Vice Prime Minister, Mrs. Senida Mesi, presents the Voluntary National Review on Sustainable Development Goals - ECOSOC HLPF 2018

Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Mr. Secretary General,
Dear Colleagues and Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
I’m very pleased to present the Voluntary National Review on the SDGs on behalf of the Republic of Albania.
This report presents the journey of Albania towards the achievement of SDGs  from the moment - three years ago - when we embarked on Agenda 2030 and placed it at the center of our country long term- development prospects, until today .
We consider the VNR as an important step and evidence of this commitment in a comprehensive and integrated way, reflected as such in our stock taking report.
The VNR presents, in one hand, progress towards implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals with factual data on the achievement of targets and indicators, as well as and reflections on how far we have come along the way and which steps will come next.
 
We have a clear long vision for the development of our country: “Accession to the European Union (EU)” as an over-arching priority with full political consensus and nationwide support which orients us: “to become a strengthening democracy, with a competitive, stable and sustainable economy, and with guarantees of fundamental human rights and liberties”.
In this context, we have worked to integrate the Agenda 2030 with the EU integration, as key processes that are mutually reinforcing.
For this purpose, several important initiatives have been undertaken by the Government of Albania.
- A multi-stakeholder, high level Inter-Ministerial Committee on the SDGs, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister was appointed in 2017 with the task to oversee the SDG achievement process. The Committee comprises key government institutions as well as other stakeholders from the business community, civil society, academia and international organizations.
- The Albanian Parliament has unanimously approved a resolution committing to the promotion, implementation, and monitoring of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.
- Other actors such as civil society, academia, private sector are increasingly engaged into the SDG achievement process
- The UN agencies and other international organizations in Albania are supporting Albania’s efforts in achieving the SDGs and we are grateful for their kind contribution.
Our focus for the Voluntary National Review comprises these components:
1) The five European Integration priorities for the country, as preconditions for further progress in our path towards EU accession negotiations;
2) The six government priorities for the period 2014-2017, in order to show progress of government comments for developing the country;
3) Two key tangible reforms and success stories;
4) Progress on the resilience agenda;
5) The Statistical annex on selected SDG indicators.
 
The first topic is focused on the progress towards European Union integration as key development driver and as a sound way of achieving a sustainable future for the people of Albania. Albania has achieved major milestones in the EU integration process, the latest being the European Commission (EC)’s unconditional recommendation of April 2018 to open accession talks with the country followed by the positive decision of the EU Council to set out the path towards accession negotiations in June 2019, has been guided by the progress and completion of many complex and interrelated reforms, including five areas identified as priorities in this process, which progress have been presented in the VNR:
1. Public administration reform, stable institutions and a modern, professional and depoliticized civil service
2. Strengthening the independence, efficiency and accountability of judicial institutions
3. Increasing the fight against corruption
4. Increasing the fight against organized crime
5. Ensuring the protection of human rights, including property rights.
 
Our public administration reform has progressed by ensuring a consolidated regulatory frame regarding civil service, while we have implemented institutional and legal frameworks for increasing the performance of the civil servants.
A transformative Justice Reform agenda approved by the Parliament is under implementation. It will ensure strengthening the independence, efficiency and accountability of judicial institutions. The reform envisages amendments to the Constitution of the Republic, development of new legislation, and reform of key judicial institutions. The results are encouraging. As of today, a number of judges and prosecutors have withdrawn from the vetting process, whilst out of 15 vetted judges, only 9 have passed.  In the same time, we have been focusing on the fight against corruption and fight against organized crime, whereas positive trend is observed, towards a solid track record of investigations, while prosecutions and convictions in corruption and criminal cases are continuing.
With respect to ensuring the protection of human rights, including property rights, we have implemented actions to ensure that “no one is left behind”, putting special focus on the children rights protection, Roma communities, minorities rights, etc.These actions include, amongst others:
- Approval and implementation of the National Action Plan for Integration of Roma and Egyptians 2016–2020 that aims to eliminate barriers that Roma and Egyptians face in accessing services and improve their living conditions.
- New law on Social Housing which enables the local government to intervene through investments and local actions to urbanize Roma neighborhoods.
- Increase of Roman children enrollment at schools- 66 percent attended early education in 2017 compared to 23 percent in 2011
In the context of EU integration, Albania has achieved considerable progress in integrating with other countries in the Balkan region. Albania is part of the Regional Economic Area (REA) for the Western Balkans, a regional initiative supported by the EU for the six Western Balkan Countries (WB6), part of the Berlin Process Agenda. REA represents a joint approach to furthering economic cooperation in the Western Balkans, complementary to the European integration process for the Western Balkan-6 countries.
Being part of this initiative represents a step forward for Albania and will deepen regional economic cooperation based on EU rules and standards, while further contributing to integration into the EU. The side event that we are hosting as part of this High Level Forum, in collaboration with two Western Balkan Countries- Serbia and Montenegro, will contribute also to showcase the progress so far in terms of regional economic cooperation and connectivity agenda for the region.
The work towards sustainable development, covers a wide spectrum of areas , which are marked as key priorities in the National Strategy for Development and Integration, aligned SDG goals,  It includes:
1. Innovative and citizen-centered public services;
2. Recovery and financial consolidation of the energy sector;
3. Fostering innovation and competitiveness, Foreign Direct Investments & domestic investments;
4. Integrated water management;
5. Integrated land management;
6. Financial structural reform.
 
