Tirana in Tirana Times Library a meeting was held to strengthen cooperation among civil society organizations, both international and national, as well as local entities, in addressing the issues arising from the government’s decision to review the boundaries of Protected Areas in the Republic of Albania. The meeting aimed to coordinate a common agenda for further actions in this regard. The activity took place in both physical and online formats and was attended by representatives from civil society organizations, academic institutions, journalists, and independent environmental experts. The meeting focused on the following key topics:
- Kristi Bashmili, a representative of AOS served as the meeting’s moderator. In addition to welcoming remarks, he gave a brief presentation on the cause of reviewing the boundaries of Protected Areas. His presentation emphasized the entire process, from its inception to the presentation day, highlighting the irregularities in the process and the civil society’s efforts to ensure a transparent process, which was not facilitated by responsible institutions.
- Ms. Irena Dule, a Legal Expert at ResPublica, led a discussion on recent environmental causes, the need for litigation, and achievements in this regard. The discussion particularly focused on the necessity for the Protected Areas cause to engage in a litigation process.
- Mr. Rodion Gjoka, representing Co-Plan and project manager of GreenAL, greeted the wide participation and conveyed greetings on behalf of Co-Plan, the Swedish Government, and SIDA. Mr. Gjoka emphasized the strong link that should exist between CSOs and the community as a robust link in solving problems. He also highlighted the importance of expediting the litigation process in this matter.
- Mr. Taulant Bino, AOS, delivered an informative and technical presentation on the negative impact of the review process of Protected Areas on habitats and biodiversity. Mr. Bino stressed the importance of in-depth and specific studies for each of the Protected Areas before considering boundary changes if necessary. The presentation focused on specific areas, such as the Karavasta wild bird park, demonstrating significant negative effects of boundary changes in this region.
- Mr. Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania, discussed the importance of CSO engagement in decision-making and the significance of their network to further strengthen environmental causes in Albania. Mr. Nika talked about the importance of a memorandum of cooperation/understanding among CSOs for the Protected Areas cause. In this discussion, much of the focus was on specific cases, including the successful Vjosa River case.
- Mr. Dorian Matliaj and Ms. Dorina Asllani, respectively, the Executive Director of ResPublica and Legal Consultant at CLE, presented the Litigation Strategy for the Protected Areas cause. Mr. Matliaj emphasized the importance of continuing this process within the month of September. Ms. Asllani highlighted the crucial role of environmental expertise to support court appeals and stressed the need for a cooperation memorandum between organizations, as an essential tool for legal proceedings.
- Mr. Ferdinand Bego, a representative of FSHN, focused his discussion on a specific case in Butrint National Park. Mr. Bego highlighted that rezoning in this National Park opens the door to unsustainable urban developments/resorts, permanently damaging the environment and cultural heritage in the area.
- Ms. Ola Mitre, a representative of TV SCAN and the All Green Centre organization, emphasized the importance of media, especially investigative journalism, in environmental causes. This discussion emphasized cooperation between CSOs and journalists and the development of sustainable communication channels.
In conclusion, several key issues were identified as future steps:
- Drafting and distributing a memorandum of cooperation among CSOs for the Protected Areas review cause.
- Establishing expert groups and developing specific expertise for protected areas to support court appeals, within the month of September.
- Drafting and distributing an advocacy and communication strategy.
The activities are part of the “NGOs for Biodiversity Conservation” project, supported by #GreenAL. Funding for this project comes from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), with contributions from the Swedish Government. The project is implemented by Co-PLAN Institute for Habitat Development, in collaboration with CISP Sviluppo dei Popoli, VIS Albania, and COSV – Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo.