Specific Millennium Development Goals in Albania
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» Eradicate Poverty
Poverty figures for Albania have improved in recent years, from 25.4 percent in 2002 to 18.5 percent in 2005. Approximately 3.5 percent of Albanians continue to live in extreme poverty (less than one dollar per day).
There are significant disparities between urban and rural areas. The current poverty profile includes large and young families with small children, often with the head of household unemployed. Poverty is widespread in rural and mountainous areas.
The government is addressing regional disparities and the needs of vulnerable groups through new strategies at the national level, and is making great strides in linking poverty programmes with national economic and financial policies.
The UN in Albania works with the Government for “pro-poor” growth – growth that reduces poverty as well as inequality. At the central level, this includes support to the preparation of Albania’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (National Strategy for Development and Integration – NSDI); a medium-term budget programme; ensuring adequate planning, monitoring and reporting systems. At the local level, the UN works with regional governments to address development challenges and support quality access to social services.
» Achieve high quality education
Albania’s school system needs major investment and reform. Decaying infrastructure, out-of-date curricula and teaching methods, poorly qualified teachers and a lack of modern equipment and sanitation contribute to increasing dropout rates. Enrolment rates are particularly low among marginalized groups such as Roma and children with disabilities. Emerging evidence suggests falling participation in education among the poor due to closure of many preschools and secondary vocational schools, declining education quality, increasing poverty rates, and fees for many education-related services. Net enrolment for grades one to four (89 percent) and grades one to eight (94 percent) show that Albania is not on track to meet its MDG targets and corrective actions are needed. Public policies to maintain and improve access, especially to basic education, are critical to Albania’s economic growth and poverty alleviation efforts.
Some progress has been made regarding access and quality. An initiative of the Ministry of Education and Science enabled school registration for all children who could not register because of the lack of birth certification. However, the Government has identified the need to design and introduce ambitious indicators to track the quality of education, acknowledged as an issue of concern.
Public expenditure in education reached an all time low of 2.5 percent in 2001. Since that time, it has increased to 3.25 percent in 2007. However, this is below the recommended level of four percent, and continued low investment in education has led to declines in education quality. The pre-school budget makes up on 4.5 percent of the total budget of the Ministry of Education and Science. One third of Albanian children in compulsory school record poor achievement caused, in part, by a lack of Early Childhood Development services.
The Ministry of Education and Science is implementing the National Strategy on Pre-University Education, which addresses many of the challenges facing the education sector. A sector-wide approach has been developed through the Equity and Excellence in Education Project funded by the World Bank and other donors. The UN has supported infrastructure to schools in the poor and remote region of Kukes, and sensitizing of key education stakeholders to develop a policy framework and plan to tackle root challenges to learning.
According to the draft National Strategy for Development and Integration, priority will be given to supporting the development of policies and strategies that prevent and reduce marginalization in education at the national and local school levels. This is to be achieved by preventing early departure from formal education and training and improving the quality of education to ensure healthy life styles and skills relevant to the labour market. Other measures will target the updating of curriculum and tackling disadvantages in education and training with particular emphasis on secondary school enrolment.
UN support will go towards improved quality of education services to children through the development of policies and strategies that prevent and reduce marginalization. Special attention will be given to development of curriculum and teacher standards. Emphasis will be placed on inclusive quality education.
The UN will continue to assist national authorities in providing elementary and high schools in Albania with modern computer labs by the end of 2008. Schools will be connected to the Internet, computer science teachers will be trained in ICT education, and curriculum will be consistent with EU standards. The UN will support the review of university level education in terms of quality and governance, given its direct effect on the quality of the civil service and labour force.
» Promote gender equality and empower women
Advances have been made over the years in tackling the issues of domestic violence and women’s political participation. In 2006, the Government of Albania adopted the country’s first legislation on domestic violence. Current focus is on preparing related sub-legislation to ensure the Law’s full implementation at the national and local level. The Government also adopted the National Strategy on Gender Equality and Domestic Violence in December 2007.
The Council of Ministers, with the support of the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has recently approved revised gender equality legislation, which is now before the Parliament for review. The adoption of the new legislation will provide the women and men of Albania with an opportunity to ensure that they and their children have equal rights, access and equal voice in advancing their country’s development. The promotion and protection of women’s rights to equally access the political arena at local and national levels is essential to ensure Albania’s increased integration with the European Community.
Eradication of violence against women and increasing women in decision-making are considered national priorities for the advancement of gender equality and women’s human rights.
It is estimated that one in three women have experienced domestic violence in Albania and one in two children have experienced physical and psychological violence at home and one in three at school. Albanian State Police statistics reveal a 220 percent increase in domestic violence cases from 2005 to 2006 and women constitute 63 percent of domestic violence victims in those cases that reach police structures. Physical violence accounts for up to 85 percent of cases.
Women’s role in public life remains largely unrecognized in Albania, and women’s full and equal participation in decision-making continues to be restricted due to pervasive stereotypes and discriminatory practices which remain inherent in the public arena.
