As we are marking the Sustainable Development Goals week, we reflect on great potential of the diaspora not only for the countries of destination, but also for their countries of origin. The Albania Diaspora entails great potential for the home country development. According INSTAT, there are nearly 1.7 million Albanians living outside the country, mostly in Europe, but also with significant presence in North America (USA and Canada) as well as other regions. According to World Bank, the remittance flows from these overseas workers are nearly 10 per cent of Albania’s 2020 Gross Domestic Product. IOM Albania is contributing to unlock the huge and largely potential of the Albanian Diaspora through the programme “Engage the Albanian diaspora to the social and economic development of Albania”, founded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. “The contribution of the programme goes beyond the measurable targets and the general aim of establishing and testing new mechanisms and schemes to enhancing the engagement of the Albanian Diaspora in the development of the country through institutional capacity building, know-how transfer and economic development,” says Ms. Alma Jani, the IOM Albania Head of Office. Going in the heart of the SDGs, the IOM Diaspora programme contributes concretely to the goal 8, 11, 13 and 17.
Goal 8 - Decent work and economic growth The contribution of the Programme to the achievement of this Goal is related to the establishment of the platform Connect Albania, a mechanism which aims to attract foreign direct investments to the country through the involvement of Albanian Diaspora members as Development Agents. So far, 15 Development Agents have been certified from connect Albania Unit and 2 are in the process of being certified. They aim to bring investments and job growth to Albania, especially in the priority sectors of the country. The positive synergies and cooperation with the Albanian Diaspora Business Chamber (ADBC) have been acknowledged by all partners as part of the sustainability of the mechanism. A Connect Albania Programme Office is established under the ADBC to support the Development Agents and through them the investors interested to expand in Albania.

The Diaspora Programme has been also working with eight Albanian Diaspora, Italian and Albanian associations and NGOs that worked jointly to transfer best practices in the agriculture and touristic sector from Italy to Albania.

The projects implemented by these associations are creating new economic opportunities for local businesses, agricultural producers and local artisans by the optimization of production and work-related processes, especially in remote and mountainous areas of the country. 

Through these activities the Albanian Diaspora and Italian experts have been engaged and supported the local communities in Tirana, Durrës, Kavaja, Rrogozhina, Përmet, Kelcyra, Butrint, Vlora, Gjirokastra, Lezha, Shkodra, Vau i Dejes, Elbasan, Fier and Cerrik. Through these projects have been created online training platforms and trained over 14 farmers and exporters, exchanged the know – how and best practices, increased the capacities of over 45 local producers, artisans and touristic businesses in marketing, built over 12 websites for the local business to promote their products outside their territory.  

In addition, around 60 Italians, Albanian Diaspora and Arbëresh experts and artists in several fields such as agriculture, tourism, agritourism, trekking, cultural heritage, history, archeology, music and theatre, have been involved.

“The concrete actions under the D.I.A.S.P.O.R.A project consist firstly, in the use of the modern information technology in the promotion and marketing of local products to access new markets and secondly, in the diversification of the economic products offered by the rural population,” says Mr. Benko Gjata, the Director of Centro di Cultura Albanese, a diaspora association in Italy, that implements the project under the IOM Diaspora programme.
Goal 11 - SUSTAINABLE CITIES and COMMUNITIES One of the targets of this goal is “to protect the world's cultural and natural heritage”. In partnership with the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Florence in Italy to conduct the research “Five Albanian Villages” and to develop the Guidelines for Sustainable Tourism Development engaging six high skilled Albanian Diaspora researchers and 13 students. Five cultural monuments in five villages of Albania, Përmet (Bënja, Leusë, Kosinë); Shkodra (Razëm) and Vlore (the coastal village of Zvërnec) were studied, utilizing the innovative 3D laser scanning technique (“points cloud”) of the Laboratory of Digital Survey of Architecture of the Department of Architecture (DIDA), University of Florence. The research was published and made available to local and central government and professionals: “Five Villages”: Guidelines for a Sustainable Tourism Development through the Enhancement of the Cultural Heritage”. (https://albania.iom.int/sites/default/files/publication/Five%20Albanian%20Villages.pdf).
“The research provided concrete guidelines on how these cultural monuments and the surrounding areas can be restored and become attractive touristic areas to generate employment and incomes for the local communities,” Ms. Manoela Lussi, the IOM Diaspora Programme Manager.
Goal 13: CLIMATE ACTION Under the EU Fellowship Scheme, the Diaspora Programme fellows/experts are engaged and supporting, among others, the Ministry of Environment (MoE) identified needs regarding the air quality monitoring. As part of this project an air quality assessment report with concrete recommendations for improvement are prepared and made available to the MoE. In addition, the EU fellowship fellows are analyzing the financial capacities of the Ministry of Environment to develop projects on the improvement of air quality.

Goal 17: PARTNERSHIP FOR THE OBJECTIVES

The IOM Diaspora Programme has continuously supported with technical expertise, trainings, resources, technology solutions and partnered Diaspora Engagement Institutions such as: State Minister for Diaspora; Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs; National Agency of Diaspora; National Fund for Diaspora; Diaspora Publishing Center; Center for Arbëresh Research; Albanian Diaspora Business Chamber, as well as Albanian Embassy in Rome and Albanian Consulates in Bari and Milan. In addition, through the EU fellowship scheme and implementation of the Albanian National Diaspora Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2025, the programme is also supporting and partnering with the Ministry of Finance and Economy; Ministry of Tourism and Environment, Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth; Ministry of Culture; Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Justice and Bank of Albania, and working in close coordination with the Office of the Chief Negotiator. Through the 35 highly skilled members of Diaspora living in EU and non-EU countries, the above-mentioned institutions are being supported with capacity building, research and liaison function to facilitate the approximation process to EU and progress the SDGs, while through the six local experts the Programme is supporting the implementation of the National Diaspora Strategy and its Action Plan.

Ms. Jani concludes that “after the completion of the first phase, the Diaspora Programme will require substantial further commitment and cooperation of all the relevant stakeholders in the Government in order to ensure that some of the best practices of the Programme will continue to enhance the role of the worldwide Albanian Diaspora into the country’s social and economic development”.