The development of civil society in Albania over the past two decades hinged on major legal and institutional shifts that tended to create a more enabling environment for CSOs. The 1990s marked a rapid growth of the CSO sector with the end of totalitarian rule and the transition to democracy. Civil society developed concurrently with the creation and development of the private sector and a free market economy.
The initial stages (1990-2000) saw CSOs focusing mostly on providing direct charitable assistance to disadvantaged sectors of society. This shifted gradually toward a stronger focus on advocacy and political lobbying, through public education and the promotion of human rights. Today civil society organizations in Albania are institutions in and of themselves, encompassing a diverse array of civic groups and think tanks, big and small. This role of the sector is driven and nurtured by political developments in the country, as well as by the strategies and development priorities of international donors (mainly bilateral governments).
Albania’s first CSO established in December 1990, legally operational by January 1991, was the Forum for Defending Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms (today Albanian Helsinki Committee).
Yet 24 years after the establishment of the first CSO, official data on the total number of registered and active CSOs in the country are still lacking. According to a document accessed upon request by Partners Albania1, which listed all organizations registered from 1991 until 2014, there are approximately 8,449 CSOs registered in Albania, of which 6,263 are associations, 846 are foundations, 1095 are “centers” and 245 are under the category of “others”. There are, however, no clear data on how many of these are still active, or have re -registered under the law for CSOs of 2001.
Over past 24 years, the CSO sector in Albania has provided a range of services to different target groups and communities, and its presence has been more and more visible, providing a valuable contribution to public welfare.
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