Democracy and Governance
Within the framework of Citizen Advocate! Program (CAP) a presentation regarding the Ethics Code for Civil Society Organizations was held on September 26 at the Sheraton Metechi Palace. The work over the Code was launched in September 2003, however the discussions regarding the code and the necessity for its elaboration was put on the agenda long ago.
“The Ethics Code represents a collection of experiences of Georgian NGOs, gained through their 15 years of work in Georgia. Now, we have collected this experience in a single document, which is our message to the society,” says Irina Tsintsadze of the Civic Development Center “Alternative”, which coordinated work on the Code.
The NGO Ethics Code was elaborated by a working group of eight civil society representatives under the aegis of CAP. “We rely upon the principle that the Ethics Code is not the property of several particular organizations. This is a document, which should become a plan of action for the entire sector. Hence, all of us should share it,” the authors of the Code say.
The Ethics Code is a self-regulation mechanism for the civil society organizations. The essence of the Code is to state the minimum standards of behavior for Georgian NGOs. These standards address to the openness and transparency of NGO activities, their public image, their relationships with society, government, political parties, donors and the general public, as well as internal democratic governance and financial accountability.
“The time has passed until we came up to present. A great deal of discussions were held, including around the word “Code”, which was fearsome and originated unpleasant emotions among non-governmental organizations, which jealously guard their independence... Today’s event emphasizes that we are getting free from the complexes characteristic to the post-communist world,” Gia Nodia of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development said.
In the process of elaboration, a number of discussion meetings and roundtables were held . The representatives of various civil society organizations expressed their opinions and finally agreed over the current form of the Ethics Code.
“The Code envisages minimal standards, operational norms for each of us – how to organize our activities, how to be more open, what are the key principles of our relations with the authorities, what kind of relations should we establish with political parties, how to conduct business accounting inside the organization. This helps us to conduct more effective and efficient activities,” Ramaz Apstiauri of the United National Association of Georgia said.
As tangible indicators for an organization’s effective functionality Five Silver Principles were also declared at the presentation. These principles are: openness and transparency of the CSO activities, description of the mission and standing order, collegial style of management, necessity for regular financial audits, publishing annual reports.
Of course, not all the civil society organizations acting in Georgia can meet these guidelines; however, this does not mean that this organization will face any obstacles while joining the Code.
“These principles can be amended, widened or revised, but the main thing is that the whole of Georgian society and NGOs will participate in this open process,” Vazha Salamadze of the Civil Society Institute said.
A Monitoring Council is planned to be set up, which will study the quality of conformity of the Ethics Code and Five Silver Principles with the civil society organizations. In May 2005 the Council will reveal the best civil society organization.
“Those civil society organizations will be awarded, which observe the rules thoroughly. The award will be symbolic. It may be like an Oscar type award,” Vazha Salamadze said.
Over 30 non-governmental organizations signed the Code on September 27. All the way until the year’s end NGOs eager to share the principles and ideas of the Ethic Code have a possibility to sign it. Code signing ceremonies and presentations will also be held throughout the regions of Georgia this year.