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On April 6th, 36 youth organizations from all over Albania gathered at the European University of Tirana for the congress “Unite in Action”, organized by the Olof Palme International Center and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Participants discussed the major problems facing young people in Albania today, principally unemployment, the poor quality of education, and the lack of opportunities for cultural and leisure activities.

In order to more effectively address these questions on a national level, the participants resolved to form a new network and elected 18 members to a committee for the network.

– I hope that this group of eighteen people and the rest of the conference work together to find solutions for the issues that we discussed, says Albana.

Albana Kulari, from Palme Center’s partner organization New Epoch, is one of the elected representatives in the new network. She says that the biggest achievement of the day is for so many organizations to have come together.

– It’s easier for us to affect local government. But to have an effect on the central government we need to work together, she says.

Many of the network’s member organizations already work on a local level with some of the questions discussed during the day. This is the first time that such a large number of youth organizations unite to pressure the central government for better youth policies.

Albana’s organization New Epoch has been able to increase the provision of services for young people in the city of Fier by drawing up social contracts with the local government

The first task, according to Enida Bogdani from the Tirana based organization Children’s Human Rights Center of Albania, is to build a functioning cooperation and organization within the network.

– I hope the network can achieve the creation of a functional Youth Platform that has a vision, a purpose and sustainability that includes a way of electing people after the current representatives step down, says Enida, who was also elected to the committee of the network.

Many of the organizations have different priorities and opinions on certain issues, and have not cooperated before. Nonetheless, Enida thinks the network can serve as a constant reminder of the youth perspective.

– This network or platform should always ask the question – “What is in it for the youth?” says Enida.

Aulona Skendaj from Vlora Youth Center hopes that the network will focus on the issues discussed during the congress, particularly education and unemployment.

– We have big problems in the educational system, she says, and we have a lot of young people involved in trying to improve the quality of education. But youth unemployment is the most urgent question. It’s a huge problem among youth, says Aulona.

Exact statistics are hard to come by, but at least 30% of young Albanians are currently unemployed. Albanian youth are sometimes referred to as the ‘transition generation’, having grown up during the tumultuous period that followed the fall of communism. Deep structural changes in the Albanian economy and education system, as well as broader social shifts, have taken place during their lifetimes.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the network is how to get the active participation of youth. Aulona from Vlora Youth Center emphasizes the importance of commitment from the elected representatives. Since every organization already has its own base of active young people, she thinks it’s possible to spread the word and get people involved. The media and social media are important in this work.

Enida adds that there is the risk that people lose faith in the network, and question whether it serves a purpose.

– People want “to do something” without really knowing what they want and they get disappointed before even starting, says she.

Enida thinks these difficulties can be overcome if the network clearly defines its purpose, aims and responsibilities, and if all participating organizations see the advantages of working jointly for the common good. The Palme Center and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung will continue to support the network, and provide them with capacity building and other assistance in order to become an effective pressure group.


Text and photo: ÅSA ODIN EKMAN

Published: 2013-04-22

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