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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to participants in an NGO Roundtable
Tirana, Albania, February 19, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am very pleased to welcome you all this afternoon for what I hope will be a good and open discussion.

I met earlier today with the President and Prime Minister and with other Ministers of the Government and I spoke to Parliament. So I thought that it would be very important to end my day by consulting with all of you, who are so essential to the building of a democratic Albania. You are pillars on which a democratic Albania will stand. It is obviously evident in any democracy, of whatever size, that the government cannot do everything, nor should it do everything and I think that, as many of you know, who have lived in an Albania where the government did everything, that didn't bring you much.

What history really shows is that democracy flourishes only when citizens participate actively in what is going on in terms of outside activities and bring to the government the problems that only the government can solve and, at the same time, take upon yourselves the responsibilities that citizens must take care of in any society. In listening to the various things you do, really, that is what you are doing, in media training, training of judges, and working on the rule of law, rights of women and children, obviously making sure that citizens are protected, especially women, who, in many of these societies, have not been treated properly. So what you are doing is absolutely essential and, as you do it, you are making citizens aware of the responsibilities that they have because citizenship in a country, in any country, is not just a gift it is a responsibility. I think people need to know that things are not just done for them. They have to participate.

I am very eager to learn from all of you this afternoon what you are doing to build a new Albania and what we can do to be of assistance. I am very glad that you have been in touch with the embassy. I think that our embassies are at their best when they are in touch with the citizens of a country and understand how the daily life in the country goes on, how it breathes, and so I commend Ambassador Limprecht for spending time with non-governmental organizations.

I must say that, as much as I always enjoy meeting with my counterparts in government, I often learn more about societies from meetings with the NGOs.

[End of Document]
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