Councils Connect Albanian Youth With Local Officials

Members of the Cerrik Youth Council standing in front of their poster board.
Members of the Cerrik Youth Council stand in front of their poster board.
Hung Vo, USAID
Young people work to expand civic engagement
“So many youth in Albania want to leave the country because they feel that leaders don’t listen and that there are few opportunities.”

September 2018 — In Albania, one in four citizens is a youth between the ages of 15 and 24, which represents 70 to 75 percent of the population. However, a recent survey found that 70 percent of these youth want to leave Albania due to high unemployment.

According to the International Labor Organization, Albania ranked first in the world this year in youth unemployment. Youth have expressed discontent with the government for not meeting its obligation to them by effectively implementing the National Action Plan 2015-2020, which was designed “to develop and coordinate cross sectoral policies in education, employment, health, culture and enhance youth participation in social life and decision making processes.”  

In response, USAID’s preventing violent extremism activity is supporting the development of youth councils in Cerrik and Bulqize to provide a platform for dialogue between youth and their representatives, fostering multi-generational exchange and trust. The councils represent an extraordinary step to strengthen civic engagement.

In Albania, where youth exclusion in social, economic or political channels can lead to marginalization, disillusionment and, ultimately, radicalization and extremism, the councils are a space where young people can work with elected representatives to remove barriers inhibiting youth development. The councils also allow young people to connect with their peers and rally around common goals. This is especially important in Albania, where youth have few opportunities to collaborate and work in team settings.

Altin Toska, the mayor of Cerrik, created a USAID-supported local youth council in May 2018, which is today comprised of 16 girls and 10 boys, ages 14 to 21, selected from an existing local volunteer group.

“This council is giving youth in Cerrik an opportunity to meet new people, make friends and learn new things,” says Eugent Balla, 15. “We did not have opportunities like this in Cerrik before this activity was established.”

“So many youth in Albania want to leave the country due to a perceived lack of opportunities and because they feel that leaders don’t listen,” says Deni Saballa, 18. “This youth council is a first step for youth to help change that.”

On July 18, USAID trained 20 members of the Cerrik Youth Council on positive models of civic participation. Attendees learned the basics of lobbying and advocacy, specifically for creating improved, safer public spaces. They also discussed some of their own successful community advocacy experiences, such as influencing the municipality to build a wheelchair ramp in the high school and establishing a new sewage system in one of the neighborhoods. Youth also examined other recent examples of public advocacy in Albania, including protests around the reconstruction of the National Theater in Tirana and the construction of dams on the Vjosa River.

At the end, participants identified priority issues in Cerrik to advocate with the local government, including the rehabilitation or creation of sports facilities and general infrastructure, such as sidewalks and parks. The youth also drafted advocacy action plans to reach their goals, which includes working with the municipality to establish a safe community space for youth in a new multicultural center by the end of the year.

The formation of the youth councils in Cerrik and Bulqize is an extension of local governance work that USAID has accomplished in the country during the past 20 years with the creation of citizen advisory panels. These local advisory bodies aim to empower citizens and improve communications with their elected officials. To date, USAID has established 15 panels with nearly 500 members.

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Last updated: September 04, 2018

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