CSO Leaders Debate Inclusion Agenda


Development Education Summer School of 2005 took place in Harnosand, Sweden on June 5-11. Nana Tsereteli and Lasha Jugheli – representatives of the UN Association of Georgia - were the first Georgian participants to have attended this event.</p> <p>Summer School was organized by SHIA – a coalition of twenty-six disabled people organizations – as well as the United Nations Association of Sweden. The primary emphasis of the summer school was on human rights with the specific focus on aspects of inclusion.</p> <p>Inclusion is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. In words of one of the keynote speakers of the summer school, a scholar of economy and poverty at University of Greenwich Alan Freeman "most bad thinking comes from ignoring other people’s ideas. Inclusion...means recognizing the potential of what everyone thinks or believes in.”</p> <p>Although it may not be framed in this way, many aspects of inclusion make the headlines in today’s Georgia.</p> <p>The policymakers in the government and think-tanks are working on various projects for integration of the national minorities, which form an estimated 16% of the population in Georgia. There also are some 300 000 internally displaced persons from breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia whose status and economic hardship frequently exclude them from social processes. Many others fail to enjoy adequate life standards and proper socialization due to poverty, physical or mental disabilities, age, gender or other reasons.</p> <p>Nana Tsereteli says a whole array of these issues can and should be framed as an inclusion agenda for Georgia. "The issue of inclusion is something that the state and society as a whole have to pay immediate attention to,” Tsereteli says.</p> <p>As a country in transition, Georgia must openly address the challenge of inclusion. Although the theme of inclusion has became more and more important for international society today, "Unless we work with ourselves, we can not make a real change in our surroundings. Inclusion in organizations and society is one of the most important issues of human rights and equality that we have to work with today,” says Asa Bjering, president of LSU - The National Council of Swedish Youth Organizations.</p> <p>Lasha Jugeli, who works for the governance program of UNAG, agrees. He says that formally everyone is equal before the law, but "mere legislative efforts are not sufficient to avoid social exclusion. Society has to play the defining role to ensure full inclusion for marginalized groups.”</p> <p>It is noteworthy that the word inclusion lacks one universal meaning. It can be used in reference to an individual, an organization, and even the global sphere. Moreover, each of us can be reminded of situations when we felt that we were singled out for who we are or what we do - we felt excluded. According to Aleksander Gabelic, the president of the United Nations Association of Sweden, inclusion has both a practical and a philosophic meaning. UNA Sweden works towards inclusion through different activities such as campaigns, seminars, and international internships, where people from different backgrounds and cultures have the opportunity to share their experiences:</p> <p>"One example of this international UN-cooperation is the Summer School where 4 UN Associations are represented. UNA Sweden is an umbrella organization supported by 130 national organizations” says Aleksander Gabelic.</p> <p>In Georgia today, people start to openly discuss at least some aspects of civil integration, which is a positive trend. "Inclusion in Georgia should mean not only the full exercise of human rights and freedoms stated in legislative acts, but also the full and complete participation in social life” says Jugheli.</p> <p>Georgia’s civil society rightly claims its role in shaping democracy and human rights agenda in the country. Definitely, in promoting better inclusion of the discriminated groups it can push forward relevant and urgent policy changes, sensitize the society to the needs of these groups.</p> <p>"It is very important that these changes should affect not only the material conditions of excluded groups of people, but also amend in a positive manner the social attitude toward them” says Nana Tsereteli.</p> <p>Through lobbying, implementing various either humanitarian or development programs, and educational projects aimed at inclusion, the civil society in Georgia and Georgian non-governmental organizations in particular can achieve positive changes.