The Albanian American Development Foundation (AADF) is the legacy institution of the Albanian America Enterprise Fund (AAEF) founded under the Support for East European Democracy Act (SEED Act), approved by the United States Congress in 1989.
The AADF is a not-for-profit organization, organized and established under the laws of the State of Delaware, and a result of an agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Albania. This agreement was made in 1995 with an initial investment of $30 million, to establish the AAEF. All revenue generated by the AAEF investments have been carried over to finance and support AADF programs. The value of the initial contribution is $171 million. These funds are a gift of the American people, and will be used by AADF over the course of coming the years and decades to improve the lives of the citizens of Albania.
The mission of AADF is to support the development a sustainable private sector economy and a democratic society in Albania through its 4 main programs, in line with its bylaws adopted by United States Government: Education, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Cultural Heritage and Environment in function of tourism.
Since the establishment in 2009, the AADF has invested in 60 projects and has committed a total fund of approximately $73 million. Some $40 million from this total have been committed to various cultural heritage projects, including: the revitalization of main historic centers in the country such as the Shkodra Pedestrian Area, the Old Bazaar in Kruja, the Old Bazaar in Korça, the New Bazaar in Tirana, the Bazaar in Gjirokastra, the Vlora Historic Center; the first ever installation of electronic ticketing machines in cultural 10 sites; the design and construction of the Marubi National Photographic Museum, the establishment of the cultural heritage digitalization national unit, and has enabled Albanian youth to participate in Regional Restoration Camps and in the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI) network. Recently, the AADF has been working on two projects focusing on the establishment of the National Jewish Museum in Vlora and the development of the Durrës archaeological site management plan. While the list of AADF cultural heritage project continues with many more interventions, we also aim to improve employment and local capacities, integrate technology in the field, enhance domestic and foreign tourism revenue while promoting year-round economic development, fundamentally improve services and products for visitors, businesses and local communities operating and living in these areas. As a result of our ongoing commitment, AADF has offered its support to the Ministry of Culture with local and international legal consultation in developing the new Cultural Heritage and Museums Law, which was adopted by Parliament in May 2018.
Throughout these projects, AADF cooperates closely with the Government of Albania, the respective municipalities and other domestic and international partners, like the World Bank, the European Union, the Embassy of the United States of America, the Albanian Development Fund and many renowned and experts and professionals of the field from the country and across the world.
The engagement of the AADF in preserving, protecting and promoting the UNESCO World Heritage Butrint National Park (BNP), as one of the main archaeological parks in the country, began along with the establishment of the Foundation. Since 2010, the AADF has contributed with a fund of $500,000 for the installation of cameras, tourism infrastructure and signs, the environmental rehabilitation of the new road, the installation of the firefighting system, and the development of the integrated management plan. These projects have had considerable impact on the improvement and increase of revenues in Butrint. Evidence of the successful interventions is the installation of the electronic ticketing system, which from 2012 to date has increased revenues by over 240%. After the expiry of two management plans in Butrint, for the 2000-2005 and 2007-2012 periods respectively, as well as the 2009-2015 environmental management plan, the development of an Integrated Management Plan has been a priority of Albanian authorities and a continuous requirement in the Decisions of the World Heritage Committee – UNESCO. Previous management plans have not addressed the BNP cultural and natural values in an integrated manner.
The AADF responded to the request of the Ministry of Culture to provide technical assistance in the development of the BNP Integrated Management Plan, in complete compliance with law No. 27/2018 on Cultural Heritage and Museums, Law No. 81/2017 on Protected Areas, and UNESCO operational instructions.
The draft plan was submitted for consultation to the World Heritage Center (UNESCO); it was reviewed based on the recommendation of its two consultation bodies in the field of cultural heritage ICOMOS and ICCROM; and was adopted by the Council of Ministers in July 2020, which for the first time makes the implementation of this plan a legal obligation for all state institutions. Among other innovations, the current management plan recommends the administration of the Butrint cultural assets based on the new model of a tailor-made non-profit foundation. This new foundation will be co-established by state institutions, represented by the Ministry of Culture, and a strategic partner, It will allow additional fundraising for the protection, safeguarding and better management of Butrint’s cultural assets. An additional body established under this plan is the Butrint Research Group which will function as an advisory board for the new foundation. It will be composed of experts and researchers from various fields and will support professional and positive decision making in the Park that will benefit the future of Butrint.
According to the law on cultural heritage, under this management model, the public ownership of cultural asset remains unchanged. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for and ensures the protection of cultural asset values owned by the state, even when co-managed with third parties. Under this model, the administration of universal wealth (included in the UNESCO World Heritage list), may only be undertaken with the approval of the Albanian Parliament, thus ensuring sustainability and transparency.
The AADF has expressed its interest in cooperating with the Ministry of Culture to establish the new Butrint Foundation, as per the integrated management plan. Currently, the site’s average annual revenue for the 2013-2018 period is around $500,000. The new management plan, aims at sustainable development for the entire BNP and the surrounding community, through increased funding for the conservation of cultural and archaeological heritage in sub-area A3, investment to adapt tourist infrastructure, development of local capacities, and increased employment in the BNP.
The AADF has committed adequate funding for the implementation of this new model, which will be invested in line with the vision of the Integrated Management Plan, so that the BNP is recognized: “…as a sustainable management model for sites with cultural and natural elements, becoming a hub for the regional tourism offer and providing visitors with a unique experience, engaging local communities and financial institutions, while also serving as a model for other parks in Albania”.
The AADF’s presence in the Foundation Board aims at guaranteeing that the financial support provided by the AADF for the BNP is used in line with the integrated management plan for the development of a sustainable management model with future local community development at its core.
According to its mission and vision, the AADF serves as a catalyst in the field of cultural heritage in Albania, providing models, funds, and knowledge or expertise resources for better products and services, and to improve the quality of Albanian citizens lives. This gift is the most valuable legacy of cultural and democratic values that the United States of America are giving the Albanian people.