Chairman Spahiu, Deputy Minister Tole, Ambassador Del Monaco, Deputy Director Dervishaj, CVE Coordinator Dervishi, distinguished guests:
I am honored to be here today as the Albanian Muslim Community re-initiates its program building resilience in youth and strengthening democracy in Albania.
You may have heard me say the United States has three pillars of engagement with Albania: Democracy, Defense, and Business. But you may not have considered that you are an active partner in those endeavors. Your work through this project is advancing our shared goals of strengthening Albanian Democracy and enhancing our shared Defense. Such work is not easy. It takes time and commitment. But you have focused your efforts where it will have the greatest long-term impact: on the youth who will shape Albania’s future.
Since 2014, the Albanian Muslim Community has partnered with the U.S. Embassy to counter violent extremism, through projects like the one we commemorate today. Capitalizing on its unparalleled reach and deep stores of trust in target communities, the AMC uses social activities and seminars to teach at-risk youth about democratic principles, human rights, civic duties, and tolerance. Young beneficiaries do not simply learn passively but are encouraged to become decision makers, ready to engage in participatory democracy. These are essential skills for building a strong sense of identity, belonging, and autonomy. Parents and local leaders also receive information to help recognize and address radicalization within their communities.
Through this project, the fifth of its kind, the AMC will again expand its model into new communities. It will also include, for the first time, girls and young women ages 14-25 in countering violent extremism programming, which will better align the project with international gender norms on women, peace, and security. Taken as a whole, the AMC’s project supports the implementation of the country’s National Strategy in Countering Violent Extremism with a fresh and innovative approach.
This project matters; your work matters. If left to fester, hate speech and radicalization can undermine democracies from the very foundation. I understand you have reached over 1,600 young Albanians through past years’ programming. Because of your endeavors, those young people – and their communities – have a better understanding of democracy, human rights, and tolerance, making them more resilient to violent extremism. It is important that this work continues.
As we celebrate this year the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, this project serves as a shining example of U.S.-Albanian collaboration. We have accomplished much together, especially in advancing Democracy and expanding security through shared Defense. We celebrate our collaboration and accomplishments as we look forward and engage this next generation of leaders. As Albania continues to show other countries the way in promoting interfaith harmony and countering violent extremism, I express the United States government’s commitment to be with you every step of the way, “krah për krah.” We are proud to call you a friend and ally.
I wish you much success with this project and your honorable work.