Millennium Development Goals in Albania
In Albania through the support of the UN Country Team the MDGs have become a tool for national stakeholders to discuss, prioritize, and advocate for development. National MDG reports and concentrated media attention, inspired the country to launch the MDG localization process through preparation of MDG based regional development strategies and reports. The main purpose of this work was to explore and demonstrate how the MDGs could be used to build support and momentum for the MDGs from the bottom up, to assess local poverty challenges and to serve as an engine for comprehensive local development. This nation-wide consensus building process led to the 2004 Albania MDG Progress Report and the 2005 National Human Development Report on Pro-Poor and Pro-Women Policies and Development in Albania, and while adapting the global goals to the Albanian context, revealed the need for a ninth national MDG: Good Governance. Albania has also produced a MDG 2005 Report.
The existence of many strategies and agendas in Albania in addition to the Millennium Declaration and EU accession agendas, pointed to the need for an integrated planning system (IPS) that would harmonize the different, yet complementary development platforms. The key medium-term instrument in the IPS is the National Strategy for Development and Integration (NSDI), specifically referring to integration into the EU and NATO. The IPS connects all the strategies and agendas under one system to make sure national priorities are reflected in the mid-term budgetary plan.
The Government has prepared its National Strategy for Development and Integration (NSDI), 2007-2013, which is based on a number of sectoral and cross-cutting strategies, including national strategies for regional development and social inclusion.The UN has been an active partner in the consultation process to develop the NSDI and sector strategies, including the incorporation of MDGs in this national plan.
Guided by the NSDI, the Stablisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and the spirit of the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs, the One UN Programme addresses national priorities including: more transparent and accountable governance; greater participation in policy and decision-making; increased access to quality basic services; regional development; and environmentally sustainable development. In all five of these priority areas, the core principles of gender equality and development of national capacity will be upheld and incorporated throughout the implementation of the Programme.
The international community in Albania also helps to fund, or co-partners on projects whose objectives contribute towards the achievement of the MDGs.
Specific Millennium Development Goals in Albania
To view MDG targets and indicators, click here.
» Eradicate Poverty
An important reason for the achievements that have been noted is that poverty reduction was a strategic priority of government, as set out in National Strategy for Development and Integration (NSDI) 2007–2013. The government’s policies are also reflected in the Strategy for Social inclusion 2007–2013, the Strategy of Social Protection 2007–2013 and the Strategy on Employment and Vocational Training 2007–2013, which aim at building an inclusive society.
Rapid economic growth, structural reforms and implementation of policies aimed at addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged areas and social groups also explain the continuous reduction in poverty level since 2002. Economic growth has been primarily demand-driven (private and public) within a stable macro-economic framework, and a liberal, though not distorting, economic policy. Government focus on, especially, road infrastructure development in rural and mountainous areas and institutional building, combined with continuous wage, salary and pension increases, have had a positive effect on aggregate demand. Measures have been taken to ensure Roma community inclusion in employment and poverty alleviation programmes, facilitation of their participation in vocational training initiatives and support to other disadvantaged groups, including disabled people, and people with limited abilities.
One of the key challenges that lie ahead is maintaining regionally balanced economic growth and business formation as these are seen as the prime contributors to poverty reduction and increased employment. System-wide capacity constraints across government at both the central and local levels and at the human and institutional levels are seen as obstacles to development and to the sustainable delivery of results. Weak systems for monitoring, collecting data and undertaking surveys continue to impede policy analysis, planning, programming and government accountability.
In terms of major policy responses considered by government, the main emphasis is on developing a long-term and sustainable enabling environment for employment and social inclusion. The Bank of Albania and the government are exploring a new growth model that does not rely much on production and consumption but rather on strategic economic positioning in terms of what kinds of skills, trades and professions Albania will need in the years to come. Poverty reduction and employment generation in rural areas and among disadvantaged groups will continue to be a priority. This includes systems and procedures for better targeting of social and employment assistance and reduction of abuse. Increasing local government capacities and coordination between central and local government is crucial for the success of economic assistance reform.
