Tiziana: her experience in Albania

At Fiumicino airport, heading to Tirana thanks to the René Cassin Prize

When I read about the launch of a new edition of the René Cassin Prize, I was at Fiumicino airport (Rome, IT), waiting to board for Cairo, where a new adventure was waiting for me: a three-month internship promoted by the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the MAE-CRUI, at the Cooperation Office of the Italian Embassy in Egypt. A little hesitant, I decided that, although I was starting a new experience in a new city with a new employer, I would still send the application. A few months after my master’s thesis and still uncertain of my future, I wanted to keep all the options open and experience every possibility of growth.

Thanks to a twist of fate, the date of the interview for the award coincided with the end of my internship in Cairo. Actually, the Cooperation Office in Egypt had offered me to stay with a renewable three-month consultancy to take care of a health project in the suburbs of the capital; however, the prospect of the René Cassin seemed far more enticing. In fact, the award would have led to a 9-month work-training period. During the interview my motivation emerged, accompanied by the experiences gained in the field of human rights and development cooperation and after a few days they called me to communicate the positive result. I had to wait a few more weeks to get to know the destination and the institution I would work for.

In September 2010, I found myself again in Fiumicino airport, this time leaving for Tirana, Albania. I would once again work for the Italian Embassy's Cooperation Office, with the task of making interventions in the country more effective, in line with the provisions of the 2005 Paris Declaration and the subsequent Accra Agenda of 2008[1]. This involved frequent dialogues with the host government and a careful analysis of its national strategic development plans as well as the measures proposed and adopted by Albania to be recognized as a “candidate country” for the adhesion process to the European Union. The Italian initiatives, in fact, had to align with the development priorities identified by the Albanian Government and the measures put in place to become a Member State. In addition, there were frequent exchanges and coordination meetings with representatives of the donor community in the country, in order to harmonize the programs and ensure a fair and equitable division of labour[2].

I worked in a dynamic office where there were many sectors in which the Italian Cooperation intervened: development of the private sector and, in particular, of small and medium enterprises; instruction; health; agriculture and rural development; protection of minors and social inclusion; gender; water and hygiene. Thanks to the transversal nature of my functions, I had the opportunity to interact with all the program managers and to learn a lot from each sector. Although I was the only René Cassin bursary holder in the office, I was in the company of six other interns: over the months, I noticed a certain fondness of my colleagues towards me. In fact, being the only long-term intern, the Program Manager and the Director of the Office, most importantly, were more motivated to train and involve me in new projects than they were with the other trainees.

Those nine months were fundamental to consolidate both my knowledge and skills and to confirm my interest in working on development cooperation policies. From day to day, my familiarity with the mechanisms and intervention tools of both the Italian Cooperation and the European Union and the organization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs grew. And even before my job training was completed, the Director of the Office offered me to stay with a project-based contract for a further six months as a consultant for Aid Effectiveness.

Six years later, here I am still working for the Italian Cooperation, from January 2016 renamed AICS - Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, Office of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after having worked for almost four years with the Office of Nairobi, first as a fellow of the United Nations and later as an employee. Even today, my task is to ensure that the work of the Italian Government is as effective and efficient as possible, avoiding duplication of interventions with other donors and other actors in development cooperation, reducing the costs of transition, providing technical assistance and capacity building and respecting the development priorities of partner countries. Over the years and experiences, I have managed, monitored and evaluated numerous projects in various fields, from private sector development, to water and sewerage and, lately, to the decentralized provision of basic services.

It is quite difficult to imagine if and how my life would have been different without the René Cassin scholarship; it certainly helped me to pursue my ambitions, offered me an excellent springboard in the world of development cooperation, as well as giving me the opportunity to meet highly respected professionals who have also become dear friends. I consider myself very lucky, thanks also to my determination, because I do a job that gives great satisfaction and is the crowning achievement of the studies undertaken. I am grateful to the René Cassin Prize because it represented an important step for me in realizing my dreams and I hope that it will give a boost to many other motivated young people in the next generations.


[1] See: http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/34428351.pdf
[2] See: http://register.consilium.europa.eu/doc/srv?l=EN&f=ST%209558%202007%20INIT

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