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Albania’s Proposing a ‘Humanitarian Alliance’ to Get UN Aid Faster to Crisis Zones

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Ferit Hoxha, Permanent Representative of Albania to UN
Ferit Hoxha, United Nations ambassador for Albania, photographed in the Security Council chamber, Aug. 25, 2023. His country assumes the monthly rotating presidency of the Council in September, just as the UN General Assembly convenes its annual mega-meet of world leaders. Albania is planning a “Ukraine summit” on Sept. 20 in the Council to take advantage of the presence of heads of state and government at the UN. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Albania is proposing the creation of a digital platform to complement the United Nations’ humanitarian aid system, drawing donations from corporations and foundations to help alleviate the growing desperation of people across the world.

Ferit Hoxha, Albania’s ambassador to the UN, described the proposal while speaking with PassBlue during an exclusive interview in August. He said the concept would be presented at one of Albania’s signature events in September as the monthly rotating president of the Security Council. Albania’s other key debate is what he called a “Ukraine summit,” in which world leaders, participating in the UN’s annual General Assembly gathering, will speak in the Council on Sept. 20 about Russia’s war in Ukraine.

During Albania’s tenure in the Council, which ends on Dec. 31, it became clear to its delegation that humanitarian assistance is lacking in many countries where it is needed most — because of conflicts and other instability — despite the UN’s own vast delivery network.

“The needs have been growing, and the ability of the donor community to really respond quickly, on time and in-kind, has really lacked over the years,” Hoxha said. “This is because it’s very difficult to respond in time to everything. So we have come together with some partners — Schmidt Futures, the United States mission [to the UN] and some others — to reflect on what we can do to complement the efforts of the UN international partners that are historically engaged in this activity.”

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Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic foundation. (In a media briefing on Sept. 1, Hoxha said that Eric Schmidt of the foundation and ex-head of Google, will speak at the Council debate, to be held on Sept. 14.) Hoxha said that the current roster of public-private contributors interested in the alliance — so far, all American — were best positioned to offer humanitarian aid support. But he emphasized that such backing is complementary to the UN’s current operations. He did not detail how the platform would work.

Albania is calling the proposal “a private sector humanitarian alliance” that will “enlarge the radius of contributions,” Hoxha said at the media briefing. Russia’s war in Ukraine has compelled Western countries to spend much of their international humanitarian funding for Ukraine’s needs, leaving other conflicts and natural disaster hotspots short on help. The situation has made it difficult for nongovernmental organizations and UN bodies to respond as well as they could to the increasing number of global crises.

Albania’s time in the Security Council has been a mélange of some success, stalled progress and reversed hopes. One win is progress made on issues of women, peace and security, Hoxha told PassBlue.

The WPS agenda, as it’s called, mandates women’s equal, meaningful participation in peace processes as leaders, negotiators, peacekeepers, members of security forces and peace-builders. It has been well documented that such participation enhances the chances of peace lasting in countries undergoing conflict-resolution processes or in post-conflict mode. Yet the agenda has not been fully carried out since the first Security Council resolution on WPS was approved in 2000.

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Last year, Albania led a debate on the agenda in June. Olta Xhacka, minister of foreign affairs of Albania, chaired the session, calling for greater commitment among UN member states to work with regional organizations on the WPS mandate. More women briefers, including from civil society, have been notably speaking in the Council on a range of agenda items, reflecting efforts by numerous Council members to hear from women’s perspectives.

“Recent events in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Myanmar or Mali have affected the prospects of women’s organizations and gender equality advocates in these countries,” Xhacka said. “National commitment on these topics is abruptly interrupted and civic space has shrunk dramatically.”

Although crises are still rife, if not growing, in many countries, Hoxha said Albania was “proud” of the commitments the WPS debate generated from member states.

“I think that one of the things that we are particularly proud of is the joint commitments on women’s peace and security,” Hoxha told PassBlue. “When we joined the Council, it was considered to be a historic momentum that [there were] three consecutive presidencies having women, peace and security in their agenda.” (Besides Albania, the other two were Britain and the US.)

Albania and 10 other countries have committed to the WPS agenda in the last year. Gabon, a signatory to the alliance, prioritized it when it led the Council last year. The US joined the alliance in July. The countries that have signed on spoke to the media on Aug. 25 about the use of sexual and gender-based (SGBV) violence by terrorist groups and in the war raging in Sudan.

“Groups committing terrorist acts are using SGBV as a political tool and a tactic of terrorism disproportionately affecting women, and girls and undermining women’s rights,” said US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, delivering  the joint statement. Yet the raping of women in the Sudan war continues.

Engjellushe Morina, a senior policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said that though Albania has pushed forward important conversations on the WPS agenda, it needs to do more for its own region, the Balkans.

“Albania, still in the Security Council for a few more months, could push this agenda by focusing and advancing stability in the Balkans and hopefully helping the region come closer to the EU and NATO,” she said.

