influences the culture of impunity. Yet there is essentially no local expertise or locally-generated information on this issue. In parallel to the above-mentioned approaches, the foundation will begin building local hubs to examine organized crime and prepare an annual Threat Assessment related to human and drugs trafficking, money laundering, political meddling, extortion and racketeering. OSFA has identified a pool of key experts to help it launch this process, with it in mindover four yearsto build up a network of regionally-based centers of expertise to collect and analyze organized crime data and trends and use that information to inform/coach prosecutors, judges and law enforcement agencies. As this network develops, the foundation will integrate it with the litigation and investigative journalist teams.

In 2014 this campaign against impunity will have put in place a functioning network of regionally-based organizations poised to begin or augment their litigation activities, as described above. They will be working closely with the foundation’s group of better-trained investigative journalists. Each of these campaigns will be developed closely with natural constituency and community groups. The team examining organized crime will be established and will begin targeted research in coordination with the above-mentioned groups. The foundation will seek the expertise of the Risk Monitor Foundation in Bulgaria, the regional leader on issues related to organized crime.

OSFA will make expert legal services available to both the regionally-based litigation agents and the investigative journalists to ensure that they are properly defended should the powers that be try to muzzle or threaten them.

Only OSFA has the resources, independence and gumption to undertake such a multidimensional, concerted and contentious effort. Due to the political and economic pressures many groups in society face, it is unlikely they would ever emerge with the same combination of will, vision and courage to challenge the interests of the power elite.

For corrupt public officials, law-breaking members of the power elite, and those involved in organized crime, impunity from the law has become a quasi-accepted norm. Challenging this won’t be easy. It will require new capacities, resources and dedicationall of which OSFA is hereby building and committing. It will necessitate a model of change which the foundation has hereby presented. By bringing forth far more court cases, investigative reporting, and critical research alongside the constituencies most affected by each intervention, OSFA believes that this initiative should galvanize society towards taking a stand against impunity, while serving to demonstrate that wrongdoing can and will be exposed and punished. OSFA will conduct ex-ante and ex-post polling and data collection to measure progress towards this end.

III. Invigorating domestic-driven accountability: Recognizing that a disengaged citizenry is a recipe for abuse of public authority, OSFA has crafted this initiative to spur meaningful citizen involvement in public oversight and accountability. This will be achieved through teaming up with constituency groupslike trade unions, chambers of commerce, associations of local governments, parents’ associations and many others—to collaboratively design, enact and advocate around a series of monitoring campaigns. The initiative derives from OSFA’s realization that while it has the skills and know-how to undertake high-quality watchdog and advocacy work (and has long done so), it can have even greater and more durable impact if it treats those groups most affected by each topic as genuine partners rather than beneficiaries in the process.

To achieve this, OSFA will spearhead monitoring, discussion and advocacy campaigns in direct partnership with organic constituency groups, representative civil society partners and selected independent institutions. It will do so around the following topical areas, which OSFA views as levers for public interest and change: 1) EU

2 Other plans for media involvement include: defending journalists when charges are brought against them (their publishers seldom do); advocating for a self-regulatory body for journalists, and; training journalists how to ‘translate’ the outcome of court cases.

Integration, 2) Public Finance, and; 3) Education. OSFA’s prolific monitoring work to-date has conferred it deep internal expertise in all of these themes, which dovetail nicely with the new Government’s stated priority areas.

Importantly, while the individual monitoring and advocacy inquiries will inherently advance their own specific

sets of objectives, they all converge in invigorating the populace more broadly to exert more frequent and better designed oversight and pressure on public authorities.

OSFA’s partnership with constituencies will ensure that they are engaged from the start of each monitoring/advocacy campaign so that they are invested in the process, they understand the information produced, and they can deploy it in ways that most effectively address their concerns. Following the jointly- designed and enacted monitoring work, OSFA and its partners will organize various forms of public discussion aimed at fleshing out issues of concern and contemplating responses. The foundation will tailor these discussion formats to the types of issues and civic partners it is addressing, but their overarching purpose is to position citizen groups to take on some form of direct action. Advocacy plans will be fashioned at this stage for each campaign. Based on the results of the monitoring and discussion phases, responses could range from citizen mobilization and protest, to media campaigns to quiet ‘diplomacy’.

