The NES in Albania was formulated in 2013 in response to a number of critical and urgent challenges in land governance, caused chiefly by difficulties in the transition from communism. These were: i) achieving legal improvements in the ownership of agricultural, forest, and pasture land; ii) making progress with the forest and pasture land transfer process; and iii) strengthening the role and capacities of forest and pasture users’ associations, as well as women’s involvement in decision-making processes.
In 2016, a new government policy transferred the management of forests and pastures to local municipalities for the first time. The move took local government officials by surprise and put them in control of important natural resources which they had neither the capacity nor knowledge to deal with. The needs of both the municipalities and the users of the land they now managed became important considerations for NES stakeholders.
“For us, it was important to highlight the difficulties that municipalities now face in managing forest lands, due to the territorial reform,” explained Albora Kacani of the National Federation of Communal Forests and Pastures of Albania (NFCFPA). “In these municipalities there were also forest users who we wanted to help develop agreements with the municipalities for use of the forests.” Usership and ownership rights are extremely important for local communities as the forest and its products are the basis for their livelihoods, and so the NES has been particularly engaged in this process, providing technical advice to municipalities newly charged with the management of forest land but without the necessary resources and know-how to take on this new role.
The platform is currently being guided by a Coordination and Consultative Committee (CCC), which brings together all NES stakeholders (parliamentarians, the Ministry of Environment, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the World Bank, municipalities, NFCFPA, etc.) in regular formal and informal meetings, field visits, and consultations. The legitimacy of the CCC is demonstrated by the fact that at present it includes MPs who are part of a working group currently drafting a new forestry law in parliament. According to Kacani: “The NES has really given us more credibility and recognition with other stakeholders. Recently an MP who is also on the committee asked us directly to comment on an initial evaluation of the new forestry law. That was a very important development for us. It shows that the government is taking us seriously and values our input.”
Albania’s NES membership includes international stakeholders as well as national actors. Drita Dade represents the World Bank on the CCC: “The committee is an important venue for meeting and discussing issues with the other stakeholders. The fact that we have so many different types of stakeholder greatly increases the strength and credibility of the body.”
The NES has also been focused on raising awareness on women’s land rights participation in forest users’ associations, as Kacani explained: “With the ‘I decide as well’ campaign, we have been showing women how they can become part of the decision-making structures that impact directly on their livelihoods. We have now seen 120 out of 240 forest users’ associations appoint women to their boards. This has been one of the criteria for eligibility for funding from major donors such as Sida and the World Bank. This year, the NES will enable monitoring of this progress to ensure that this participation is actually being implemented in an inclusive way, and not merely to achieve funding eligibility.”
NES Albania is linked to ILC Commitment 4, 6 and 7.
NES Albania Achievements
The NES has drawn the government’s attention to forest-related emergency issues.
The NES has built the awareness of women and women’s producer groups on land and forest rights and has encouraged their participation in decision-making processes in forest users’ associations.
The NES has promoted good practices of traditional use and protection of forests by local communities at local, national, and regional (Balkan) levels.
Through NES activities, forest and pasture users’ associations and municipality staff have gained capacity to carry out participatory mapping and planning through the use of GPS and geographic information systems (GIS), strengthening their ability to manage natural resources more strategically.
The NES has contributed to collecting inputs on policy at the local level in order to bring these to national-level discussions.
Relations between stakeholders have been significantly improved through engagement in the NES.
The NES has resulted in an annual plan for forests and natural resources, which has been approved by the municipality council in a pilot site.
The NES has influenced the implementation of territorial and administrative reforms related to forest and natural resources to ensure that people are put at their centre.