In local elections in 2007, only 33 of the 1,073 candidates nominated for mayoral posts were women, and of these, only nine were elected. At the national level, seven percent of Members of Parliament are women, and as of 2007, there is only one sitting female Cabinet Minister. Advances have been made – for example, the Speaker of Parliament is a woman, many political parties have instituted quotas within their general assemblies, and NGOs have increasingly targeted the issue of women’s political participation. Despite this, women remain relatively invisible in public policy processes. The adoption of special measures in the new draft gender equality legislation are essential to ensure that Albanian women have the same opportunities to lead as their counterparts in the Balkans and in the European Community.
The United Nations in Albania has worked for over a decade in advancing gender equality - this year marks an increase in the support provided by the UN towards this goal. As part of the One UN Programme, support will go towards strengthening the legal and institutional frameworks on gender equality; increasing women’s participation in decision-making; and improving the situation of women at risk through increasing access to quality social services and eradicating domestic violence.
» Reduce child mortality and improve maternal health
Maternal mortality in Albania is high compared with other European countries. The maternal mortality rate in Albania is estimated at 16.7 deaths per 100,000 live births (2006). Rates in the northeast of the country are higher than the national average. The lack of detailed and reliable data on maternal mortality, however, constrains analysis and responsive policies and programmes. An important factor in the effort to reduce maternal mortality is access to, and quality of, health services before, during and after childbirth. According to a recent poll, access to health care centres can be difficult in rural areas - some people have to travel 20 kilometres or more to reach a health centre and the quality of services in rural areas remains low.
According to a 2002 reproductive health survey, 70 percent of prenatal care is inadequate. National expertise and capacities to provide services in the area of reproductive health and child health are limited. Women’s access to, and knowledge of, quality reproductive health services needs improvement. As a result, maternal mortality and abortion rates in Albania are the highest in Europe. Furthermore, breast and cervical cancer is increasing, with breast and gynecological exams generally available only in Tirana.
The estimated infant mortality rate for Albania is 13 deaths per 1,000 live births (2006) compared to an EU average of 4.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although in decline, a problem of under-reporting persists. The increase in early and late neonatal deaths indicates the need to improve both prenatal and obstetric care. The geographic distribution of infant death reflects the unequal distribution of health care resources and unequal access to health care services.
The under five mortality rates for the last 15 years also show a declining trend but continuing efforts are needed to prevent deaths and improve general nutritional and health status. According to the Living Standard Measurement Survey (LSMS 2002), almost one in three children under five in Albania are stunted, that is, too short for their age. According to the survey, 14 percent of Albanian children under age five are under-weight.
To address these issues, Albania has developed a series of strategies, such as the National Strategy of the Health Care System, the Policy on Primary Health Care, and the National Strategy for Development and Integration, with a focus on improving the health of mother and child.
The UN works closely to support the process of modernization of the health sector in Albania. UN Agencies have been working with the Ministry of Health to promote integrated management of child illnesses, with a holistic approach involving parents, and making pregnancy safer by promoting effective prenatal and obstetric care. Support for safer motherhood includes training of service providers on prenatal care and safe delivery of babies, providing iron and folic acid supplements to pregnant women to prevent iron deficiency anemia. UN support has gone towards development of protocols and standards as well as provision of basic equipment for primary health care services.
Reinforcing national capacities to develop, promote, and implement policies that meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of women, men and young people is a key focus area for the UN. This also includes promoting gender equity and developing databases on population and health-related vital statistics. The UN is also supporting the development of standards of care to improve the quality of services for marginalized groups. Special attention will be given to poverty and health.
» Combat HIV/AIDS
Based on reported cases of HIV/AIDS, Albania is a low prevalence country. However, as in other eastern European countries, these figures can rise rapidly. In Albania, 251 cases were reported at the end of 2007, which means there were 40 new cases of HIV infection during the last year. Data shows that HIV could be spread among at risk groups such as injection drug users, men who have sex with men, the Roma community, and commercial sex workers. Currently, there are eight voluntary counseling and testing centres throughout the country. The National AIDS Programme within the Institute of Public Health is responsible for coordinating and implementing all HIV/AIDS related activities within the country, guided by the Strategy for Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS in Albania (2004-2010). By 2006, a Country Coordination Mechanism (CCM), chaired by the Vice Minister of Health was established within the country. Representatives from all ministries are full members of the CCM as well as civil society organizations and the United Nations.
Since 2004, the Ministry of Health has provided free anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV. A new law has been drafted “On Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS” in Albania and is expected to be approved by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament of Albania.
However, more efforts need to be directed towards prevention, by improving surveillance systems and promoting voluntary counseling and testing centres, especially for high risk groups.
The number of people taking voluntary HIV tests was approximately 1,000 in 2005 and 2,000 in 2007, well below the 2015 target of 50,000.
The UN is committed to assist government counterparts and civil society in reaching the Millennium Development Goals and Universal Access country targets. Support is directed at HIV/AIDS national strategic planning, policymaking and regional partnerships, through technical assistance, sharing of best practices, rapid assessments and piloting of models on life skills, peer education, youth friendly services, prevention among vulnerable groups, and epidemiological and behavioral surveillance.
