Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Koski at USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project Event

Distinguished Deputy Prime Minister Brace, members of cabinet, members of Parliament, dear mayors, dear deputy ministers, members of the donor community, and distinguished guests.

Allow me to take a moment to express the United States’ solidarity with the Albanian people in the wake of last weekend’s earthquake.  It has been an unsettling past several days, but we have been truly inspired by the Albanian people’s strength and resilience in the face of this difficult challenge.  Our thoughts are especially with those who suffered injuries or damage to their property.  We wish you a swift recovery and a restored sense of normalcy.

For more than 25 years, the United States has been a steadfast partner in support of Albania’s development efforts.  With our support, and that of other international and nongovernmental partners, Albania has made great progress in areas such as rule of law and good governance.  USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project has been a proud contributor to that progress.

Launched in January 2012 by USAID’s implementing partner, Tetra Tech, PLGP has achieved a long list of successes.  These include the adoption of the local government finance law, the law on the Organization and Functioning of Local Governments, the law on urban planning, and the adoption of the National Strategy for Decentralization and Local Governance.

Each of these achievements transformed key aspects of Albania’s democracy and helped create a government that is more transparent, more accessible, and more focused on the citizens it serves.

PLGP did not achieve this success alone.  Success came through partnerships.  Partnerships with you and your colleagues from the Albanian government, local governments, non-governmental organizations, municipalities and other local offices.

Above all, success came from the partnership with the Albanian people who invested tremendous time and effort to achieve these goals.  All of you, all of us, should be proud of our shared accomplishments.  Congratulations!

As we celebrate past success, we must be mindful that our work is far from done.  Development is never cheap, so reliable future funding will be critical to the continued efforts to strengthen Albania’s rule of law and good governance.

The international community, including the United States, will continue to support those efforts with our assistance.  For example, the United States, through USAID, will continue to help through its new multi-year, multi-million dollar Next Gen training project.  This project will help institutionalize strong management practices in both the Albanian civil service and private sector.

But, even as donor dollars continue to flow in, Albania must also dedicate itself to becoming more self-reliant. Donors will not donate forever.  The Government of Albania’s challenge will be to increasingly mobilize its national resources to advance these important development goals.

Unfortunately, our goals of improved rule of law and good governance for Albania are not shared by everyone.  For corrupt officials, the change we are bringing is bad news.  It is like sand in their gears, grinding their corrupt activities to a halt.

We know they will put up a fight and will work to block your efforts to advance these important goals at every turn.  But our message to you is this: Don’t be deterred.  Don’t be discouraged.

Continue to stand up and fight for the reforms that will strengthen Albania’s society for you and for future generations.

You believe in a brighter future for Albania.  So do we, and we will continue to be your partner as you realize that goal.

Thank you.