'Nature needs to be an integral part of all decision making' – thegef

Albania’s Deputy Minister of Tourism and Environment Ornela Çuçi serves as her government’s official liaison to the Global Environment Facility and also represents a constituency of 12 countries at the GEF Council. In an interview, she reflected on the ways Albania is raising awareness about environmental protection as a vital part of economic growth, and shared life lessons from her career in public service.

 

What do you do for a living?

I feel lucky to have an opportunity to use my background in environmental engineering to work for Albanian society and for humanity as a whole. Before starting my career in government, I received a Ph.D. in environmental science and technology, specializing in integrated waste management. Today, I am Albania’s Deputy Minister of Tourism and Environment and for the past three years have been my country’s Political Focal Point for the Global Environment Facility and National Dedicated Authority for the Green Climate Fund. Since December 2019, I am also the GEF Council representative for a constituency including Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine. I enjoy the work and consider it also a passion and a mission, which requires a great deal of commitment and motivates me every day.

 

What are Albania’s biggest environmental priorities?

The topic of the environment is both interesting and challenging in my country. Albania inherited very poor public services such as waste management, water supply chains, roads, and other infrastructure. Rapid urbanization over the last few decades have also contributed to a lack of public services in some newly urbanized areas, and uneven coverage in others. Even today, most Albanian households rely on water tanks for potable water, and only 70 percent of households have waste management coverage. We are in the early stages of an integrated waste management service, early steps on recycling, and these are priority areas of engagement and investment for us. Air pollution from the use of old cars, construction, and from the use of wood for heating in winter, is also a major concern.

 

I have observed increasing awareness, as we work to address these challenges, that environmental issues are closely related to economic ones. I am very happy to see that individuals as well as politicians in Albania are recognizing more and more that in order to grow economically we need to care for nature – and where we do need to use natural resources, that we need to do so wisely and with caution – cutting, pruning, and planting.

 

Could you describe a typical workday for you?

My typical workday starts in the office, with a morning meeting with close staff. Depending on the agenda, and in cooperation with colleagues from other ministries on certain issues, we deal with decision-making and implementation of environmental legislation, environmental standards, and continuous communication to increase environmental awareness. Our Clean and Green 2020 campaign occupies a lot of my fieldwork time. I also work in close cooperation with local governments and with civil society. Several days a week, I am engaged as a lecturer of Environmental Protection in the Hydro Engineering department of the Polytechnic University of Tirana.

 

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