Issues for Debate: Agenda 2030, a Lens to Discuss Albanian Priorities during Election Season
By Brian J. Williams*
Albanian Daily News
Published May 26, 2017

Last week, a critical political agreement was reached,
enabling a more inclusive election.  This
clears the way for evidence-based discussions about the right priorities for
the people of Albania. Agenda 2030, also known as the Sustainable Development
Goals, offers an excellent framework for this debate.

In committing their nations to achieve Agenda 2030, the world's
leaders outlined a global ambition that requires citizens, governments and the
private sector to work in harmony.  This
collaboration will be productive, however, only in environments ruled reliably by
law, governed by accountable institutions. Sustainable Development Goal 16
calls for precisely this. In Albania, now that some of the critical decisions
have been made for justice reform, what actions will make all citizens feel
like they will have a fair and equal chance in front of the law?

On this foundation of law, the SDGs provide a lens for
citizens and their leaders to examine the full range of social priorities. 

For example, should Albania's public resources - however
great or small - be used to clean river watersheds, manage municipal waste, and
result in cleaner mountains and beaches for more tourism, and for future
generations?  Or should more be rather invested
in better education - training teachers on the latest student-competency based
approaches, improving school buildings and buying equipment, and expanding
vocational training? Or on national connectivity, rural infrastructure, and
agricultural development? What impacts would these investments have on
inequality, or on migration from town to city? 
What are the critical steps to ensure that the 'new' municipalities
-mayors, councils and communities- become robust centers of democratic
development, protecting human rights and promoting inclusion?

There are no right answers to the eternal dilemma of
too-much-to-do with not enough resources. But voters should be able to have a
say about priorities, and understand what some of the trade-offs are.

Any Albanian
political party that aspires to a prosperous, sustainable and just society
should be fluent with the Goals - commonly referred to as the #SDGs.

For example: how quickly can Albania eliminate poverty (SDG 1
No poverty) which currently stands at 14.3%.( 2012 data). Or respond to the
needs of vulnerable groups including children in remote areas, still at risk of
insufficient nutrition and food insecurity (SDG 2)? What is your party's
understanding of who is being left behind in Albania?

How will SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and SDG 4 (Quality
Education) be achieved?  When does
Albania expect to achieve the OECD average of 6% of GDP expenditure on each
when current investments in education and health are at 3% of the GDP?

Today, the women of Albania are poorer than the men, are less
likely to have a formal sector job (especially on farms), and too many still
require permission from husbands or male relatives to go about their lives. More than half of
Albanian women (aged 15-49) have experienced at least one form of domestic
violence in their lifetime. To address these human rights challenges, what is your party proposing
for Government action - not just at the central level but at all levels,
including in Municipalities - to achieve gender equality (SDG 5)? 

Collectively, the #SDGs lay out the full panorama of what
every United Nations Member State on the planet - 193 Governments representing 7.5
billion people with an unimaginable spread of governance styles, cultures,
religions and resources -consider, despite their diversity, to be

Albanian citizens should have clean water (SDG 6) and clean
energy (SDG 7).  Wide-spread employment
opportunities (SDG 8), especially for youth (youth unemployment is still 30 %),
should be linked to innovative private companies (SDG 9) and growth policies
should strive to reduce inequalities, not enrich the wealthy at the price of
exclusion of others (SDG 10).  What
policies would your party prioritize to do that?

And in a moment of global foresight, UN Member States drafted
#SDGs that require all nations to plan for a planet that can be enjoyed by our
kids, and our kids' kids.  As the planet
migrates towards cities, urban centers need to be planned sustainably (SDG 11),
benefiting from sustainable production and recycling (SDG 12).  Nations - as Albania has exemplified through commitment
to reduce CO2 emissions by 11.5% -- need to think about the climate (SDG 13),
as well as protect its sea-based (SDG 14) and land-based (SDG 15) natural
resources, especially in national parks where biodiversity may be threatened by
infrastructure development. 

Albania has launched many fundamental reforms in recent
years, but also continues to face many deep challenges.  But in this election season, leaders must put
people and planet back at the center of debate. 
Describing how an Albanian Government would aim to achieve the #SDGs
will help Albanian citizens - all of them, whether rich or poor, urban or
rural, Roma or Egyptian, male or female - believe that public leaders are
putting their interests first. 

* UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative  & the UN Country Team in Albania 

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