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Interview of the Executive Director of the ASCS to the "Standard" newspaper

22 March 2010

Bobrati: How will we finance civil society

At the time of the dictatorship, the Albanians were given the opportunity to learn a western language. Through the only television only in the country, Rudi Bobrati taught us the grammar of the English language, but without thinking that one day he would work for many years in the West. In January 1993, he began work as a journalist in the Albanian section of the BBC's London and seven years later, in 2000, was involved in the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, where he worked until the end as head of the Sector of Legal Translations for the International Judges and Prosecutors. Years of working in Pristina are the most memorable for Rudi and he does not hide his weakness for Kosovo. But just three days ago, he was entrusted with a new task, that of Executive Director of the Agency for the Support of Civil Society. He left everything behind and returned to Tirana for a new experience in the right wing administration. Bobrati says that "on the confidence of the Prime Minister shown towards me, I will put all my moral integrity." Mr. Rudi Bobrati tells for the “Standard” government funding mechanism for the civil society projects. Mr. Bobrati, who brings with him the experience of working in the West, shows the benchmarks on which the work of the agency will be focused, which will be under the dependency of the Government. Also, he mentions the funding sources and the ways this new structure will try to generate incomes...

Mr. Bobrati, you have just been appointed Executive Director of the Agency for the Support of Civil Society, a new structure set up by the government for the first time in Albania. But what is the purpose of the creation of this agency and how will it function?

On the initiative of the Prime Minister Mr. Sali Berisha and upon the proposal of the Council of Ministers, in March 2009, the Assembly of Albania approved Law 10093, "On the Organization and Functioning of the Agency for the Support of Civil Society”. While in July last year, the Council of Ministers issued the decision for the approval of the Statute of ASCS. The mission of this agency is to promote, through financial assistance, of the sustainable development of civil society and the creation of favorable conditions for civic initiatives to the benefit and in the interest of the public, in accordance with Article 4 of the Law and with the priorities and strategies of the Government program according to respective fields.

And what are the objectives of this Agency?

Firstly, the Agency for the Support of Civil Society aims the promotion and co-operation with Non Profitable Organizations (NGOs) whose work object is the monitoring of the fight against corruption, fight against trafficking in human beings and treatment of its victims, against domestic violence to children. Secondly, it aims to encourage citizens in activities, including their participation for community development. Furthermore, it aims at the creation and consolidation of civil society skills, the development of inter-sectoral cooperation and cooperation between civil society organizations, the increase of public influence and activities of civil society organizations, social entrepreneurship development and employment in the nonprofit sector, the increase of the influence of civil society in the process of drafting and adoption of public policies.

What is its mechanism, how will the Agency be managed?

Te management and administration of ASCS is realized by the Supervisory Board and the Executive Director. As can be seen, with the establishment of this agency, Albania takes another step towards its European integration, to its natural and historic destination, Europe, as we call the European Union. This is an indication of an ever increasing attention of the Government towards the strengthening and consolidation of civil society, of the promotion of civic initiatives, of the enhancement of the role and the strengthening of the voice of the representatives of the Albanian public interests, but also of the increase the care towards or disadvantaged communities or persons in need.

What will be its dependence from the Government?

The Agency will operate in compliance to the priorities and strategies of the Government program, but its activity, the substance of which is the distribution of funds to support civil society, will be completely out of politics. Such a thing became very clear to me, and was even asked from me in clear terms by the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Gjergj Lezhja, whose assistance and continued support for the establishment of the agency is invaluable and I take the opportunity here to thank him profoundly.

Why just your name at the top of this agency?

My name was one of the names proposed by the Prime Minister to the Supervisory Board at its first meeting. According to the statute of the Agency, the Supervisory Board, following the election of its chairperson, elects the Executive Director. I expressed my gratitude to the Supervisory Board for my election and on this occasion I would like to say publicly that on the confidence of the Prime Minister shown to me, I will put all my moral integrity, all my professional and human capacity.

Tell me what was your previous activity, before you took the direction of the new government Agency?

Thank you. I will try to answer in brief. After graduating from the Faculty of Philology, I started work in the Albanian Radio and Television, the only electronic media of that time in the country, as editor and co-presenter of the English Language Teaching Program on TV in the late 80s. In January of 1993, I started working as a journalist in the Albanian section of the BBC World Service in London, after winning a marathon competition organized by this giant media to restart (after 26 years) the transmission in the Albanian language. About seven years later, in 2000, I had two new job offers: one for the "Voice of America" Radio in Washington DC and the other for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK. For certain reasons I chose the latter, where I worked until the end as Head of Legal Translation Sector with the international Judges and Prosecutors. Years of working in Pristina are the most memorable of my life, and Kosovo is my weakness that I find it impossible to hide. There I managed and supervised approximately 50 international and local translators, coming from 4-5 different countries and who were covering translations in English, Albanian and Serbian and rarely, even in other languages. Finally, I'm here. During these years I have translated some books, I have edited a few others and written various articles in the Albanian press.

Going back to the new duty, who are the members of the Supervisory Board of the Agency?

On the basis of the law and the relevant decision of the Council of Ministers, the Supervisory Board of the ASCS consists of nine members, four of whom are representatives of the central administration and five others are proposed by or representatives of civil society. I would like to comment a little about the latter, who were selected, as I am aware, out of a number of proposals coming from all over Albania and I want to emphasize that they are among the best known names of civil society, starting with Ms. Mira Meksi, who was elected chairperson of the Board, one of the most intellectual women of Albania, a distinguished publisher, writer and translator, a person, about who there is no need for much comment. I would say the same thing for other members: Lutfi Dervishi, Henri Çili, lawyer Altin Goxhaj and Delina Nano.

Who funds the Agency and does it intend to generate income itself?

Under Article 16 of the Law, funding sources of the ASCS are from the state budget; income that it creates itself; legitimate donations (from within and outside the country); as well as other income, as defined by law. This Article also sanctions that the ASCS budget is provided as a separate item in the annual budget of the state and cannot be less than that of the previous year. The Agency raises and accepts income and donations in kind, goods or services and applies the rules of the agreement signed with the donor, in conformity with its mission and applicable laws. The Agency also realizes income according to the law, through its asset management and the exercise of other lawful activities. This law also sanctions that the financial activity of the ASCS is audited under the applicable law.

And when will the Agency you lead start its activity?

We are determined not to waste any minute of time. Soon a number of by-laws will be issued and its temporary structure has already been established, which is expected to have a Sector of the Administration of the Programs of Grants and Regional Development. Another sector is projected to be that of the Development of Projects and International Cooperation, as well as the Sector of Finance and Internal Control. We are aware of the difficulties we face, but we are equally determined to realize the establishment and successful operation of the Agency for the Support of Civil Society. Our head word will be: transparency.

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