*as prepared for delivery
Good Morning Chairman Spahiu, Deputy Minister Kuko, Coordinator Dervishi, religious leaders, distinguished guests. It is my honor to be here with you today.
I love constructing communities. My father owned a construction company that built communities in Guam, and I like seeing new communities rise out of nowhere, where people can lead better lives and businesses can prosper. But I am here today to talk to you about a different kind of construction. I want to speak about building citizens and society.
Since 2014, the Albanian Muslim Community has partnered with the U.S. Embassy to counter violent extremism, through projects like the one we celebrate today. The AMC does so by developing critical thinking skills in young people and sparking resilience in communities – by building citizens and society. Through social activities and seminars, the AMC urges young people to discuss democratic principles, human rights, and the duty to disagree respectfully. The AMC provides information to parents so they can identify and address radicalization in their communities. These are difficult issues to address but it is essential to address them. Hatred and radicalization can undermine even the strongest foundations if you allow them to grow. If unchecked, violent extremism can even topple democratic structures in neighborhoods nearby.
Through this project, the fourth of its kind, the AMC will expand its model into new regions. It will also establish a youth network on CVE, the first of its kind in Albania. This network will allow young Albanians to exchange ideas, discuss challenges, and collect best practices on countering radicalization where they live. The AMC is helping young people expand Albania’s democratic architecture, giving them a stake in the future of their country and ensuring the framework supports all of Albanian society.
Construction can be painstaking. You must place every brick and drive every nail carefully. That is why collaboration is essential for this project. And that is why the AMC involves government, civil society, and media in its grand design. Albania’s National Strategy and Action Plan on CVE continues to serve as the project’s blueprints. The participation of government, such as the Deputy Minister and the CVE Coordinator, is key to building this structure.
The recent return of four children and a mother from Syria shows that this project is more essential than ever. Fortunately, the AMC has solid partners, including the U.S. Embassy and all the leaders in this room. This project advances Albanian democracy and defense, two of the United States’ three priorities in Albania. And we will continue to partner with you to advance Albania’s determination to be a net contributor to stability in the Western Balkans. As Albania works to lead the Balkans on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism, we will be right there with you.
As I said, I like to see new communities. But, as the U.S. Ambassador to Albania, our NATO ally, I like seeing young people build a more secure and democratic nation even more. Thank you.