Hoxha acknowledged hard times in the Council. Albania is pursuing legal paths to restoring the dignity of life to women and girls in Afghanistan. The civil war in Sudan and the recent military coups in Niger and Gabon are also reversing achievements. (Gabon is an elected Council member.)

“Sometimes we are frustrated that not much progress has been made on a number of issues; sometimes you’re even more frustrated that progress has completely been interrupted,” he said.

Since its statement denouncing the military coup in Niger on July 28, the Council has been relatively quiet on affairs in the former French colony. France and the US, who both have military bases in Niger and are permanent members of the Council, do not agree on how to restore civilian rule to Niger. France’s military interventions in the western Sahel region of Africa in the past decade or so have occurred as Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger have swapped civilian clothes for military fatigues.

The regime overthrows have been partly influenced by France’s strategy in dealing with jihadists in the region, according to Hannah Armstrong, a recent visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

While France was ready to support the threat by the Economic Community of West African States regional body to carry out a military intervention in Niger, the US has adopted a policy of diplomacy, eager to keep its military base in the country despite the new junta leadership’s rollback of democracy. (Ecowas appears to be backing off its military threat.)

On Sept. 20, Albania will also hold a signature event on upholding the UN Charter through multilateralism. The debate will be centered on Russia’s violating the Charter by invading Ukraine. The meeting is scheduled to be held on the second day of the high-level week of the General Assembly, when world leaders, like US President Joe Biden, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Türkiye and possibly President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, begin speaking on Sept. 19. Prime Minister Edi Rama is chairing what Albania calls the “Ukraine summit.”

Yet other crucial world leaders won’t be attending the Assembly gathering (or the Ukraine summit), including Emmanuel Macron of France, Rishi Sunak of Britain, Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia. (The latter two have not attended a General Assembly annual debate since 2015; and Putin’s arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for kidnapping Ukrainian children is limiting his overseas travels.)

Meanwhile, Albania’s quest to join the European Union is picking up steam. Hoxha said that despite a maritime dispute with Greece, he did not see why Tirana, the capital, would not be part of the European Union.

Morina of the European Council on Foreign Relations thinks the dispute might create a hiccup for Albania’s bid. Land and water disputes between the two countries involve Chameria, a region in the extreme south of Albania and in the northeast of Greece, as well as about 225 kilometers of maritime water allotted to Greece in a 2009 settlement revoked by Rama.

Tensions heightened in May with the arrest of Fredi Beleri, an Albanian mayoral candidate of Greek ethnicity. Beleri was accused of vote buying two days before local elections. He went on to win the mayoral seat in Himare, in southern Albania, but has remained in prison  with 48 others. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, has threatened to disrupt Albania’s quest to join the EU if Beleri is not freed.

“It is not new to see full EU members block the ascension of candidate members because of issues with the country,” Morina said. “Greece blocked Macedonia until the countries both came to an agreement and Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia. Unresolved bilateral issues, in this case the ongoing maritime issues between Greece and Albania, could influence Albania’s path into full EU membership.”

Following the deadline of 2030 set by European Council President Charles Michel to enlarge the EU, Morina said that the integration of EU  institutions in candidate countries will happen even if full membership remains drawn out. Eight countries, including Albania, Türkiye and Ukraine, have been given candidacy status, enabling concrete conversations to ensue around synchronizing their institutions with those of the EU and aligning their foreign policy with that of Brussels, the EU’s base.

Each month, PassBlue profiles UN ambassadors as their countries assume the Council presidency. To hear more details about the goals of Albania in September and to hear Morina’s assessment of the country, listen to PassBlue’s podcast, UN-Scripted, produced by Damilola Banjo and Kelechukwu Ogu, on SoundCloud. (We say farewell to Kelechukwu on this episode, as he heads to the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.)

Albana Dautllari, Deputy Ambassador of Albania to the UN at a UN press briefing on Sept 1, 2023.
Albania’s deputy permanent representative, Albana Dautllari, at the press briefing led by Ambassador Hoxha, Sept. 1, 2023. The country finishes its two-year Council term on Dec. 31. One of its main achievements during its stint, Albanian diplomats say, is advancing the women, peace and security agenda in the Council. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Ambassador Hoxha spoke to PassBlue in late August. His comments have been edited and condensed for clarity.

