Mr Palm's speech during the launching of the study "Social exclusion of children in Albania - presented in a digitalized format” on 4 December 2012
In my work in UNICEF, I have been often asked: How do you get a national policy to work at the community level? How do you transform the good intent or the grandiose idea that underpins the reform of national policy into real change for people who are poor, for marginalized groups, for children?
There is also the other side of it. I get asked with the same frequency: How do you scale up? How can we manage to transform a local experience, a pilot project or a good local idea of serious civil servants or civil society into national policy? How can we demonstrate that what worked in a few communities is actually good enough to work for everyone in the country?
After many years, I feel we are coming closer to the answer. And the answer is very simple – and part of it is what we are seeing and launching today.
You have to know what is going on in our communities. Not in a few communities. Not just the hearsay, or the observation by someone who happened to travel to some remote place and spoke to someone whose name he cannot remember.
So when I say that we have to know what is going on in the communities, I mean in every community. And I mean data and facts that can be observed, and not just talk.
This is what the observatories have brought to us. A database that is now put on the world wide web. It is information seen through the lens of civil society, and the information is publicly available. Everyone can drill down to the most remote community and see whether children go to school or not, how many families get social assistance, whether health care and protection is available.
And if we - government officials, ministers, policy makers, NGO representatives, human rights activities, development partners, parents - if we are not satisfied with the progress among children in a particular commune, we can call the mayor or the head of commune or the headmaster of the school, or a regional official and ask them what was done. We can hold them accountable. Because the fulfilment of children's rights is not their personal affair, but it is all our business. This is how we can help to make sure that national policy gets translated into local action.
Of course the database is also a tool for the communes or the regional council themselves. They now can decide on their budget allocations, and their priorities, based on facts presented to them in an easy and accessible way.
Because of its ability to aggregate data to the district or the regional or the national level, the database also helps policy makers in Tirana to get a better picture of the extent of poverty and deprivation across the country. The information is very rich, with indicators ranging from access to social welfare services, or exclusion from basic rights like education or health care.
We can use the information captured in this website also for raising awareness about social exclusion, or to raise the attention of regional and local decision makers about child welfare and children's rights.
I am very excited about this new tool and the website, and of course the database and the work that is behind it. If I had one wish related to this all, I would hope that the work is taken seriously into consideration by all development partners, local or national, and that this effort receives a sustainable financial basis. Because things change, people move. The database is only as a good as it remains up-to-date.
This is an excellent service to the people and the government of Albania, and I strongly urge the authorities - especially at the regional level - to consider making the efforts of the child observatories a part of their own regular work.