The Center Science and Innovation for Development (SCiDEV) successfully hosted a youth debate on integrity in the framework of the Week of Integrity in Albania in 2020. The event was organized in corporation with Liburnetik and supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Albania.

Sixteen young people in four teams debated two motions: “Digitalization and ICTs can reduce corruption” and “Education for integrity must be mainstreamed in school and university curricula.” Four mentors – Abi Dodbiba, Blerina Fani, Blerta Tuçi, and Dritan Sakuta guided the teams in their preparation for the debate by researching the topics and building up evidence for their arguments and developing their debate strategies.  Mrs. Guusje Korthals Altes – HE Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Albania; Mr. Mario Mariani –  Head of Cooperation at EU Delegation; Mr. Andi Dobrushi – Regional Coordinator for Western Balkans Foundations & Executive Director of Open Society Foundation for Albania; Mr. Rogier Nouwen – HE Deputy Ambassador; Mrs. Aspasjana Kongo – Deputy Minister of Education, Sports and Youth; Mrs. Stela Suloti – Advisor to the Minister of Justice were members of two juries that evaluated the debates and provided helpful feedback to the young debaters.

 Welcoming the participants, Blerjana Bino, Co-Founder of SCiDEV, highlighted that “facilitating young people to learn about integrity and engaging them in activities that promote integrity and ethical values contribute to empowering the next generation to prevent corruption. So, we believe that young people can be most valuable in promoting and pushing for integrity in all aspects of life”.  SCiDEV and Liburnetik support young people in their education and professional development journey. Both organizations have Debate Programs for high school and university students, supported by the Open Society Foundation in Albania. The Debate Programme is an essential instrument to equip youth with critical thinking, analytical skills, ethical communication, and tolerance for different opinions. Bino added that ethical and quality debate, based on evidence and research, is an essential service for students and, broadly, for society. It is precisely this valuable experience with the debate program that motivated the cooperation with the Dutch Embassy for the youth debate.

In her opening remarks, Mrs. Guusje Korthals Altes – HE Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Albania, pointed out that “Albania deserves a young generation that is engaged and has a desire to explore and think critically, willing to do research and invest in presentation and to have a balanced and well-informed debate. There is a lot of fast news and fast opinions nowadays, so it is good that students invest time and energy in an informed debate with reasoning and evidence.” HE Ambassador underlined that the young generation is central to a whole-of-society culture of integrity, and it needs to be taken along to an ongoing dialogue. “There is a need to foster an environment, when youth explores its roles and responsibilities as citizens: promoting ethical values and fostering non-tolerance of corruption. Integrity is not simply about abiding by law and regulations; it is about shared values and principles. Debating issues related to integrity helps us to define what are the shared values that we have and to make sure that we act upon them,” she concluded.  

 As a Jury member, evaluating the first debate on digitalization and corruption, HE Ambassador Guusje Korthals Altes congratulated the students on their preparation and performance. Despite online debating constraints, the teams managed to conduct excellent debates: thorough research with sound arguments and evidence, creative thinking in finding counter-arguments. She suggested that they focus on examples close to Albania, usage of data, and evidence that are easy to comprehend, helping the audience relate to arguments and make more use of concrete examples.

 Mr. Mario Mariani, Head of Cooperation at European Union Delegation, highlighted that the debate was a fascinating exercise to broaden our minds and look at the topic of digitalization and corruption from different angles. He noted that “the opposition team had prepared sound arguments questioning the role of digitalization and ICTs in reducing corruption, making a persuasive case for both arguments. Students used good data and examples, helping to reinforce examples”. Mr. Mariani provided the debaters with some tips for the future: “evidence and data are significant, but do not overdo them as you might lose the audience. Examples and linkages to personal experience remain in the mind of the audiences.” He was impressed by the performance and linguistic skills. He concluded that it is helpful to have these initiatives that include students, and Week of Integrity is becoming more open with various events. He also noted that EUD supports the usage of ICTs in reducing corruption and improving public services such as e-government, one-stop shops, and e-services.

 Mr. Andi Dobrushi – The Regional Coordinator for Western Balkans Foundations & Executive Director of Open Society Foundation for Albania, noted that the debate program is one of the most exciting and worthy programs that OSFA supports, encouraging their fresh and unconventional ideas. He underlined that “we should not forget what integrity is: doing the right thing even when others are not looking. When we talk about values, it is important to bear in mind to internalize these values and practice them. Young people need to practice their values in daily environments such as schools and universities. It takes courage to have integrity, and unfortunately, there are not many best examples to draw inspiration from, and that’s why it is important not simply to debate, but to practice values and principles of integrity and not to become compliant with anti-values”.

 The team leaders, Marime Gjoka and Iris Beqiri thanked the jury members for their feedback. All team members will prepare short blog articles drawing from the arguments and ideas they discussed on digitalization and corruption. SCiDEV will publish and promote them together with Liburnetik.

 Mr. Rogier Nouwen – HE Deputy Ambassador, evaluating the debate on “Education for integrity must be mainstreamed in school and university curricula,” congratulated the teams on their performance and preparation and offered them useful tips about communication and public speaking. Mrs. Aspasjana Kongo – Deputy Minister of Education, Sports, and Youth, pointed out that “it is not easy to do the debate online, but all team members were well prepared, with arguments and addressing counter-arguments. Students demonstrated ethical values. This debate an important tool not simply to debate but also to understand more about integrity in schools and universities. We are working to empower students and young people, so doing research, public speaking, and debating will help you make decision-making and advocate for your rights. I hope you will become the critical thinkers of the future.” Mrs. Stela Suloti – Advisor to the Minister of Justice, noted: “The quality of the debate made me think about the link between integrity and education, which is an indicator of how well-prepared the students were.”

 The team leaders, Andri Ferati and Bjori Gjini thanked the jury members for their feedback and SCiDEV and Liburnetik for organizing the event. All team members will prepare short blog articles drawing from the arguments and ideas they discussed on education and integrity, and Liburnetik will publish and promote them together with SCiDEV.

 Ergys Gezka, Executive Director of Liburnetik, pointed out that “learning about integrity in schools can help empower the next generation and counter corruption.”  He noted that Liburnetik is conducting the 4th edition of the debate program in high schools in 61 municipalities and will continue to work with young people in this regard.

 Thanking the debate teams, mentor, jury members, the staff, and all participants, Blerjana Bino noted that “A call to integrity – Youth Campaign” will be developed during December whereby the debate teams will continue working together and co-create an online campaign with blog articles and video messages on promoting integrity and ideas/arguments identified during the debate. SCiDEV and Liburnetik will include integrity as a topic of their debate programs. SCiDEV will continue our work with young people to promote champions of integrity in their communities. SCiDEV is also supporting students to put into action ideas stemming from the debates and skills they develop in the debating program through engagement in their schools, universities, and communities.

 Debate I: “Digitalization and ICTs can reduce corruption”

Affirmative: Marime Gjoka – Team Leader

Mariana Koçeku
Malvina Kuça
Iliri Brasha

Opposition: Iris Beqiri – Team Leader

Denison Meta
Irini Palla
Brisilda Ormeni

Debate II: “Education for integrity must be mainstreamed in school and university curricula.”

Affirmative: Bjori Gjini – Team Leader

Florinda Gjypi
Valentin Nina
Erti Poka

Opposition: Andri Ferati – Team Leader

Anxhela Xhaka
Klea Meça
Besart Bebja

Full video available here.