As many as one in ten children in Albania is a victim of sexual violence, but the conviction rates for such crimes as of 2020 were the lowest in Europe. Recent data shows that 85 percent of victims of sexual crimes in Albania are girls under 18, and 34 percent of sexual crimes against children are committed by other minors. While the Criminal Code criminalizes CSA as well as child exploitation and child pornography in Albania, Law No. 18/2017 “On Child Rights and Protection” specifically protects the rights of children and designates relevant bodies for enforcing the law and drafting future policies and programs. In terms of response, Law No. 121/2016 “On Social Care Services” mandates the establishment of municipal-level Child Protection Units, which serve as the point of contact for child-protection cases. Other relevant legislation includes Law No. 9669/2006 “On Measures for Prevention of Violence in Family Relations,” which addresses sexual abuse as part of its focus on domestic violence, and Law No. 37/2017 “Code of Criminal Justice for Children,” which seeks to make the justice system more child-friendly, both for child victims and witnesses.
The national government’s efforts to prevent and respond to CSA are driven by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MoHSP), which bears responsibility for the country’s health system, particularly through its sub-component State Agency for the Protection of Children’s Rights (SAPCR). SAPCR takes a leading role in addressing CSA cases by implementing child-protection policy and developing related policy documents. In terms of policy direction, the SAPCR and MoHSP recently published the National Agenda on the Rights of the Child (NARC) 2021–2026, which offers substantial detail regarding roles, responsibilities, and targets related to child-protection issues in Albania. This work is complemented by the National Council for the Rights and Protection of the Child (NCRPC), within the prime minister’s office, which coordinates state policies related to child rights and child protection. Other major government entities that are relevant to CSA include the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which prosecutes offenders and seeks to deliver child-friendly justice, and the Ministry of Interior (MoI), which includes the Albanian State Police.
In terms of national budgetary allocations to prevent and respond to CSA in Albania, the clearest information is published by the SAPCR and MoHSP in the NARC. This national-level strategic plan seeks to “enable protection from all forms of violence” and provide a framework for Albania’s efforts from the local to national levels. This work is divided into four policy goals: (1) good governance in pursuit of ensuring children’s rights; (2) eliminating all forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse; (3) providing child- and adolescent-friendly services; and (4) protecting children’s rights in the digital world. Importantly, this national planning document also contains some specific budgetary allocations to meet its goals. For example, under Policy Goal II, on ending violence, exploitation, and abuse, the plan documents ALL 154.3 million in planned costs for FY 2021–23, as well as a further ALL 85.7 million to be planned between FY 2024 and FY 2030. (See Figure 1.) All four policy goals bear some relevance to CSA but are not specific to it alone.
While matching the national-level strategic plan with budgetary commitments is important to developing a sustained response to CSA and related issues, the plan lacks specificity and information on actual funding. First, while the plan offers excellent detail of which government entities are responsible for specific measures and sub-measures within each of the four policy goals, it does not clarify how spending is divided among the responsible government entities, such as what proportion of the ALL 154.3 million in FY 2021 through FY 2023 will go to the MoHSP versus other relevant bodies. Furthermore, within that allocation there is no distinction between funding that targets CSA versus other types of violence against children. Second, there are also large projected financial gaps, which could ultimately undermine implementation of the plan. Across all four policy goals, the plan acknowledges outstanding financial gaps between planned budgetary commitments and estimated need; the total gap in funding for FY 2021 through FY 2026 at the time of publication was ALL 310.5 million, or just under 20 percent of the plan’s projected total cost of ALL 1.6 billion. However, the NARC is forthright about the conspicuous gaps in funding and its intention to continue to work on the issue: “the state budget is insufficient to meet all of the objectives. . . . Budgeting for children continues to be a difficult concept to grasp and put into practice. In this context, it is necessary to invest in capacities and provide adequate resources to build a budget analysis focused on children on a regular basis.”
Cost of Implementation – National Agenda on the Rights of the Child, 2021–2026
Data source: National Agenda on the Rights of the Child, 2021–2026.
