23 YEARS OF CRCA/ECPAT ALBANIA!
The Child Rights Cenntre Albania (CRCA) is the oldest child and youth non-governmental, non-political, non-religious and non-profit organisation with headquarters in the capital city, Tirana.
CRCA motivation is defined on the dictum: “Working together all of us can bring a prosperous world to children and young people!”
By March 1997 Albania was in total turmoil and people had taken to arms across the country in protest against the corruption, an authoritarian government and lack of a functioning state. Seven years after the people had overthrown the communist regime from power, the country was still far from living in a democratic state, where human rights of all are respected.
Children were among the most affected from the violence and unrest that followed. Media reports claim that more than 150 children were killed accidentally by bullets and other types of ammunitions. It is under such a background that a dedicated group of lawyers, doctors and journalists, with a extensive working experience on human rights, decided to come together to establish Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania (CRCA). Three years ago we commemorated our 20thanniversary as one of the leading human rights organisations in the country and the Western Balkans.
23 years of work for the advancement of children and youth rights is quite a short and long time in the history of CSO’s in the Balkans, where there has never been a well-established civil society. Such an oxymoron can explain the works of almost every organisation working for children, youth and human rights in Albania and Balkans. Lacking democratic values, a strong education system, political elites and geo-political realities made Albania a “perfect” country for political experiments, which still today continue to affect the rights and the welfare of our citizens.
Much has happened to our organisation during this period too. One of the largest achievements of our work and so many other CSO’s, colleagues and friends, public institutions and donors, has been the great advancement of children and youth rights, despite that the country still faces the same challenges that faced in 1997. Political parties try to hold and control every aspect of public life almost to the same degree that communist party did before it fell from power in early ‘90s. Thanks to our extensive work, expertise and networking, we have learned to deal with such challenges, by working with progressive members of the Parliament, Government and society by advocating every day for and on behalf of children. It has been hard but very rewarding.
We are proud together with the Parliament to have established the Child Rights Parliamentary Caucus (known as Friend’s of Children Parliamentary Group), while at the level of the Government a National Agency for Child Protection works to provide children and young people with free and affordable services. As of 1999 we were publicly asking the Government to establish a nation-wide agency to have the power to protect the children. Now this is a reality!
While for a long time we also have been advocating for the Government to fund well-established and supported public social services. Although we are yet far from that, the latest approved legislation gives us hope that the establishment of the national Social Fund – a request and recommendation of CRCA – will finally be used to fund free social services for children and young people in need across Albania.
In 1998 together with UNICEF we entered into a partnership agreement to work together for the opening of the first every National Child Helpline in Albania (ALO 116). ALO 116 was established and almost 10 years later more than half a million children have been able to share their stories and ask for counselling. More than 13,000 children and young people have asked for protection and assistance of public services. Today ALO 116 is an independent organisation and we work together with them to make it possible that no child is left alone when they need and ask for help.
CRCA has an enormous positive record when it comes to proposing new laws and policies for children and young people. Thanks to our joint work with the Parliament, several Ministries and legal experts we have brought the Albanian legislation in line with international child rights norms. Children today are better protected by Criminal and child rights law, social services and many other laws related to them.
Our work for youth has increased and extended from year to year. Together with our partners we have proudly supported the empowerment of youth NGOs to become the voice of youth and promote youth policies at local and central government. Our model of Tirana Youth in Leadership and later the support for Albanian National Youth Network (ANYN) has produced tangible results in promotion of youth rights across many policies and level of governments. Today ANYN is the major youth network widely recognised for its advocacy work on behalf of youth in Albania. We are also proud to have supported the establishment for the first time ever in Albania the Women’s Alliance and Youth Alliance of Members of city council in Tirana, a model that now has been implemented over more than 8 municipalities across Albania. Meanwhile as of 2005 successfully with the Coalition for Women and Youth in Politics we supported the legislation that required at least 30% quota for women representation in electoral lists. Thanks to our huge efforts today we have more than 30 women MPs in the Parliament, compare to only 7 when we started our work.
Donors and funders support is very important for our work to achieve the aims and goals that we have set in our organization. Thanks to their support we have been able to implement successfully, together with the amazing staff and experts, the initiatives and results that we have achieved. Today we are members of major networks such as ECPAT International, Global Missing Children Network, Eurochild, Albanian Coalition for Child Education etc. Meanwhile our Human Rights House concept has brought us together with many other major NGOs working to advance human rights in Albania.
In our 20th anniversary we also introduced a new logo of the organisation, which shows a child or young person freely and fully enjoying his/her rights. This is what we fight every day for! Equality, respect, advancement for children and young people!