Since poverty is found predominantly in rural and mountainous areas, the Mountainous Areas Development Agency and the Mountainous Areas Financing Fund are designed to support investment in farming and rural infrastructure, and extending small loans to poor farmers.
» Achieve high quality education
The potential for greater progress in education performance is related to the considerable investments that have been made in the physical infrastructure (schools and school equipment) over the past decade to adjust to demographic movements. The recent doubling of teachers’ salaries has also resulted in attracting and retaining a more professional cadre. The government’s focus over the medium to longer term is on improving the quality of education and achieving education outcomes. Currently, the focus is on improving implementation of education strategies and action plans. As is the case with many other sectors, strategies and laws are in place, but the capacities and resources needed to implement them are deficient. Also, despite the increase in teacher salaries, much remains to be done in the area of teacher training and education, with training seen as a major determinant of improved educational quality.
With regard to the overall capacity of the education system, existing vertical coordination mechanisms between central and local authorities, as well as horizontal coordination at both levels, remain weak. Coordination is suboptimal due to poorly defined responsibilities and accountabilities. Information, data and systems for reporting and monitoring continue to be deficient, especially in addressing pockets of marginalization, low enrolment and drop-out patterns. Government is currently developing a set of indicators designed to detect such marginalization.
In light of the above-noted challenges, the longer-term goal of government is to develop a sustainable education system. In addition to the necessary financial and human resources, such a sustainable system is to be based on sound governance (improved policy making and management capacities), increased cost-effectiveness, with a focus on quality of outcome, and strengthened institutional capacities. A related policy priority is to continue to develop the teaching profession. Combined with major reforms in pre-school education, there will be a greater likelihood that the 2015 targets will also be met.
The government’s policy responses are not just limited to improved targets at the national or aggregate level. As implied in the preceding discussion, the redesign of the supply side of the education system will address the needs of rural, urban and suburban areas, each with their own distinctions. School concentration, setting up of school boards and free bussing are important measures aimed at better access. Other government programmes will focus on the demand and social dynamics of the system to increase enrolment ratios and outcomes. For example, special task forces may be set up consisting of experienced and well respected teachers, psychologists, parents and government representatives. These will work with parents of non-enrolled students, and find ways and means of economic support to poor families and other marginalized groups, such as the Roma.
» Promote gender equality and empower women
The greatest success has been in setting up much of the needed policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, combined with action on some of the key education related targets. Awareness of the issues has been expanding throughout government and society. Government institutions and mechanisms for planning and reporting on gender equality and the fight against violence on women have been put in place over the past several years.
It has been a concern that a fall-off in trade might adversely affect those industries that employ low-paid and low-skilled workers, especially women (footwear and textiles). These risks remain due to the continuing financial and economic uncertainties in the region, especially in terms of trade with Greece and Italy. Further, due to economic constraints and job losses in Greece in 2010, there may be a considerable return of low-skilled and low paid migrants to primarily the rural areas of Albania in the short and medium term. This could result in families coming under increased stress while still trying to access limited social protection and social services. These very same social services and social protection may feel the impact of the economic crisis due to possible reductions in the national budget.
A third major challenge is continued administrative capacity constraints across government (financial and human resources, skills, data and supporting systems). Insufficient budgets are allocated to gender and domestic violence issues, with external aid covering much of the work. The planning and reporting mechanisms remain insufficient or, in some cases, absent. Internal and external coordination mechanisms across the many levels of government remain weak, especially between the central and local levels dealing with implementation of legal frameworks, particularly around the laws on Gender Equality and on eradication of Domestic Violence. Should the government experience budget shortfalls, this may also adversely impact the implementation of gender policies and laws. It is significant to note that a pilot project within the framework of the One UN Programme was recently initiated to provide training on gender budgeting to government officials at the central and local levels.
Future policy responses by government focus on better measuring and targeting women and men’s needs for social protection and employment assistance, on strengthening key coordination mechanisms and harmonized and improved monitoring on gender and on domestic violence, and on improved budgetary allocation to combat domestic violence and provide the needed services and monitoring under the above legal frameworks and National Strategy for Gender Equality and against Domestic Violence (NSGE-DV).
