Final evaluation of Regional Development Programme Northern Albania

Duration: January 2015 – March 2015

Partner: ÖIR GmbH, Austria  & Center for Regional and Local Development Studies, Albania

Funding: RDP Northen Albania (ADA&SDC)

The government of Albania, Qark Councils as well as donor agencies of Austria (ADA) and Switzerland (SDC) recognized the shortcomings of development in Northern Albania and decided to actively promote the regional development efforts through the Regional Development Programme Northern Albania (RDP). These efforts insert themselves in dynamics of territorial reform promoting decentralization and regional development as principal instruments of Albania’s integration efforts into the European Union.

So the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) initiated and funded jointly the Regional Development Programme Northern Albania (RDP). The RDP was implemented from January 2011 to December 2014 (48 months) by a Consortium of three organisations: ÖAR Regionalberatung (Austria) as the Lead Partner, the Helvetas-Intercooperation (Switzerland) and the Co-PLAN Institute (Albania).

The RDP was operating in the territory of two Northern Albanian regions (Qarks) – Shkodër and Lezhë – which have a total population of over 560,000 and significant development needs. The total budget of the programme was EUR 3,997,360.

The RDP duration ended in December 2014 and its performance is to be evaluated. The ÖAR Regionalberatung GmbH, lead partner of the RDP consortium commissioned the Austrian Institute for Regional Studies and Spatial Planning (ÖIR GmbH) in cooperation with the Center for the Study of European Politics for Regional and Local Development (CRLDS) to conduct the final evaluation of the Regional Development Programme (RDP) Northern Albania.

Overall objective of this report/evaluation

In line with the ADA Guidelines for project and programme evaluations, the programme document from July 2012 states that RDP will conduct two evaluations during the implementation period: a mid-term evaluation and a final evaluation.

This is the final evaluation report of the Regional Development Programme (RDP) Northern Albania.

The final evaluation serves

to assess the overall results and the impact of the project, to assess challenges/obstacles faced in course of the implementation as well as solutions taken,

to sum up the lessons learned and findings as well as to draw conclusions, to share recommendations for any follow-up action/intervention at national or regional level on the one side as well as for possible requirements to review and consequently revise national frameworks for regional development.

Structure of this evaluation report

This report is structured as follows:

Features and objectives of the Regional Development Programme (RDP)

Objectives and methods of the evaluation

Evaluation findings in chapter 3,4,5 and 6

Background – Regional Development Programme (RDP)

As this is the evaluation report of the Regional Development Programme (RDP) this chapter summarizes briefly the main features of the RDP including its objectives, Expected Results, activities, steering and management structures, beneficiaries and budget breakdown.

PROGRAMME OVERVIEW

The regions of Shkodra and Lezha are among those that have the largest disparities among the urban and rural population. Citizens of these Qarks aspire to improving their living standard which can be achieved through intensifying the regional development efforts. Government of Albania, Qark Councils as well as donor agencies of Austria and Switzerland recognized the shortcomings of development in Northern Albania and decided to actively promote the regional development efforts through the Regional Development Programme Northern Albania (RDP).

The programme is an initiative valued at over 4 million Euros to be implemented over a 4-year period. This amount includes 2 million Euros that have been allocated to a special fund, which will be used to finance the design and implementation of projects with regional development impact. The Qark Councils of Shkodra and Lezha will be the direct beneficiaries of the project.

The overall objective of the programme is to significantly contribute to an equitable social and economic development of both regions and beyond, to support the Albanian government’s efforts in line with the National Strategy for Development and Integration.

Strengthened Qark institutions will improve equal access of citizens to quality public services and economic opportunities in the respective qarks, in particular in disadvantaged areas. This programme intends to bring substantial added value to the development of Northern Albanian regions and improve the quality of life of their citizens. It will lead the regional communities in creating a roadmap for development by selecting a set of development goals. This roadmap will be realistic and specific enough, down to priority programs and their components, aimed at achieving the development goals. It will increase the effectiveness of resources to be spent for the development and maximize their regional impact by supporting implementation of qualified projects through the 2 million Euro incentive fund, which is an integral component of the RDP. In addition, RDP envisages to facilitate Qarks’ access to other available development funding from national or international sources.

In recognizing Albania’s aspirations towards future membership in the European Union, the programme will aim at converging national development practices and regulations with those of the European Union.

The programme has four expected results (ERs):

1.An effective institutional framework for decentralization, which aims at equitable development outcomes, is supported.

ER 1 aims at supporting and contributing to the institutional framework and policy dialogue on Regional Development in Albania. RDP will mainly follow a bottom-up approach, bringing validated experiences from the local and regional level into the national policy discussions. In addition, RDP will provide selected direct support to national actors (mainly MoI, DSDC and donors) related to RD issues. All activities and support provided will be conducted complementary to other initiatives (particularly DLDP, but also EC/UNDP funded ISD project, SNV, USAID and GIZ) to make effective use of RDP resources.

At the national level, RDP will provide support and cooperate with different actors involved in policy dialogue and policy making (MoI, DSDC, Association of Qarks, donors), applying diverse instruments and channels (e.g. policy papers/briefs, conferences, round tables, support to donors in sector working group, etc.). The various instruments will be used to support the efforts of the Government of Albania to improve the necessary legal framework for regional development and influence progress on several issues of the national discussion related to regional development. While it is not the focus of RDP to play a central role in this national discussion, the programme will contribute to it with arguments based on the experience gained on the ground in two qarks and by putting it in the context of international best practices. These best practices will also relate to the areas of gender and poverty alleviation.

Consistently with the national discussion on regional development, strengthening of the role of qark under the decentralization framework, administrative/territorial reform, NUTS II, and possible future consolidation of the number of qarks in Albania, RDP will implement a platform of activities that target qark as a strong “RD agent”. These activities are of a policymaking and advocacy nature and shall make use of the RDP expert knowledge, the bottom-up know-how generated in Shkodra and Lezha through RDP implementation, and the close cooperation with the national key stakeholders. The expected outcome is that the government and the regional/local stakeholders endorse a number of recommendations generated through this platform, in their policy implementation processes.

Draft Final Report, was amended after the roundtable discussion held in the city of Shkodra, on 24 February 2015 with the stakeholders and beneficiaries of the program, was circulated for final comments (being accessible on-line), until it came to its final form. The final version is available on-line.

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