By working collaboratively with these constituency groups, OSFA’s partners will also be garnering new skills in the design and execution of effective data collection, monitoring campaigns, policy advocacy, policy writing, and community mobilization. OSFA will regularly bring its staff and external partners together to share notes and lessons from the field. Further, the foundation, its local partners, and OSJI have drafted and advocated for new legislation on FoI and Public Consultations 3 as indispensable investments towards achieving a sustained impact on civic accountability efforts. OSFA will continue these efforts under this initiative, and when these laws ultimately pass, OSFA will coach its partner constituency groups to solicit public information and build fruitful models of citizen engagement in policy and legislative settings.

Let’s illustrate an example of how this initiative will function in practice—recognizing that the precise methodology and sequencing of interventions will be as diverse as OSFA’s set of issues and partners. Accountability in the education sector is low. There are serious problems with the quality of textbooks, the appointments and dismissals processes for teachers and administrators, and the transparency of school budgets. OSFA, with support from the Education Support Program, will partner with national and local parents’ associations. These are groups with a deep, personal interest in seeing education sector reforms realized, but who have not yet been sufficiently empowered to respond to these challenges. OSFA will jointly plan and enact monitoring efforts with the associations to help them better quantify and contextualize the scope of the problems. The foundation will organize discussions with the associations and other stakeholders to formulate advocacy positions and strategies to respond to the challenges identifiedbe it gross reformulation of textbook development and vetting procedures, a revamping of appointment and HR policy for school staffs, or proactive and disaggregated disclosure of school budgets. OSFA will also help empower parents to effectively engage as members of local school boards. The end result will be that concerned groups of citizens will be empowered to take direct action on behalf of their own interests.

The foundation’s comparative advantage in launching this initiative is that it has a robust methodology in place and a successful track record for its monitoring work. 4 It has already begun piloting joint activist work with constituency groups. The results of these efforts have proved to the foundation the efficacy behind the model of engagement. Further, it has the convening power to facilitate discussion forums where advocacy positions and strategies can be adopted and enacted with the constituency groups.

Public distrust and apathy run deep in Albania. Turning Albanians into active participants in shaping their own future and holding to account their own public officials on issues that they themselves care deeply about is an

3 The draft law on Public Consultation was approved by the outgoing government on July 31, 2013. OSFA expects the new government and parliament to subject the draft law to further review. The Socialist Party, the main party in the new coalition, has both laws in its agenda. 4 After 3 years of persistent monitoring, the Ministry of Integration began to publish its reports on the implementation of EU-related reforms that it regularly sends to Brussels; the Ministry of Justice reacted with a 16-page response to OSFA’s monitoring of Justice Reform implementation; MPs have on several occasions used OSFA’s data in committee or plenary debates.

elementary building block towards a genuine democratic society. OSFA is convinced that these partnerships with concerned groups will afford them the enthusiasm, skills and platform they need to take direct action going forward, and it will inspire other groups to do likewise (multiplier effect).

In addition to this initiative’s stand-alone purposeequipping communities with the knowledge and tools required to effectively demand accountabilityit indirectly supports every other goal laid out by OSFA in this strategy.

IV. Building Coalitions of Roma Advocates: As in many other countries, the Roma community in Albania is weak and divided due to persistent discrimination and marginalization, a lack of self-organization and activism, a limited understanding of policy making, and underrepresentation in civic and government affairs. OSFA, which is virtually alone in its unequivocal support for Roma self-organization and advocacy as a means of empowerment, will reshape the landscape for Roma civic activism by steadily building the policy advocacy skills of two groups of Roma advocates.

The first is a new network of Roma youth activists that the foundation helped to establish through its Roma Political Academy. Presently, OSFA is working with highly educated graduates of the Academy to combat racist language used by journalists and to contest the results of the recent census. 5 In 2014, OSFA will establish a more formal network and actively build its policy advocacy skills while mentoring it on how to make use of new media, petitions, arts and sarcastic manifestations, and data visualization techniques.

The second group is the recently-established Roma Federationan OSFA inspired collaborative that brings together 14 more established Roma organizations under one umbrella. 6 The foundation will also help the Federation advance its advocacy objectives via traditional media and public gatherings.

While the youth network brings energy and the spirit of activism to the table, the Roma Federation has more established relations with public institutions and the Roma community. The foundation will link the two groups into a Roma Advocacy Platform to strategize and advance, whenever possible, common positions and campaigns. OSFA and the Platform will mount inquiries and advocacy, for example, on such issues as: school desegregation, Roma-focused donor investments, and housing policies. They will also advocate for the extension of the National Strategy on Roma beyond 2015. Given that both the Youth Network and the Roma Federation are fledgling organizations, OSFA will take a lead role in driving this initiative for the first few years until the Roma Advocacy Platform has solidified to the point where OSFA can step back and provide support to the field.