The NARC does not delineate budgetary allocations among CSA-relevant government entities such as the MoHSP, MoJ, and MoI, and other available budget documents also fail to specify how much these entities are spending on CSA-related programming. For example, allocations within the MoHSP are given in broad categories, such as “Social care” and “Public health services,” without further distinction of funding between subcomponent projects and programs. “Social care,” the category most relevant to CSA, experiences budget growth from FY 2020 through FY 2025, expanding by more than 25 percent, but this growth does little to clarify demonstrable action on CSA. (See Figure 2.) Furthermore, the budget does not include any allocations for the SAPCR, which would be helpful for establishing commitments related to child protection overall.
Budget — Ministry of Health and Social Protection
The MoJ plays an important role in responding to CSA by providing legal support to victims, prosecuting offenders, and ensuring that the justice system is child-friendly, pursuant to Law No. 37/2017. For example, under the NARC, the MoJ is charged with activities related to “developing cross-sectoral training programs for professionals for the provision of integrated services for children victims of sexual abuse” and ensuring “notification and removal of illegal and harmful materials of sexual abuse and exploitation of children online,” among others. However, national budget documentation does not clarify budgetary allocations within the MoJ that are specific to CSA or other types of abuse. The few categories that are mentioned that are likely to be relevant—“Legal aid” and “Forensic medicine”—are relatively small and do not exhibit substantial growth from FY 2020 through FY 2025. (See Figure 3.)
Select CSA-Related Budget Allocations — Ministry of Justice
Finally, while there are other government entities that play central roles in Albania’s efforts to respond and prevent CSA, such as the MoI and NCRPC, there is scant budgetary information about their contributions to the issue area. For example, the MoI contains the State Police, which enforces laws and conducts investigations in CSA cases, but national-level budget documents do not clarify allocations to this end or any other issue area, detailing allocations only so far as the category “State police.” Likewise, the NCRPC, reportedly the highest-level advisory body related to CSA issues in Albania, does not appear in budget documents, nor does it appear to have its own dedicated website. As such, while these organizations likely make important contributions, they were not analyzed here from a budgetary perspective.
Albania is making concerted efforts to prevent and respond to CSA. The 2022 Out of the Shadows Index ranked Albania thirteenth, with a score of 63.5 out of 100, ahead of wealthier countries such as Japan and Italy. This assessment of progress was further corroborated by research for Safeguarding Childhood, although experts noted that Albania’s response remains uneven and underfunded. Altin Hazizaj, CEO of CRCA/ECPAT Albania, warned that “The government has taken some serious steps, but this is not a unified position because of lack of professionals in various government bodies in Albania.” For example, while the MoHSP has adopted the NARC and expanded its efforts, other bodies, such as the Ministry of Education, have been unwilling to reform government systems to address CSA. As a result, Hazizaj noted that Albania still lacks a truly comprehensive model that involves entities from the national to local levels.
While funding levels clearly remain too low, given financial shortfalls, Albania has established a clear framework for tackling the issue through the NARC and has complemented that framework with budgetary commitments in the short and long term, which makes it an outlier among the 20 case study countries, which rarely specify financial commitments alongside national strategic documents. Notably, the MoHSP makes a special effort not just to acknowledge commitments in the FY 2021–23 and FY 2024–30 time periods but also to underline the scope of projected budgetary shortfalls. It indicates that one major goal is to “increase budgets for child services while also developing tools to identify budget and expenditure situations as part of a meaningful accountability framework in the area of child rights.” Altin Hazizaj likewise reiterated the importance of pairing a national agenda with political will and resources: “Yes, it is great to have the policy, but the policy needs strong institutions to be implemented. The policy needs strong institutions to advocate for better budgets. And if the institutions and their leaders are weak, that means that this strategy, if the money is not there, and you’re not fighting enough, is just a paper.”
“The policy needs strong institutions to advocate for better budgets. And if the institutions and their leaders are weak, that means that this strategy, if the money is not there, and you’re not fighting enough, is just a paper.”
Altin Hazizaj, CEO of CRCA/ECPAT Albania
In terms of budgetary support for addressing CSA in Albania, lack of specificity in budgeting documentation is a persistent problem. National budgets offer relatively limited detail on the activities of specific ministries working on CSA, and although the NARC specifies allocations for individual policy goals, activities relevant to these goals were not expressed in any level of programmatic detail through national budgets. Overall, Albania could benefit from producing more detailed national budgets that include program-based budget information or other issue-focused specification of resources. A planned update to NARC in 2024 will be instructive in detailing how the country’s approach to budgeting is evolving and whether the financial gaps it exposed at the time of publication in 2021 are being effectively addressed.