The aim of this research project is to determine if the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and its resources have been used to drive progress towards more open, accountable, and responsive government in the Albanian context. In order to address this aim, the research focuses on two specific themes: 1) the institutionalization of the open government (OG) agenda in Albania; and 2) the relevance of the OGP process within a decentralization reform. The first theme focuses on the open government movement in Albania: not only when and why it started, but also how it is perceived by pro-reform actors, its relevance to the country’s democratic advancement, and the salience of OGP to that movement. The second theme evaluates if and how OGP inputs have influenced the drafting and implementation of a specific open government reform: the push to decentralize local government units as a means to increase transparency, accountability and participation. Throughout, this study tracks how Albania’s OGP membership has informed the country’s open government journey.
The study uses interviews, literature reviews, and substantial secondary research to investigate these themes, and to place them within Albania’s unique political context. The following findings have been generated:
- Local stakeholders refer to OGP as a relatively minor instrument supporting Albania’s journey towards European Union (EU) accession and democratization. OGP is part of a much broader process of change, and its pro-reform instruments and spaces coexist with many others. While sometimes OGP appears to reinforce those processes, stakeholders often question the concrete value add of the initiative visà-vis alternatives.
- Some leaders within government leverage OGP values in order to signal that they are committed to adopting anti-corruption and transparency norms in line with the EU and its accession requirements – even though these requirements are not formally tied to OGP.
- Along these lines, the government and its international partners, including the US Embassy and others, have driven the open government agenda in Albania. The vast majority of OGP commitments were already part of pre-existing government plans, and were chosen with respect to existing funding arrangements with donors. The Ministry of Innovation and Public Administration and some line ministries are the few departments in the government that are explicitly working on OGP.
- Grassroots actors and formal civil society have played a comparatively small role in open government reforms. The navigational expertise of ii CSOs based in Tirana has improved. Grassroots CSOs’ navigational expertise has not improved, nor has CSOs’ ability to engage in productive collective action on open government issues. Even those few CSOs working on open government issues do not view OGP as a potentially useful platform, and awareness of how OGP might support local civil society organizations is very limited. This means that, though CSO participation in OGP has improved over time, and some organizations have supported OGP-related conferences organized by the EU, the UN, and the US Embassy in Tirana, civil society is largely uninvolved with implementing and monitoring OGP commitments.
- Similarly, to date public officials and civil society activists have continued, in the main, to lack awareness of OGP and OGP processes.
- OGP processes have given international partners a window through which to provide technical advice on open government to the Albanian government. That advice does not reshape the open government agenda so much as underpin existing efforts. As a result, it boosts stability, rather than fundamental democratic reform, in the country.