Albanian Advocacy Group Facing a Fight It Didn't Anticipate

By Nora Boustany
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A civic action and advocacy group in Albania has been caught up in a legal dispute over brand names between the U.S.-based Gallup Organization and a coalition of research companies under the Swiss-based Gallup International Association.

The Gallup Organization is suing the Albanian group Mjaft, or Enough, which was active in the campaign for Albania's national elections July 3, as well as a Bulgarian firm that conducted and published opinion surveys in the Albanian press under the name Gallup International.

A spokesman for the American polling outfit alleged that the Albanian group was exploiting the Gallup name and "infringing on the trademark" for his firm.

Erion Veliaj , executive director of the Albanian group, which is partly funded by the U.S. government, said in an e-mail that it was "a leading watchdog and pressure group" that has worked to combat civic apathy and engage citizens in Albania's political debate. He said the group had approached several polling companies to commission pre-election surveys.

"We wanted to measure public sentiments, priorities and needs. Gallup Organization never replied to our inquiry," he wrote. "Gallup International . . . were the only ones fit for the job." He said the company had been previously hired in the region by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations, Amnesty International and other agencies.

Chris Stewart , the California-based global brand manager for the Gallup Organization, said his firm was approached at first but declined, telling Veliaj's group that its strict policy bars it from providing advocacy or special interest groups with surveys.

"We attempted to get an injunction in the court, but it was too slow. We are going to go ahead as soon as we can get a judge to pay attention," he said.

Veliaj said he learned of the dispute only through the Web.

"We consider this is an issue between the two companies to solve, not between companies and the poll clients," he said. "It seems like a youth movement in Albania makes for an easier prey than the multinational bodies."

Honoring Afghan Activists

Three activists from Afghanistan are to receive the 2005 Democracy Award of the National Endowment for Democracy at a ceremony at the Dirksen Senate Office Building this evening. Before the awards are presented, regional experts, legislators and the honorees will discuss challenges to democratic advances in Afghanistan.

"The Afghan election in October 2004 was an exciting moment for the whole world as we watched millions of Afghans bravely cast their ballots," said NED Chairman Vin Weber . "Now that the spotlight has shifted away, I hope that our Democracy Award will create renewed interest and concern for all those who are working so hard to deepen the democratic progress."

The honorees are Sakena Yacoobi , Mohammad Nasib and Sarwar Hussaini .

Yacoobi is founder and president of the Afghan Institute of Learning, which provides health care, education and human rights training. Nasib's Welfare Association for Development of Afghanistan acts to spread democratic principles and boost local governance by training community leaders. Hussaini's Cooperation Center for Afghanistan works to empower women and promote citizen participation in traditional institutions.

Lessons From Colombia

A six-man Afghan delegation arrived in Colombia on Monday to meet with counterparts involved in combating drug trafficking, kidnapping, poppy growing and money laundering, according to Esteban Piedrahita , a counselor at the Colombian Embassy.

The one-week visit, at the invitation of Colombia's Counter-Narcotics Police, is aimed at sharing lessons learned by security forces and law enforcement agencies in Colombia, which have benefited from substantial foreign aid and training.

Afghanistan's counter-narcotics minister, Habibullah Qaderi , is leading the delegation. In addition to meetings with commanders of the national police and narcotics agencies, the Afghans will visit sites where alternatives to drug crops are being developed.

Australia's New Envoy

Australia has a new ambassador, Dennis Richardson , who is replacing Michael Thawley after 5 1/2 years in Washington.

Although Richardson held various foreign postings including Nairobi, Jakarta and Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, his major contribution to public service has been in the security sector. Until his appointment to Washington, Richardson was director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

From 1993 to 1996, he was deputy secretary at the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. He has also worked in the office of the prime minister and served as head of the Review of the Intelligence Community in 1992.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company