PassBlue: Typically, we start by talking about your signature events, but we would like to ask you about your experience in the Security Council over nearly the last two years. This second year in the Council is particular. I think the team feels more empowered. Some of the meetings, some of the issues, keep repeating. Sometimes we are frustrated that not much progress has been made on a number of issues. And sometimes you’re even more frustrated that progress has completely been interrupted . . . , I hope that we can conclude our term in the Council with a solid feeling of the job done. It’s a unique experience, something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

PassBlue: You focused on accountability for human rights abuses and the women, peace and security agenda last year. What progress have you seen inn these areas? One thing that we are particularly proud of is the joint commitment to women, peace and security. When we joined the Council [in 2022], it was considered to be a historic moment that the Council had three consecutive presidencies with women, peace and security in their agenda. Since then, the situation has improved, because we are now more than 10 countries, including some P5 countries [US, Britain and France], that are part of the joint commitments we are coordinating this year. It builds on a shared concern that we have a very strong normative background on women, peace and security, but we need to do more. We devoted one of our signature events last June to this issue. . . .and we have maintained it not only in the monthly presidencies, with the majority of the members in the Council, but we’ve also been literally fighting to have women, peace and security language in every resolution. We have maintained accountability front and center in our agenda, particularly linked with a number of conflicts, but one of the major conflicts in Europe is in Ukraine. There are various proposals, including for a special tribunal, that could deal with the [international] crimes being carried out in Ukraine. Also, we look forward to seeing how we can go through appropriate international legal bodies regarding the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

PassBlue: What will your country be focusing on in September? We saw in the Council how important it is to discuss humanitarian issues and the fantastic work that the UN does,  but we’ve noticed, be it in Syria or Yemen or many other places, that the needs are not met, unfortunately, due to instability and conflicts. The needs have been growing and the ability of the donor community to respond quickly has really lacked over the years. This is because it’s very difficult to respond in time to everything. So we have come together with some partners — Schmidt Futures, the United States mission [to the UN] and others to reflect on what we can do to complement the efforts of the UN and its international partners historically engaged in this activity. And we think that the private sector needs to be better involved because it has the ability and the money to take decisions very quickly. So we are going to present a private-sector humanitarian alliance.

PassBlue: You gave a speech in the Council on the 15 years of Russia’s occupation of Georgia. NATO’s rule on not accepting countries with territorial disputes is sometimes cited as the reason for the international community’s neglect of the Georgian conflict, even though that’s not the case with Ukraine. Do you envision the international community and the Security Council helping Georgia to reclaim its land in the near future? I wish the Security Council were able to do more toward solving conflicts around the world, including the aftermath of the war in 2008 in Georgia. At that time, it was a short but brutal war with huge consequences. As we have seen, two parts of the Georgian territory have been occupied by Russian proxies. It resonates with what we see in Ukraine. At the time [in Georgia], the international community was forced to react to stop the bloodshed. That was a very positive development. But I think we missed the larger picture because it was absolutely the very first move of what we would see later on in the Russian foreign policy towards its neighbors. Six years later, in 2014, in parts of Ukraine, it happened. Then, eight years later, in 2022, with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We have maintained the issue of Georgia in the Council to tell Georgians they must not be forgotten.

US Ambassador to the UN: Ferit Hoxha, 56
Ambassador to UN since: 2009-2015; and October 2021-present
Languages: Albanian, English and French
Education: University of Tirana; degree in French and French civilization

His story, briefly: This is the second time Hoxha has been a permanent representative of Albania to the UN. In 1995, he was also in New York City as a counselor for Albania’s mission to the UN; in addition, he was his country’s ambassador to Unesco, in Paris, from March 2018 to October 2021 and served as director-general for political and strategic issues in Albania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs from November 2015 to March 2018. He also served as secretary-general for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009, during which he represented Albania on the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, from 2007 to 2008. He was ambassador to France and nonresident ambassador to Portugal, Algeria and Monaco from 2001 to 2006; ambassador to the European Union and Belgium as well as nonresident ambassador to Luxembourg from 1998 to 2001 and director for multilateral relations at the Albanian foreign ministry from 1996 until 1998.

Country Profile

President of Albania: Bajram Begaj
Prime Minister: Edi Rama
Type of Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
Year Albania Joined the UN: 1955
Years in the Security Council: Elected member (2022-2023)
Population (2020): 2.8 million
Per capita CO2 emission figures for 2019 (in tons): 1.80 per person; by comparison, the figure is 16.


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on Albania's plans for September?

Damilola Banjo is a reporter for PassBlue. She has a master’s of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in communications and language arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She has worked as a producer for NPR’s WAFE station in Charlotte, N.C.; for the BBC as an investigative journalist; and as a staff investigative reporter for Sahara Reporters Media.

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Albania’s Proposing a ‘Humanitarian Alliance’ to Get UN Aid Faster to Crisis Zones
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Dr Bilali Camara
Dr Bilali Camara
9 months ago

Il faut éviter d’être réactifs, il faut prévenir les Crises et réduire les demandes d’aides humanitaires et ensuite répondre a temps aux Crises qui vont advenir. Prevenir vaut mieux que guerrir: c’est un proverbe aussi vieux que la terre!!

Translation:
We must avoid being reactive, we must prevent Crises and reduce requests for humanitarian aid and then respond in time to future Crises. Prevention is better than cure: it’s a proverb as old as the earth!!

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