Thank you, Assistant Administrator Bierman, for the insightful reflection on the Transparency Academy, on USAID’s legacy in Albania, and the broader development challenges that lie ahead. USAID can be proud of the significant contribution it has made to Albania’s development over the last 30 years. We may be transitioning the nature of USAID’s presence in Albania, but our commitment and purpose remain as strong as ever. The U.S. government and the people of the United States remain committed to a democratic, secure, and prosperous future for Albania. We are dedicated to an Albania that becomes a full member of the European community and nurtures a sense of optimism in its citizens about their future.
As Albania strives toward that bright future, it must redouble its efforts to eradicate the single biggest obstacle in its way: corruption. Corruption and the perception of corruption continue to undermine the accomplishments and progress that has been made. Albania has taken steps forward, but corruption weighs down each step; indeed, corruption sometimes forces a step backward. The answer to corruption is not only better and stronger laws, but a different culture and systemic impediments to corruption. Albania must be a place where corruption not only brings punishment and shame, but is harder and harder to perpetrate. This is where USATA comes in.
USATA will enable and empower citizens to be aware of the prevalence of corruption, to develop the tools necessary to articulate their concerns, and to be capable of effectively demanding and tracking change from the Government, businesses, and fellow citizens.
USATA will encourage public dialogue on accountability and bolster advocacy toward increased transparency. Undoubtedly, modifying habits and building public trust will take time, but this U.S.-Albanian alliance will ensure that the technical resources and know-how are available for the long-term.
Although the Transparency Academy’s doors have yet to open physically, today’s kickoff lays a cornerstone, which is reinforced through your involvement. The Transparency Academy is here, and importantly, it is yours. This is not passive ownership, but it requires active engagement. The United States expects and hopes that leaders from all corners of society will participate in this effort. By “yours” – the fight against corruption in society needs to become a personal commitment for each and every one of you. This is the way forward.
So today, I ask you for your commitment. The cornerstone has been laid, but we need to work together to build the Academy so that it addresses Albania’s problems effectively. This new institution is our commitment to the future of Albania.