With regards to the desegregation of schools, OSFA and the Advocacy Platform will launch an evidence-based campaign aimed at parents of minority and majority communities. They will analyze the technical aspects of ending this discriminatory practice, including the merging of school infrastructure and adding extra transportation services. In addition, they will engage in direct advocacy towards central and local government and, if needed, bring forth litigation to press this case.

Roma organizations should be far more involved in the priority setting of donor interventions ostensibly on their behalf. The overwhelming majority of donor support for Roma goes towards service provision, whereas little is invested in community empowerment. This undermines the long-term prospects of the Roma community to hold government accountable. OSFA will mentor the Roma Advocacy Platform’s efforts to launch a campaign towards certain donors aimed at revisiting their approach towards Roma in Albania.

With incomes often deriving from the informal economy, Roma have difficulty accessing loans to meet their housing needs. A recent law permits local governments to apply for competitive grants to repair Roma housing. But public authorities have thus far failed to make use of it. OSFA, through the Roma Advocacy Platform, will mentor Roma families to generate specific demand for the grants and will press the Government to respond to

5 The 2011 census severely undercounted the number of Roma citizens, further undermining the likelihood that inclusion policies and donor aid towards Roma will be adequately fashioned and implemented. 5

6 These Roma organizations specialize in many areas such as women’s rights, youth, and education.

this demand. It will set up a monitoring mechanism to verify whether the scheme is used properly and it will advocate accordingly.

The foundation also aspires to see more Roma in public leadership positions to help advance the interests of their own constituencies. Roma representation in local government has been decreasing, from 8 people in 2003 to 3 at presentdespite residing in over 100 municipalities. Through cooperation with the Roma Youth Network and the Roma Federation, OSFA will launch community-driven searches for potential leaders, and provide them coaching on constituency management and election strategy. OSFA’s partners will help broker negotiations with political parties to get candidates on the electoral list for the 2015 local elections. In partnership with RIO, OSFA will organize field visits to Macedonia and Serbia to familiarize Roma leaders with models of Roma political representation abroad. OSFA will train elected Roma representatives to increase their understanding and capacities to make effective use of their mandate in government, should they be elected.

To consolidate the youth network and to establish the Roma Advocacy Platformboth goals for 2014the foundation will collaborate with RIO to facilitate exchanges of experiences between Roma youth from Albania and other countries, and to undertake international advocacy as/when needed, e.g. regarding international donor approaches to Roma. Over four years OSFA aspires to establish a robust, skilled and determined platform of Roma activists who regularly initiate watchdog and advocacy activities and who will help to inspire larger segments of their constituency into collective action.

Contributions to Shared Frameworks

Given the scope of this strategy, OSFA is not putting forth any Shared Framework ideas. However, the foundation is in talks with OSF colleagues on Shared Frameworks topics related to elections, Roma and capacity development.

Other Significant Collaborations

The new Government has yet to be constituted in the Parliament and is not likely to be sworn in until mid September. Nevertheless, the foundation is already in contact with several new ministers and exploring areas of potential cooperation, namely with regard to Roma, education reform, and passage of the Freedom of Information and Public Consultation laws.

In addition, OSFA will cooperate with the Roma Initiatives Office to build effective advocacy skills of Roma, increase Roma representation in local government and address Roma housing issues. The foundation will also collaborate with the Education Support Program on the mobilization of the Parents’ Association, the Teachers’ Union and other local organizations to encourage the implementation of newly-adopted Pre-University Law, which offers a new role for parents in the appointments of teachers and school administrators.

Internal Organizational Plans

There are no significant board or staff changes envisaged for 2014. This strategy-making process has reshaped the way the foundation conceives of and will implement its work. Traditionally, program managers focused mainly on their specific thematic areas of expertise. The concepts and initiatives highlighted in this strategy are cross-cutting. They have legal, human rights, media, minority, education and other dimensions. Going forward the staff will collaboratewith Team Leaders assigned to each Initiativein jointly charting, enacting and monitoring these big ideas for systematic reform.

In order to optimally carry out this agenda, OSFA is keen to strengthen its internal capacities related to community organization, polling and advocacy. As it explores ways to do this it will be in touch with the Human Resources and Communications departments to assess internal OSF resources that might be tapped.

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