» Reduce child mortality and improve maternal health
The overall success in achieving health-related MDGs is somewhat mixed. The success in reducing maternal mortality rates has been due to a strong health policy framework, expanded services and higher overall budgets, while the reduction in child mortality rates—although off target—are a function in large part of the attendance of skilled personnel at a high proportion of births, and most of these in hospital. These are significant achievements and continued focus, investments and training will likely result in future significant reductions in both infant and maternal mortality rates. Also, as noted, high immunization rates are another key factor in reducing both infant and child mortality.
One of the main challenges to effective health service delivery and achievement of the MDGs lies in the general low quality of health services on the one hand and some continued difficulties in access on the other. Whereas this is not seen to have affected efforts to reduce maternal mortality, there are concerns in other MDG-related health targets, such as infant mortality as discussed above. Also, while the burden of communicable diseases is generally decreasing, cases of HIV infection and TB are increasing35. There is a common belief that both HIV/AIDS and TB are not a concern for Albania, but the observed trends counter such a belief.
In some respects, health-delivery challenges are not so much a matter of inadequate resources, but rather a matter of how such resources are utilized. System-wide capacities in health administration remain weak, further impeding a cost-effective delivery of health services, especially in rural and mountainous areas. Lack of some key reforms in the health sector has resulted in the continued practice of often bribing health professionals—corruption remains high at almost all levels of the health sector.
Government recognizes the need to upgrade the quality of services and to improve access to (free of charge) services. It is often the case that people are unable to access health services, which are by law provided free of charge, mainly due to complex procedures and lack of access to required information. Roma in particular face considerable difficulties in accessing health services.
» Combat HIV/AIDS
Government has developed ambitious action plans aimed at meeting child maternal and child health targets. The major components of these plans include improvement of care during pregnancy and post-delivery, improvement of nutrition for both mother and child, ensuring essential health care for every newborn infant, universal child vaccination and prevention and early detection of complications to ensure that all births are safe and assisted by capable health personnel, as well as other related aspects. Government has prepared an action plan aimed at meeting HIV/AIDS targets. However, implementation of this action plan is crucial for reversing current HIV/AIDS trends. Eliminating mortality from TB requires much more—and tailored—efforts.
» Ensure Environmental sustainability
Success has been achieved in terms of setting up the necessary policy and legal frameworks and supporting institutions. However, much remains to be done in terms of full implementation of many of the laws, and this will take considerable time. Hence, development of the needed institutional and human capacities remains the major challenge, along with the basic capacity to implement projects and programmes combined with sustainable financing. This includes the development of the necessary environmental monitoring and reporting systems. Although there has been an increased environmental awareness among Albanian institutions, general government expenditures on environmental protection per se over the period 2008–2010 have been very low.
The global financial crisis could have a significant impact on achievement of a number of MDG indicators. The major risk is a dampening of internal forecasts for economic growth, which may constrain budgets, or cause government to postpone some of the larger sanitation projects, or reallocate scarce domestic financial resources to the higher priority areas of health and education, as discussed under the respective MDG sections of this report, or any or all of these. However, water and sanitation will remain a top priority of government with no anticipated budget cuts.
Government will continue to depend on external assistance in the form of grants and loans to finance major environmental initiatives associated with sewage treatment plants, including supplementary funding from the World Bank.
» Develop a global partnership for development
The successful achievement of the third ICT-related target ahead of schedule is a function of government leadership, structural reforms and resources. It is only moderately likely that Albania will achieve its directly related global partnerships target 8.1 by 2015. As noted above, considerable progress has been made in setting up the policy, legal and institutional frameworks associated with the partnerships goal.
