arrow-circle arrow-down-basicarrow-down arrow-left-small arrow-left arrow-right-small arrow-right arrow-up arrow closefacebooklinkedinsearch twittervideo-icon

City Spotlight: Elbasan, Albania

The City of Elbasan is the fourth largest municipality in Albania. It is home to a multi-religious community where Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic places of worship exist side by side. It joined the Strong Cities Network in 2017 and has been actively engaged in the Network’s activity since. For example, the Municipality participated in a city exchange organised by Strong Cities in Skopje and Gostivar in 2019. In 2021, once COVID-19 mitigation measures were eased, the City itself organised such an exchange as a means to encourage local governments to prioritise prevention. In June 2023, the city hosted a Strong Cities regional workshop on City-led Approaches to Empower Youth to Address Extremism. Much of Strong Cities’ engagement with the city has been directly with Mayor Gledian Llatja, who has shown leadership in and commitment to city-led prevention, including by contributing to the development of Strong Cities’ Guide for Mayors. Strong Cities also facilitated the participation of Mayor Llatja at a Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) side event on Strengthening National-Local Cooperation and Supporting Community-Level Prevention and Countering of Violent Extremism during the high-level opening of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly. There, he shared his city’s needs for prevention. 

What is the local government concerned about?

The City of Elbasan has faced significant challenges with extremist and hate groups over the years. In fact, Elbasan was one of the main hotspots in Albania from which individuals travelled to Syria and Iraq to support the Islamic State. According to the Coordinator of the city’s Local Safety Council (a multi-actor structure for the prevention of hate, extremism, polarisation and other social issues; see “How is the local government responding?”), young people are the primary targets of such groups, with extremists exploiting youth unemployment in particular to recruit them.  

Importantly, while the municipality has prevention structures in place (e.g. its Local Safety Council), it has faced challenges with raising awareness about the Council and building trust between the Council and residents, given the taboo nature of the topic of extremism in the city.  

How is the local government responding?

The City of Elbasan’s local prevention efforts have focused on enhancing collaboration among the municipality, local police and prosecutors, through the establishment of its multi-stakeholder Local Safety Council. The Council is responsible for identifying and mitigating local challenges related to hate, extremism and polarisation.

Formed in 2016, the Council carries a broad mandate to enhance public safety and security. It is chaired by the Mayor and includes the city’s Judicial District Prosecutor, Local Director of Elbasan State Police, Chairman of the Municipal Council, Head of Public Health Elbasan, Head of Elbasan Social Service, Elbasan Court Representative, Child Protection Officer, Gender Officer, representatives from Civil Emergencies, Municipal Police, and the Transport Directorate as well as representatives from local media companies, religious communities, minorities, civil society and the private sector.

The importance of prevention has not always been adequately recognised across all structures in our municipality. However, through a comprehensive, whole-of-society approach, we have invested significant time and effort to increase awareness and have successfully achieved our desired goal. These efforts were challenging and time-consuming, but they have yielded positive results. Youth are a key component of these efforts, and we work more intensely to elevate their voices in the decision-making process.                  

Gledian Llatja, Mayor of Elbasan, Albania

Since its launch, the Council has coordinated the city’s response to local risks and threats such as organised crime, gender-based violence and violent extremism. It also taps into its diverse membership to identify and understand these threats to begin with. It has also worked with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s mission in Albania to ensure its approach aligns with relevant national frameworks, including the country’s National Countering Violent Extremism Strategy. Further, to enhance its impact and credibility amongst residents, the City recently adopted a communications and outreach strategy that focuses in particular on engagement with marginalised communities.

What’s next?

The City of Elbasan’s current Local Safety Council meets regularly to discuss emerging threats and brainstorm responses. However, the city seeks additional funding to sustain and scale the Council’s impact, particularly to build on the trust-building activities it has already started delivering. In this context, and to better communicate about its work overall, the Council, which already publishes monthly bulletins about its work, is exploring options to modernise its communications and better capture its impact overall. This includes being able to leverage technology more effectively to help ensure news of its work is accessible to all residents.  

Is your city a Strong City?

Strong Cities membership is open to local authorities at the city, municipal or other subnational level. Membership is free of charge.