Since the collapse of communism, Albania has experienced two phases of SSR. The first one saw official military and security institutions remain heavily dependent on political elites until the 1997 crisis, while the second one consisted on the introduction of major reforms, culminating with the country’s accession to NATO in 2009 (Qesaruku and Baka, 2010). The international community has been greatly involved in supporting SSR programmes, for instance through the deployment of the EU Multinational Advisory Police Element (MAPE) until 2001, or the Weapons in Exchange for Development programme led by UNDP (Ryan, 2006).
In this context, Sweden has a long history of support to Albania. In partnership with UNDP, it first led on Small Arms and Light Weapons collection project, and later co-implemented with UNICEF, a Juvenile Justice programme working in pre-detention and detention sites dealing with minors in conflict with the law. The on-going Swedish Support on Community Policing Programme (SACP) finds particular resonance in the Albanian State Police’s 2014-2017 Strategy, which highlights the centrality of community policing as their chosen model.
Overall, substantial progress has been made, but Albania is still facing endemic crime and widespread corruption, which in turn hampers public trust in security institutions.
The importance of community policing as a strategy for the Albania State Police allowed the SACP to focus on three main areas:
1) support for the identification and start-up of a performance management mechanism for the ASP;
2) partnership development, including youth and police partnerships;
3) tackling domestic violence.
Addressing partnership development, the Small Grants Scheme (SGS) is part of the SACP and is based on the notion that the police need to develop trust with the population it is serving, namely by focusing specifically on youth and improving the image of the police. Committees have been established in several locations in Albania, comprised of representatives from the local governments, regional education directorates, the police, parents’ boards, minority communities, and youth councils. These committees award small grants (up to 5’000€) to individuals, NGOs or consortiums to implement grassroots projects.
Of various nature, these projects should either: build partnerships between the police and schools; aim to promote and involve young people in activities on education; cultivate a sense of community; build partnerships with vulnerable groups and increase confidence of these groups towards the police; find alternatives for peaceful conflict resolution and civic education youth; raise the awareness of young people on issues such as drug abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, diversity issues, traffic/road safety, gambling, and bullying (Guidelines on Small Grant Schemes, Swedish Support to the Ministry of Interior/Albanian State Police on Community Policing). Once an individual project is selected, the grant is administered and managed by the Programme Management Team (PMT) in cooperation with the Albanian State Police and local stakeholders.
The SGS are based on participatory approaches, and have therefore strengthened:
- Accessibility: the committees are present in several districts of the Albanian territory, a decentralisation allowed by the design of the programme, and which overcomes issues of geographic distance and weak infrastructure. Also, the eligibility criteria for grants are flexible, since recipients of the grants can be individuals or groups.
- Local ownership: projects implemented at a local scale, with local actors, achieve limited but tangible results in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and ensure local ownership of the project. Civil society actors and local communities are empowered through joint decision-making, and their relationship with local authorities is strengthened.
- Representativity: local actors, including representatives of vulnerable groups and local associations, play a central role in proposing grassroots initiatives and selecting them for implementation.
The committees positively impact dialogue at the local level, by bringing stakeholders together to discuss security concerns and identify solutions and priorities in dealing with these issues. The selection and implementation processes are furthermore considered transparent, thanks namely to a clear communication strategy and good media coverage of the various projects. Overall, the impression that the projects are locally owned is widespread.
The Small Grants Scheme is currently in its fourth phase, which encompasses 17 projects. Since the effective launch of the programme in 2013, almost 40 initiatives have been put into place, reaching up to several hundred participants at the time. Partnerships between schools and the Albanian State Police have been particularly numerous, and activities across projects have been diverse – ranging from training workshops on crime prevention, to awareness-raising sessions with youth, the production of promotional and educative material, and cultural or sports events. Regarding themes, the SGS has similarly encouraged diversity by addressing the harmful effects of alcohol, drugs and gambling, discrimination faced by the LGBT community, human trafficking and armed criminality, and by fostering alternative resolution of conflict mechanisms and the development of trust between vulnerable groups and the police.
Lessons from Community Policing: process, tools and transparency, Victoria Walker, ISSAT Blog, 2014
Security sector reform in Albania: Challenges and failures since the collapse of communism, M. Qesaruku and B. Baka, 2010.
Security Sector Reform in Albania, Initiative for Peacebuilding, 2009