Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report

Introduction

The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Albania to promote democracy and human rights. For background on the country's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at www.state.gov.

Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

Strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption are the top objectives for the United States in the country. Effective and independent democratic institutions are also central U.S. democracy objectives. Key areas of U.S. focus include reducing opportunities for bribery; building oversight and audit capabilities among state institutions; increasing capacity to investigate and prosecute corruption and financial crimes; and reforming the judicial system by increasing accountability, transparency, and independence. The United States considers combating trafficking in persons one of its highest priorities, as well as encouraging democratic participation. The United States encourages the democratic process by supporting NGOs that advocate policy initiatives ranging from women's rights and judicial reform to environmental issues. U.S. priorities are in line with the goals of the European Union (EU), in keeping with the country's EU integration process.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance

Promoting the rule of law in the country is a primary U.S. concern. U.S.-sponsored rule of law programs aim to increase accountability and transparency in ten district and appellate courts through the implementation of a computerized trial record system, audio recording system, the creation of public information offices, court monitoring, and improvements in archiving and file management. Improving the criminal justice system's ability to prosecute organized crime, corruption, and human and narcotics trafficking is another area of emphasis for the United States. U.S.-funded programs support efforts to propose and review criminal law-related legislation; train judges, police, and prosecutors; and offer expert assistance in establishing more effective law enforcement structures. The United States gears its assistance toward building the skills and establishing the procedures necessary to improve investigation and prosecution of complex financial crimes, money laundering, and corruption. A U.S.-supported international consortium of 35 organizations facilitates U.S. coordination with a wider range of organizations involved in criminal justice work. In addition, the United States makes public statements promoting democratic reform and support for human rights and encourages others to do the same, as well as engages frequently with government officials on these issues.

U.S. assistance continues to support additional anticorruption and accountability efforts. In October 2008 the government signed an agreement to participate in the second phase of a U.S. assistance program focused on reducing corruption. This program aims to reduce corruption through more effective criminal investigations and preventive reforms in tax administration, business licensing, and building permit services. An ongoing priority is the establishment and training of specialized anticorruption units in major cities. The units comprise prosecutors, police officers, customs officials, and tax investigators that investigate and prosecute economic crime and corruption, and have a number of significant arrests and convictions to their credit. In order to promote accountability, the United States funds a governance program that promotes effective city-level tax collection, public asset management, and public-private partnerships on local economic development plans.

Fostering participation in democratic life is crucial to U.S. efforts in the country and is a centerpiece of U.S. programming. The United States assists with decentralization programs at both the local and national level. The United States engages with civic groups and media organizations to enable them to work more effectively. Fighting human trafficking is a key priority for the United States; for example, in 2009 the United States completed two of the largest and most comprehensive anti-trafficking programs to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation and child trafficking. The United States is continuing a program begun in the fall of 2009 that supports an existing coalition of shelters for victims of trafficking as well as another program that seeks to increase the capacity of local, regional, and national actors to identify and refer victims and expand victim protection systems at the community level.

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