Toolkit of GOOD PRACTICES on Citizen Participation!


Citizens panels - participatory monitoring report for the management of hazardous medical waste


Country: Albania

Context

The situation in Albania presents the absence of an independent, transparent and efficient judiciary, a difficult access to the justice system, corruption, flaws in the professional capacities of state actors, political polarization of public life and lack of confidence of citizens. These are some of the major challenges international agencies operating in Albania as well as CSOs are focusing on.  It is important to strengthen and support civil society in order to enhance critical thinking, providing an alternative approach and enriching the culture of professional debate on these topics. As a “debatable” issue at the central and local level, hazardous waste management has included various state and private actors as well as private citizens. A first workshop took place with the participation of CSOs, Inspection State Agencies as well as private businesses discussed the main issues to be addressed at several levels. The participants of the workshop discussed the weakness of this sector, in particular poor management facilities, absence of proper control, lack of awareness on the potential danger for health and environment among the “polluters” and citizens, as well the opportunities that might arise and the possible contributors. Moreover, at the end citizens set up monitoring groups that will be trained and oriented to participate in the inspection visits and monitor permanently the implementation of the contracts signed by the health facilities for the management of medical hazardous waste. The monitoring report is presented in a workshop with the participation of state institutions, health facilities, CSOs and citizens asking for measures to be taken at central and local level.

Measure

Citizens' Panels are a good way to involve citizens as much as possible and to inform them in a more accurate manner, allowing them to be more active in the decision-making processes as a result.
The method aims to increase the awareness level on the danger of medical hazardous waste for the environment and for health and to stimulate the role of NGOs in volunteering and in the monitoring of the environmental situation as an independent source of information.
Its main objectives are:
To promote the involvement of institutions, businesses and communities and the cooperation between them
To encourage citizens to participate in identifying and solving their community’s problems
To develop citizens' capacity to advocate for effective measures, to improve their life through an inclusive and democratic process.

Target Group

State institutions dealing with environmental and health control and inspection, general citizens from different economic, professional and cultural backgrounds to make them become more actively involved, environmental CSOs, health facilities and treatment companies of bio-hazard waste.

Methodology

Different methods are used to reach the objectives:
Workshops focused on the health and environmental danger of hazardous waste and how that is avoidable by implementing specific laws and regulations.
Provide citizens with the skills, knowledge, and awareness required to be part of a monitoring process.
Get in touch with local and regional institutions to disseminate the results aiming to make an improvement in the quality of life.
Organize campaigns at the local level and invite people, in particular the young, to watch-dog, provide fact finding reports, photos and news on the health danger of hazardous waste in the neighborhood they came from.

Stakeholders

The national environmental watch–dog network “An eye on the environment”, completely composed by NGOs, including in particular the Center for Research Cooperation and Development (CRCD), with experience in institutional capacity building and citizens engagement in all kind of educational and community activities, the Regional Environmental Directorate, the State Inspectorate of Environment and Forest, the Regional Directorate of Health, and public and private health facilities. 
They shared this experience to the assistance, they spoke about the problems we are facing to make people and institutions aware of the importance of implementing properly the inspection procedures in compliance with laws and regulation, and they shared examples of bad and good practices that emerge from site inspections.
The stakeholders have been partners in various environmental projects due to a very good cooperation, professionalism and transparency.

Assessment

About 30 citizens aware and mobilized to speak out on behalf of public interest aiming to obtain a healthier environment.
About 50% of public health facilities and private entities that generate waste in Vlora take part in the project and are made aware of potential environmental and health risks coming from poor waste management.
Responsible state institutions (the Regional Directorate of Public Health, the Regional Environmental Directorate and Inspectorate and Vlora Municipality) cooperated strongly with citizens in the monitoring and inspection process and are encouraged to take concrete measures to meet  the statutory obligations under the rules and laws in force for biohazardous medical waste.

Impact

Nongovernmental organizations serve as a bridge between governments and community. They connect local communities with institutions in the public and private sector, to promote citizens' engagement to support good governance and the rule of law by working together.

Swot

1. Strengths:
Rich experience in the target field;
The selected topic (environment and health) and the way it was chosen to encourage people to get involved in issues that directly impact community life.
2. Weaknesses:
The local authority did not have any proper formalized structures to control the situation of biohazardous waste “pretending” that it is not their task.
Activities are carried out, but the direct impact on community life is limited and requires permanent assistance and cooperation.
3. Opportunities:
Young people become more and more interested in NGOs’ activities and they are very sensible of environmental issues;
A great number of cooperation opportunities at the institutional level (regional and local);
The Ministry of Health through the Regional Directorate of Health created a new inspection structure starting to work straight away to analyze the situation.
4. Threats:
Pressure from health facilities that prefer not to be “controlled” by the citizens groups.
Private health institution less interested to cooperate comparing to other public ones;
Lack of finances to extend the activities.

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