Japanese Embassy and WBF Pledge Support to CSOs in Western Balkan Region on COVID-19 Impact

The Ambassador of Japan to Albania, Takada Mitsuyuki and the Executive Director of the Western Balkans Fund, Gjergj Murra, signed the agreement “Impact of COVID-19 on sustainability of Civil Society Organizations in the Western Balkan region”. Through this agreement, the Embassy of Japan will provide to the Western Balkan Fund €50,000 to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the sustainability of Civil Society Organizations (CSO) operating in the Western Balkan (WB) region and draft appropriate recommendations to better address the needs of such organizations. The Embassy of Japan is providing this donation in the framework of the Western Balkans Cooperation Initiative, launched by the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, in January 2018, promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the Western Balkan region, said a statement released by the Japanese Embassy in Tirana on Thursday.
COVID-19 has strongly impacted the performance of CSOs across the WB region. Most of the CSOs are struggling to survive as they are usually left out from state aid and are losing human capital due to lack of contingency funds and inability to work remotely. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis has created a situation that dissuades people-to-people contacts due to national and regional mobility restrictions causing CSOs to postpone their activities. This project aims to provide a clear view on the challenges CSOs are facing as well as the appropriate recommendations and future actions to be taken by policy makers, donors and CSOs.
Executive Director Murra expressed at the signing ceremony his appreciation for Japan’s continuous support and commitment towards the wellbeing of this region. On his part, Ambassador Takada expressed his hope that this project will help many Civil Society Organizations overcome and mitigate the challenges caused by COVID-19 and allowing them to focus on the promotion of regional cooperation and reconciliation in the Western Balkans.

Japan attaches great importance to the role of Civil Society Organizations and over the years has provided support to the CSO community. Just last February, the Embassy of Japan financially supported the Western Balkans Fund to organize the “1st Civil Society Organization Summit” in Tirana. Japan believes that an active civil society helps foster respect and common regional values, increases regional cooperation, revitalizes connections and allows to better address reconciliation.