UN support is going towards revising the action plan and budgeting for the revised Strategy for Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS in Albania. The UN is assisting the Government to achieve Universal Access targets by 2010, This includes ensuring adequate testing services and a monitoring and evaluation system, as well as helping to ensure that those living with HIV can access safe and affordable anti-retroviral medication. Support also goes towards increased access to services for at risk groups, as well preparing proposals to the Global Fund for Tuberculosis, AIDS and Malaria (GFTAM).
» Ensure environmental sustainability
» Develop a global partnership for development
Total external assistance during the period 1990 – 2007 to Albania amounted to around 5.3 billion euros. While during the early 1990s, foreign aid was dominated by humanitarian and food aid and balance of payment support, most external assistance after this period was in development and technical assistance support. Since 2000, external assistance levels have remained steady between 300 and 350 million euros per year. This includes official development assistance (ODA) and other types of assistance such as commercial loans.
Based on Development Assistance Committee (DAC, www.oecd.org/dac) statistics, the level of disbursement of ODA for Albania was $285 million in 2007; $343 million in 2006; and $319 million in 2005.
Since 2000, the ratio of external aid commitments to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has shown a declining trend, mainly due to an increase in the GDP level rather than a decrease in commitments for external aid. In 2007, the estimated ratio of external assistance to GDP was 4.5 percent.
United Nations system assistance to Albania has totaled approximately $17 million in 2007, $22 million in 2006 and $27 million in 2005. Expected delivery for 2008 is an estimated $23 million.
The Government of Albania's views on the role of external assistance in Albania’s development and on the priorities for future external assistance is based on the National Strategy for Development and Integration (NSDI), which provides guidance both for immediate external financing needs and for mid-term programming over the period 2007 to 2013. In the coming years, the Government aims to improve aid effectiveness in line with the Paris Declaration, taking greater responsibility for leadership in managing external assistance and developing improved procedures for coordination as part of the Integrated Planning System. In this context, the Government has appealed to donors to support sector wide collaboration in programming, implementation and evaluation and to use this as a means for better integration with the medium-term budget programme.
The Government of Albania is also making significant contributions to the global UN reform agenda. After a request from the Government to the UN, Albania was selected as one of eight countries around the world to pilot Delivering as One UN – a reform model adapted to each country’s unique context. Together, pilot countries are testing out ways in which the UN family – with it’s many and diverse agencies can deliver in a more harmonized and cost-effective manner at the country level. Lessons learned in Albania will be shared with countries around the world.
In recent years there has been a positive trend towards further developing an open and rule-based trading and financial system. According to the International Monetary Fund, overall liberal policies continue to facilitate development of a private-sector-led economy. The Albanian banking sector has performed well in recent years. Although cash transactions still dominate exchanges, Albanians are increasingly gaining confidence and trust in the Government and the formal financial system after the 1997 pyramid scheme crisis. Prudent monetary and fiscal policies have contributed to a stable macroeconomic environment and much of the core financial sector legislative and regulatory framework is in place. Though overall economic growth has been strong in the past, the lack of self-sustaining exports leaves the economy vulnerable to large trade and current account deficits, approximately 24 percent and 7.6 percent of GDP respectively, and to a dependency on migrant remittances as a source of external financing. Remittances totaled over 900 million euros in 2006, equivalent to approximately 13 percent of GDP. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is also increasing, to 325 million euros, equivalent to 3.6 percent of GDP for 2006. The Government's external debt was estimated at around 17 percent of GDP at the end of 2006.
Albania is actively participating in regional initiatives, including the Stability Pact for South East Europe, the Central European Initiative, the Central European Free Trade Agreement and the Adriatic Charter between Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which focuses on the shared goal of achieving NATO membership standards and allows contribution to NATO operations. Albania has also signed the Energy Community Treaty, which aims at establishing a single regulatory framework for trading energy across southeast Europe and the EU and allows Albania the trading of energy on the same terms as the EU. Albania has signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in June 2006.
At the same time, Albania’s connection to the world has improved through Information and Communication Technology. The number of Albanian Internet users has increased from 0.1percent of the population in 2000 to 15 percent in 2006, while the number of Albanians with fixed telephone lines and mobile phones has increased from 1.4 percent in 1995 to 49.3 percent of the population in 2004.
The Government has identified ICT as a crucial enabler for the social and economic development of the country. In line with the National ICT Strategy and with support from the UN, the Government Electronic Network (GovNet) and e-Accounting projects aim to make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies to Government institutions and their clients. Support goes inter alia to the development of an inclusive ICT network for Government institutions, improved accessibility and communications among line Ministries through the establishment of an Intranet system and IP telephony system, technical assistance for migration to International Public Sector Accounting Standards and building capacities within the newly set up National Agency for Information Society. The e-Schools project aims at reducing the “digital divide” through setting-up computer labs in all public schools in Albania.
» Good Governance