Keep smiling, things are looking up

Albania’s National Coordinator Ms Dorina Cinari on chance coffees and affecting change in her country.

This profile of the month was written by Richard Dion.

“It was all by chance!” Dorina Cinari smiles convincingly when asked about how she joined the Albanian EITI process.

“I met the Member of Parliament Mr Gjiknuri when he was in opposition and I started moaning about the country’s direction. 'Does our country have a plan? Can someone please share it with us?' ”

A chance coffee

Fast-forward a few months, past an election and change in government: Dorina walks out a door with a cup of coffee and bumps into Mr Gjiknuri, now Minister Gjiknuri.

“Dorina, I am so happy to see you. I’ve thought a lot about your rant some months ago and it moved me. Do you want to try to affect change in our government? Would you be interested in running the EITI in Albania?”

Dorina continues, “I wasn’t sure what to make of it and frankly, those four letters, EITI, meant nothing to me. However, that night I trolled through the EITI webpages in Albania and of the International Secretariat and I was hooked. I wanted to be part of it.”

One year, two reports, three major policy undertakings

Closing out her first year the National Coordinator of Albania EITI, Dorina has seen much change. Presiding over the National Secretariat which has published two reports in the last few months, the Government and the National Secretariat have taken concrete steps towards building government capacity in contracts, drafting a revenue management plan, addressing informality in the mining sector and inserting clauses regarding transparency in upcoming legislation.

“Now there is a plan. The mind frame of complete opacity towards transparency is slowly changing. Measuring that is tough, but I receive fewer phone calls for handling things informally than I did previously.”

Tackling a mountain of problems

With a sense of frustration, Dorina churns out facts with a look of cheerful sadness. “Can you believe that in 1990, our extractive revenues were 40% of our GDP. That number is now not even 2%. That figure must rise!”. The decline in revenues from the sector could be due to the high level of informality in the sector, and the decline of the mineral processing industry. Currently, 99% of Albania’s minerals are exported without having been processed, which would add value to the resource and increase the price.

Dorina says, “Progress has been made, but a mountain of problems remains to be tackled. Government agencies are crucial to get the information for the EITI Reports together. It has not transpired yet to many that information should be shared and freely accessible. Dismantling the socialist experiment will take more than a generation. The private sector can be more cooperative than state entities. For that matter, civil society needs to get more engaged.”

Shaping Albania in more than one way

“I enjoy being an informal ambassador for my country, representing us here and abroad. In a way, our country’s fate is wrapped up in the extractives and so I am not only chasing the ins and outs of Independent Administrators, MSG politics and communications plans, but also the wider picture, dare I say, the fun things, such as giving presentations, writing briefings for ministerial visits to Brussels, advocating Albania as a place to do business with its proximity to European markets. We’ve managed to attract several major oil and gas companies. I am an engineer by training and am used to dealing with equations and technical aspects. So these very important interpersonal and strategic aspects of my job are still new, but I am learning.”

Does Dorina unwind? Only sometimes. “I read quite a bit, at times through the night. Singing and dancing are also important aspects of my life”. She not only likes shaping Albania’s extractives sector, but also her immediate surroundings.“ Design inspires me and so I have designed clothes and even interiors for some friends of mine – they haven’t complained, at least not yet,” she says, with a smile.

View the TV interview with Dorina Cinari on the extractives (in Albanian)