Wednesday, 11 March 2009


"Democracy is too important to be left to the politicians". So said the British Ambassador to Albania at the opening of our Euclid conference for Albanian civil society this morning. It is true. All research shows that for a democracy to function effectively you need a vibrant civil society. Sponsored by the FCO, Euclid carried out research into the Albanian civil society and this report forms the basis of our conference today.

Tirana is an interesting place - rampant capitalism meets old style Communism. The combination is not attractive. I ventured out yesterday to the National Art Gallery. It was closed. Open tomorrow? I enquire. No. Thursday? No. When? Maybe May!

Indeed most of the churches and museums here are closed. Why waste time on culture when there are forests to be torn down and ugly concrete apartment blocks to be erected. One such monstrosity I saw yesterday had an enormous sign proclaiming "shiten apartment". Exactly. Though, I suspect, the word may have a different usage here?

Indeed I even had the uncharitable thought, when wandering disconsolately from the Art Gallery, that Comrade Hoxha would have had the galleries open.

But such thoughts were soon suppressed when I found that the one exhibition open was in the former Communist HQ. It was chilling. A simple exhibition of what actually happened under the unpleasant Hoxha regime. Pictures of the show trials. The clerics and dissidents who were shot. But perhaps the most shocking was a film showing a firing squad. The poor victims dragged out. No dignity afforded to them. And shot like dogs. With people around prodding their bodies afterwards.

In the gardens around the Gallery were scattered various discarded statues of "heroes of the working class". One I rather took a fancy to; it would have looked glorious in the ACEVO office and be a constant reminder to the staff to work ever harder, Stakhanonovite like, for the greater glory of the workers of the third sector.

It is amazing though how interested people are about Euclid. Click here for a link to the website. The selling point is that it is an organisation of leaders. The individuals. Not the organisations. So people come together in a peer network without organisational baggage or politics. And as the Prime Minister reminds us often, this is a global financial crisis which we must tackle globally. So our third sector must also act and think globally.

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