On March 9 2009, the Albanian Parliament adopted the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Agency for Supporting Civil Society (Law No. 10093). The law was signed by the President and was published in the Official Journal of Albania on April 2, 2009, and will enter into force 15 days after its publication. The Agency will support activities aiming to encourage the sustainable development of civil society and the creation of favorable conditions for civic initiatives. In addition to organizations, part of its funds will go to individuals for research, participation in international events, and trainings and scholarships related to civil society.
This law follows the example of countries such as Hungary, Croatia, and Estonia which have created similar structures (funds). The Agency is a public law entity managed by a Supervisory Board that will distribute grants for NGOs. The financing for the grants comes from the state budget and, for 2009, its amount will be US$1 million. Moreover, the law specifies that the state cannot provide a smaller budget to the Agency than the budget it was given the previous year so it is expected that the funds to be distributed by the Agency will grow throughout the next several years. In addition, the state budget will cover the administrative expenses of the Agency from a separate budget line and will provide premises for its activity.
Notably, civil society representatives will constitute a majority in the Board (5 representatives) while the central public administration will have 4 representatives. Board members serve for 4-year terms, with the possibility of being re-elected only once. The Council of Ministers’ first task after the adoption of the law is to prepare procedures for Board nomination and to appoint the first Supervisory Board (within 30 days after the law has entered into force).
The creation of this Agency for Supporting Civil Society is yet another example that governments in Central and Eastern Europe are realizing the importance of a stable civil society sector. Even more importantly, governments are willing to give up part of their control over who will be supported and how (through outsourcing the grantmaking to such newly created and more independent entities) because they understand that there is an added value in independent civic organizations participating in governance. It now remains to be seen how this good idea will be implemented in practice and make sure the new Agency remains independent from influence from the government in distributing grants.
The Law was developed under a project funded by GTZ and carried out by GOPA Consultants. BCNL took part in the process of preparation of the law by providing comments on its text and worked on different acts related to the setting up of the Agency such as procedures for Board nomination, Statute of the Agency, grantmaking procedures, and other related documents.