From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Albanian Government Guts Youth Law

In January, the Child Rights Centre in Albania (CRCA), Albanian National Youth Network (ANYN) and over 40 other youth organisations, presented the long-awaited Youth Law to Parliament, where it was officially proposed by LSI MP Nora Malaj.

The law suggested a number of changes to the existing institutional frameworks and state policies for youth in Albania, including the establishment of a Commissioner for Youth Rights, a National Youth Coordinator, a youth quota of political representation and decision making, and a higher budget for youth spending, amongst others.

When the opposition parties PD and LSI withdrew from Parliament, Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruçi also cancelled all legal initiatives filed by the MPs who vacated their seats. This included the Youth Law.

But in recent weeks, the Rama government has introduced a new Youth Law to Parliament, which fails to address any of the problems that were addressed in the Youth Law proposed by civil society. In fact, it clearly shows the unwillingness of the government to deal with the many youth problems in Albania, which have led to an insistent emigration of those who should be expected to build up and lead the country.

The differences between civil-society drafted law and the government’s draft law are striking. The civil society draft law explicitly bases itself on the Convention for the Rights of the Child and Council of European Roadmap for Youth Participation. The government’s draft law ignores these international standards.

The National Youth Council (KKR) proposed by the civil society draft law would be an independent state organ instituted through a decision of the Council of Ministers. It would include 9 representatives from the different ministries dealing with youth affairs, as well as 9 representatives from civil society. The KKR would advice the Council of Minister on youth policies and legal initiatives. Also, it would be in charge of monitoring the implementation of the National Youth Strategy. The KKR would be chaired by an independent National Youth Coordinator nominated by the Prime Minister.

The government’s new draft law scraps all of this. The KKR now would fall directly under the line ministry responsible for youth affairs, and the minister of that ministry would head the KKR. Civil society members of the KKR are no longer stipulated by the law, which relegates the composition of the KKR to the Council of Ministers. There will be no National Youth Coordinator.

The new draft law proposed by the government also makes no mention of the duties of the ministries and local governments with regards to youth policy, it scraps the proposal for the National Youth Service, and fails to list any of the target items for which the youth budget should be used.

The civil society draft law explicitly listed that the youth budget on a national and local level should be spent on policies such as encouraging youth to take part in democratic and social processes, the empowerment of youth organizations, studies on the position and needs of youth, and a national youth card. All of these have been scrapped in the government’s new draft law.

The draft law proposed by civil society also stipulated that the government should aim for 10% representation of youth in the legislative and executive branches of government, local government, and political parties. The government’s draft law has no such ambition.

The same draft law also envisioned the opening of youth centers all over Albania, which would assist in the implementation of youth policies. The government’s draft law, instead, speaks about “youth infrastructure,” without committing any budget or providing any vision about how this “infrastructure” should be created.

Finally, the government has scrapped the idea of a Commissioner for Youth Rights created at the office of the National Ombudsman.

The question is then: what value does the new draft law proposed by the government actually add to the barely existing legal framework dealing with youth policy? The answer is: hardly anything. No hard commitments are made, no new infrastructure created, no new funds allocated, civil society will have no influence on any part of the policy process, and no independent functionary will be able to monitor the government’s progress.

The contrast could not be bigger. On one hand a well-prepared draft law with considerable input from civil society, adhering to international standards while giving true hands and feet to national and local youth policy initiatives; on the other a law drafted in a hurry, without consultation, and which merely adds some bureaucracy without any budget or real “teeth.”

This shows not only that the government is willing to reject years of expertise and proper consultation with civil society on a whim, it also shows clearly that the Albanian government of Prime Minister Edi Rama couldn’t care less about the youth of Albania.