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Advisors: Katz, Stanley
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: In November 2013 thousands of people gathered in Tirana to protest against the request of the Unites States that the Syrian chemical weapons be dismantled in Albania. After a week of protests, Prime Minister Edi Rama declared that the Albanian people had clearly expressed their opinion, and Albania would not accept the United States’ request. The protests and Rama’s decision were hailed in Albania as a historic event. This episode was widely described as the first time that Albanian civil society had organized and successfully pressured the Albanian government. However, Albania has been a democracy for twenty-four years, which begs the question why did the first victory of its civil society come only now? This study analyzes the development of the civil society sector in Albania in order to understand the causes of its weakness. Twenty-three, in depth, semi-structured field interviews with prominent civil society and government actors are the main source of information for this project. There is no official number of registered and active non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Albania today. Estimates vary from 450 to 2,900, indicating the presence of a small sector relative to the other countries in the Balkan region. Overall the sector is fragmented, full of small, financially unsustainable service-provider NGOs, and does not serve as a bridge between the Albanian people and the state. Why has it developed like this? Through adopting an elite-driven approach, this study proposes a causal model to explain the weakness of the Albanian civil society sector. It argues that the lack of a tradition of civil society in Albania, combined with the extreme polarization of society and careless funding schemes by international donors have led to the creation of a weak and unsustainable service-provider NGO sector, and a highly politicized and coopted elite NGO sector. Both classes of Albanian NGOs – service providers and advocacy, research and watchdog organizations – have developed far from the interests of the Albanian public, and highly dependent on the support of international donors and the state for survival. It argues that the revolving door between government and civil society sector has furthered the politicization of Albanian elite NGOs, and it has been a main hindrance to its development. These factors have resulted in a weak NGO sector, which serves as a form of alternative employment for many Albanians, but is rarely able to meaningfully counter or complement the Albanian political elite. In the conclusion, this study looks at the 2013 and 2014 positive developments with regards to civil society in Albania. It argues that the steps forward can be explained by the increased emphasis on civil society development from the European Union, and the higher pressure on elite NGOs to gain independence from the state.
Extent: 128 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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