Our Innovative and citizen-centered public services (which links to Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) have involved a fundamental shift from operating in silos and narrow view, within government, to a more holistic citizen-centric approach, reinventing the way public administration delivers services to its citizens. This reform has sustained inroads in combatting corruption, fostering a culture of customer care, decrease “red tape”, enhancing public access, and increasing efficiency in the Albanian public administration.
Second, we have ensured total Recovery and financial consolidation of the energy sector (which link to Goal 8 – Clean energy), by ensuring strong and coordinated commitment and engagement of all government and public entities relevant to the electricity sector. In Albania, more than 90 percent of the electricity production comes from hydropower plants. As a result of the reform, losses from the electricity grid dropped to 28 percent in 2016, while the electricity bill collection rates improved to 87 percent, compared to 67 percent in 2013.
The measure undertaken to ensure fiscal stability have been parallel to financial structural reform, which was focused on improving the government’s revenues collection. After clearing a large share of arrears to the private sector in 2014, the country’s fiscal deficit initially widened, to 5.2 percent of GDP (from 3.5% in 2010). The impact was on the consolidation of the macro-economic growth and fiscal stability, as well as promotion of business and economic development impulses.
We are aware that we have to do more on Fostering innovation and competitiveness, Foreign Direct Investments & domestic investments, which remains still a priority for the Government. We are striving to implement a reform agenda to promote domestic and foreign investment, in order to boost economic potential for the economic growth. Our aim is to encourage private sector investment in the country, in particular by accelerating private sector growth and creating jobs, achieving in the same time Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all, and Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure.
Regarding the priority Integrated water management, the Government is demonstrating an ongoing commitment to a new and integrated approach, aiming to improve the overall performance of the water sector. Our country’s availability of water resources per capita and the approach to water management will contribute to achievement of Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.
The last government priority for 2014-2017, which still remains at the focus, is the Integrated Land Management. Main actions are to be oriented to improve the system of property rights, to establish an Integrated Multipurpose Cadaster and to empower the land market.
I would like to put into a special attention to efforts in “leaving no one behind”, focusing on aspects relevant to building resilient societies. The social protection and inclusion encompassed 15% of public spending on SDGs. One of central policies in this aspect remains Women empowerment. We have marked significant progress, while ensuring women’s full and effective participation for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life. The percentage of women in Parliament increased from 16.7 percent in 2013 to 23 percent in 2015, reaching 29.3 percent in 2017, with 41 female MPs, representing the highest share since 1997. For the first time, we have a woman General in the armed forces and there are more women police. And we will do much more to increase women’s empowerment and achieve gender equality.  
Dear participants,
In conclusion, two success stories are shared in the report, demonstrating tangible and incremental impact to the citizens: the Urban Renaissance Program, contributing to Goal, Sustainable and affordable cities and the Justice System Reform, contributing to Goal 16, Peace, Justice and strong institutions.  
The Urban renaissance program aimed at urban transformation, in order to stimulate positive economic potentials, social and environmental development aspects of urban centers, as synergy anchors spreading growth impulses at the local, regional and national level. This program serves the achievement of Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure and Goal 11: Sustainable cities.
The second success story, is related to the state-transforming reform on justice system.. We expect this reform to have a large impact on the fight against corruption and organized crime, but also influence to more investments to promote socio-economic development all over the country.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to emphasize that Albania’s main goal is related to EU integration: We consider the European Union as the home we belong to. The need to work towards EU integration, and continue with the reforms remains unseparated from the actions towards the achievement of 2030 Agenda, as we consider that by increasing our endeavors, towards the implementation of 2030 Agenda, we are stepping further the EU accession.
We will do our utmost to realize our vision because we strongly believe that our development contributes to the Balkan region and to the European region, and a peaceful and sustained region implies a better world that we all wants to thrive.  
Many thanks for your attention.

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