Albanian shop front and man walking down street in TiranaTwenty civil society organisations participated in the workshop organised by the EBRD on the review of the Bank’s country strategy for Albania. The event, which was held at the premises of the EBRD Resident Office in Tirana on 18 October, attracted the participation of civil society representatives coming from a wide range of local and international organisations dealing with environmental and developmental issues, gender equality, economic empowerment and social entrepreneurship. There were also academics, researchers and experts from professional organisations who shared their views on the strategic document that will be guiding the EBRD operations in Albania for the next three years.

The high turnout at the workshop indicates the Albanian civil society’s increased interest in EBRD’s operations as well as strong willingness to participate in the decision making processes in the country. It is also a result of the Bank’s extensive outreach – through social media and collaboration with international and local counterparts – to civil society organisations based both in Tirana and in other municipalities.

The workshop provided an opportunity for dialogue about investment needs and current challenges affecting the operational environment in Albania.  The discussion was lively and CSOs’ interventions about the key priority sectors identified in the draft country strategy followed one another.

The main concerns expressed by civil society related to the high unemployment rates, the sustainability of the energy sector and the low participation of women in the labour force in Albania. Also, civil society representatives urged the Bank to promote through its investments good corporate governance and corporate social responsibility practices in the country. Civil society representatives suggested that the country strategy should also highlight the role of the strategic dialogue between the Bank and civil society in Albania to ensure transparency and accountability of investments.

The EBRD has an open-door policy, said the Head of the EBRD Resident Office, Fabio Serri, who welcomed the expertise of the civil society sector and invited civil society organisations to further engage in a constructive dialogue with the Bank. The Head of the EBRD Resident Office stressed the importance of a participatory approach in the review of the Bank’s country strategy as well as in the on-going identification of investment opportunities and monitoring of projects.

The Bank will take stock of all recommendations stemmed from the workshop with civil society in Albania and will compile a report on public comments and management responses upon the completion of the 45-day consultation period, which will be closed on 10 November, explained Luisa Balbi, Civil Society Adviser at the EBRD.

The consultations with civil society represent one of the key elements of the review process of the Bank’s country strategies. The involvement of the civil society in the EBRD’s key decision-making process on the country level increases local ownership and sustainability of the Bank’s investments in its countries of operations. It also greatly enhances the Bank’s own accountability towards local civil society stakeholders and, in an indirect way, towards the public at large.