22 March 2019

The Address Of The Albanian Ombudperson On The Side Event Of Dcaf At The Un Ece Regional Forum


Dear colleagues, participants at the UN ECE regional forum!

Dear participants on this side event.

Firstly, I am impressed by the attention that UN agencies pay to the cooperation with the National Human Rights Institutions and the importance that they point to the role that these institutions play to help our countries walk in the way of realizing global objectives.

Objectives 16.6 and 16.7 express the commitment of our countries to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels, and to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

We are talking here about the very fabric that constitutes good governance. We are talking about a jump at the molecular level of that substance that makes democracy to be democracy. Of course, here, when it comes to countries like Albania that intend to join the great family of Western democracies, we are talking about a major national operation that requires from all institutions to excel at the maximum of their performance.

Among these institutions, which requires excellent performance, is also the institution of the People's Advocate, an independent constitutional institution that holds the role of the main national human rights protection institution in Albania.

But first, let's look at the background of the relationship between Albania and the global objectives.

In September 2015, Albania adopted the SDGs, together with all other United Nations member states.

In early 2016, the government approved the National Strategy for Development and European Integration for the period 2015-2020.

These events preceded the UN Program for Sustainable Development 2017-2021, which the government signed in October 2016 with all United Nations agencies operating in Albania.

To complement the legal framework, in December 2017, the Albanian Parliament adopted the Resolution "On the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 United Nations Member States" agenda.

We can therefore conclude that Albania has not only officially expressed its willingness to fulfill all SDGs, but has also taken steps to associate this commitment with legal documents that only wait to be implemented.

There is no activity of the Ombudsman Institution of Albania which is essentially not inspired by one or more SDGs for which our country has committed.

Every year, our institution organizes a national conference focusing on human rights and freedoms in Albania. This conference and its themes over the years, enjoys a considerable reputation in the country and is taken for reference by a number of local and international organizations operating in Albania, by state institutions and many different agencies. In December 2016, with the support of the United Nations Office in Tirana, we organized a conference on "Closer to the Sustainable Development and Human Rights Goals" - the goals of sustainable development and the role of human rights institutions in implementing them”.

The conference took a deep insight into the 17 SDGs by engaging a number of field experts, representatives of state institutions, representatives of the international community and civil society. The Conference concluded with a number of Recommendations for the Government and the Parliament on the implementation of Agenda 2030 and is estimated to have served as a guide to the legal framework that was subsequently approved by the government and the parliament regarding the SDGs.

The above-mentioned conference of the Albanian Ombudsman came after the participation of our institution at the 12th Conference of the International Coordinating Committee of the National Human Rights Institutions (ICC – Currently known as GANNHRI) on "The Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for National Human Rights Institutions?", held in Merida, Yucatan - Mexico, on October 2015. In this conference was approved the Merida Declaration "On the role of human rights institutions in the Sustainable Development Goals", which underlines the specific role the Ombudsman's institutions play in the process of implementing and monitoring the 2030 Agenda as key stakeholders engaged in protection and respect for human rights, which are also the basis for the SDG concept.

As you may know, the Conference addressed among others the following issues:

- The sustainable development goals and the process to date;

- Implementation. Identifying and exploring the key role players;

- Means of implementation, the role of NHRIs, drawing on best practices from MDGs and other areas of work;

- SDGs, NHRIs, non-discrimination & vulnerable groups, etc

Being - as I mentioned - the main national institution in the protection of human rights, we at the People’s Advocate Institution in Albania, have a clear view on our duties.

From us depends the continuous monitoring of human rights, ensuring in each case their respect by each institution, based on the 17 SDGs.

We also need to make sure of the explicit integration of 17 SDGs in action plans, reports and other documents, based on clear references to these objectives, produced by the People's Advocate Office (the publication of these reports will help to encourage the state in implementing the Agenda 2030);

Our role remains essential to push relevant state structures on the promotion of SDGs, and to encourage the state institutions, NGOs and private business to integrate into their plans and activities the 17 SDGs.

But not just that. The duty for our institution remains to guarantee close co-operation with all actors and factors involved in implementing the 2030 Agenda; to assist in the development of a clear monitoring methodology on the implementation of the 17 Objectives, which will serve as a basis for monitoring the quality of government drafting, implementation and reporting, and to strengthen co-operation with other institutions that produce and collect statistical data including the Institute of Statistics, the Academy of Sciences and Civil Society Organizations.

I want to go back to SDG 16.6 and 16.7, which are also the focus of this side of the event.

The goal 16.6 requires the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.

The goal 16.7 urges to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

In Albania there are a number of institutions that deal (or so it should be) with the implementation of the obligations arising from these objectives. Given the DCAF's activity, which is mainly focused on security institutions, I will briefly stop at the armed forces of the Republic of Albania and our judicial system.

The Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania should be said that, although small in number, represent one of the institutions with fewer remarks in the context of meeting the objective 16.6 on the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels and objective 16.7 on responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

Albania's Armed Forces have not only long been under civilian control but have been members since 2009 in NATO by adopting the same standards of effectiveness, accountability, transparency as well as other member forces in the Alliance, as well as same standard of decision-making as other partners.

Also, the Albanian Armed Forces have contributed not only to combat operations (Afghanistan and Iraq), but also to monitoring missions, such as patrols in the waters of the Aegean Sea (between Turkey and Greece) in the framework of the fight against trafficking in human beings .

If we see the compatibility of the Albanian judicial system with objectives 16.6 and 16.7, we see that it faces great challenges.

Unwanted, I want to inform you that since 2016, Albania has been carrying out one of the biggest reforms ever undertaken.

In the legal aspect, the Constitution was amended and a package of 20 laws was adopted, while the Vetting process has begun, which implies the transfer of all judges and prosecutors in office to a thorough process of verifying their activities and revenues.

I can tell you that by now, when the process is in its beginnings, about 12% of judges and prosecutors removed and as a result, Albania has lost the staff of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court is partially functional (it works with ¼ of capacity), while difficulties are also appearing at the Appellate Courts.

It is a very complex process, I will not go into detail, but to link it to our topic, I can say with concern that in the plans designed for this Reform, there are no explicit mention of the commitments made under the SDG-s.

During the preparation of this discussion, I consulted the implementation level of the SDG-s (especially those 16.6 and 16.7 and it turned out that the implementation of SDGs for 2018 was not what we would like in the Ombudsmen institutions.

Among the institutions most affected by corruption are the judiciary system and the police.

Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year; this amount of money could be used to lift those who are living on less than $1.25 a day above $1.25 for at least six years.

Birth registration has occurred for 73 per cent of children under 5, but only 46% of Sub-Saharan Africa have had their births registered.

Approximately 28.5 million primary school age who are out of school live in conflict-affected areas.

The rule of law and development have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing, making it essential for sustainable development at the national and international level.

The proportion of prisoners held in detention without sentencing has remained almost constant in the last decade, at 31% of all prisoners.

As we can see, there are miles to go before we sleep.

Likewise, in one of the classifications, it turned out that Albania was one of the last places in the implementation of the SDGs, which indicates that we as a national Ombudsman institution should definitely increase our efforts.

I conclude this presentation with these notes of self-criticism by expressing the belief that only by being maximally demanding of ourselves and the function that each of us performs in its local or national context, we will finally be able to complete the great global puzzle of the objectives of the Agenda 2030. Today we might be struggling meeting its particles and we might not see the big picture. But this should not stop us from dreaming that the image this puzzle will give, contains the promise of a wonderful future for our children.

Thank you.