The global financial crisis does not appear to have had a major impact on Albania’s aid flows or its ability to achieve MDG 8. The major risk is external in terms of the potential for sluggish growth in developed economies that may negatively affect their fiscal capacities to fulfill international aid commitments. Another risk is internal in terms of achieving less-than-expected economic growth, which may constrain budgets and government investments in partnership management related capacity development. Since the bulk of assistance over the period 2002–2008 has been in the form of loans, with most commitments yet to be disbursed, there is a risk of this adding to Albania’s debt burden.
As a middle income country Albania is witnessing the exit of several key bi-lateral donors even though the development agenda is not finished, especially with respect to regional disparities and social inclusion. This is, however, offset by increasing levels of assistance from the EU, which so far exceeds the level of assistance provided by bilateral donors. Other challenges relate to the achievement of access to trade markets of developed countries, and include the following:
- Low absorption capacities for external assistance continue to be a main issue, as reported six years ago, in the 2004 MDG progress report (Ibid, p. 56). As noted elsewhere in this report, the question is also not one of insufficient resources, but rather of how they are utilized. This applies not only to the various ministries in absorbing aid and implementing projects and programmes, but also of insufficient capacity of central organizations to coordinate at the various levels.
- The unfinished business of developing and implementing the supporting IPS and External Assistance Information Systems (IPSIS and EAMIS). Detailed specifications and plans for these systems were developed in early 2007, and their funding and development was envisaged in a joint government, World Bank IPS Trust Fund project, which has been extended to 2011.
- In light of continuing external financial and economic risks, government will make better use of external assistance to help eliminate trade and other economic barriers, and attract foreign investments in support of sustainable economic and social development.
- The issue of consistency between the MDG 8 and Paris Declaration indicators will be given further attention. NSDI Progress Report 2006–2007 argued that government may shift from the MDG 8 to the Paris indicators.
» Good Governance
Albania has achieved its e-governance target 9.2 ahead of schedule.This is due to a number of factors such as establishment of integrated and sound ICT policy and legal frameworks;supporting institutional reforms, including the setting up and initial capacity development of key supporting agencies, e.g. National Agency for Information Society (NAIS); commitment of adequate financial and human resources and strong political and executive vision and leadership. The ‘Digital Albania Program’ was launched in line with the i2010 EU initiative and is likely to lead to further over-achievement by 2015.On the other hand, achievement of good governance remains a major challenge, especially, as noted, in those areas dealing with rule of law, anti-corruption and governance effectiveness.
Government recognizes that reforms in these areas are essential for European Integration (EI) and national development, but also that such reforms are highly complex and transformational in nature. Recent measures taken by the government include strengthening the central anticorruption unit within the Council of Ministers, developing an anti-corruption action plan for 2010, strengthening institutional coordination mechanisms at the political and technical levels, and launching a project to carry out corruption surveys, and risk analyses with supporting information systems with assistance of the EU and Council of Europe. On other fronts, and not directly factored into MDG 9 indicators, is a range of recent government actions such as introduction of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for business registration and licensing, electronic procurement, expansion of point-of-sale for more and more businesses, tax reforms, and so on—all seen to contribute to anti-corruption.On the broader front and looking to long-term sustainability, government recognizes that more attention must be given to a wider reform of public administration and associated development of system-wide capacities. Increased efforts are to be applied to strengthening coordination mechanisms at both the political and technical levels, to developing systems for targeting support to the most disadvantaged groups such as discussed under MDG 1, to developing the needed monitoring and reporting systems (e.g. IPSIS, anti-corruption monitoring systems, etc.), to more focused training and skills development, and to instituting clearer accountability structures and incentive systems that focus on performance and results. All of this will require substantial resources and EU/donor support, as well as on-going political and executive leadership.
The government’s ICT for Development (ICTD) agenda will help increase public sector transparency and accountability, strengthen the engagement and participation of citizens in national and local decision-making processes, improve delivery of public services and strengthen partnerships as discussed under MDG 8.
Finally, and as noted, the government has developed a large number of sector and cross-cutting strategies, most of which incorporate elements of governance reforms. At some point, and depending on implementation progress, governance and public administration reforms may be consolidated into a singular integrated governance or public administration reform strategy.