``Georgia Today``: First NGO Forum in Georgia-The Very Best of Civil Society


The Georgia Today about the First Forum of Civil Society Organizations in Georgia-an unprecedented convention of more than 60 civil society organizations, international donor organizations, public sector and business community.</p> <p><a href="http://www.georgiatoday.ge/">Georgia Today</a>, 8-14 April, 2005, Issue # 249</p> <p> First NGO Forum in Georgia The Very Best of Civil Society</p> <p>by Mariam Kobaladze</p> <p>Experts claim that in the last ten years non-governmental sector (NGO) has substantially developed, giving hopes for the establishment of strong civil society. The first NGO Forum on April 2-3 was dedicated to promoting and highlighting activities and products of 56 non-governmental organizations that are operating in 20 different fields. This forum was part of the Citizens Advocate Program (CAP) jointly implemented and managed by Save the Children, International Center for Non-for profit law, United Nations Association of Georgia, Partners Georgia, Caucasian Center for Peace, Democracy and Development, Center for Strategic Research and Development, Civil Society Institute, and Civil Development Center "Alternative”. Three persons were nominated as "civil society friends” and received awards for their contribution to the development of non-governmental sector and civil society in Georgia as part of this first meeting.</p> <p> The forum wants to achieve basically three objectives. -To create an atmosphere to exchange experiences and enhance mutual understanding, better communication, coordination and respect among civil society organizations. -Increase the level of public and other actors’ awareness about the activities of civil society organizations. - Recognize the efforts and inputs of individuals to the development to the Third Sector in Georgia. However, as the director of on of the leading NGOs "Partners Georgia” Sopo Shubladze mentioned: "The main fact is that the non-governmental sector still exists, is still together, and is ready to offer its services, products, know-how to the greater society that is most in need of assistance; the NGO forum is a proof of it”- she said.</p> <p> The NGO Forum consisted of three parts: exhibition (presenting 56 leading NGOs that operated in Georgia), open forum (discussions on problem issues facing NGOs), providing awards (awarding three persons having made the most important and how they have been instrumental in their contributions to the development of non-governmental sector and Georgian civil society). Three people were awarded the title of "civil society friend” for their contribution in the direction of the development of non-governmental sector and civil Georgian society. A selection group of 7 people consisting of international and local NGOs as well as media representatives named as the most instrumental contributors to the third sector: Mr. Zurab Zhvania (after his death), Mr. Davit Usupashvili (representing Young Lawyers’ Association) and Ms. Gia Nodia (representing Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development).</p> <p> Ramaz Aptsiauri, Executive Director of United Nations Association in Georgia outlined that, aside from other objectives, the main purpose of the forum was to enable the larger society to obtain information about NGOs and their activities, and to meet the non-governmental organizations, talk to them and find ways to become involved in their activities, and to find the ways for closer cooperation. The lack of information and transparency is a problem for much of the Georgian population. "People are not familiar with what the NGOs do and it is expected that this event will become an annual forum of breaking news to the society, to share things about the non-governmental sector, what their aims are and what kind of experiences they have had, "Levan Kharatishvili, Executive Director of Civic Initiative Center said.</p> <p> One of the celebrity guests of the forum was Zurab Chiaberashvili, Tbilisi Mayor. He admitted that as a former NGO representative he really appreciated the importance of non-governmental sector, "I know that this sector has achieved a great degree experience and that there was a great need for qualified people that are engaged in NGO activities, he said.</p> <p> Mr. Chiaberashvili said that the priorities of NGOs should be reconsidered as old stereotypes diminished. "Before the revolution our main priority was human rights but now we must identify other priorities like achieving openness and transparency in governmental bodies, and this should appear as the main mission of non-governmental organizations. Today we regard as a violation of human rights, not only in terms of the cruelty that goes on in police stations but violations in other spheres as well, like the government not accepting and fulfilling its responsibilities to the Georgian people," he confirmed. Non-governmental organizations were not the only participants of the NGO forum. TBC bank also had a stand at the forum and outlined its readiness to support the development of civil society in Georgia. As Irakli Murtskhveladze, Corporate Banker of TBC Bank Georgia pointed out: "TBC Bank itself was not a non-governmental organization, but quite a serious donor for many NGOs and that it had supported them in organizing many activities. "With our participation we wanted to set an example for other businesses and banks in Georgia to become more actively involved in non-governmental activities in Georgia and to support civil initiatives and project”he added.</p> <p> Denny Robertson, Mission Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said the result of the forum was superb- "I have witnessed NGO fairs organized in many different countries. I want to tell you that you have done a great job here” he said. After walking up and down the rows of NGO stands, a message to NGO community formed in Denny Roberstons’ mind and then he desired to share that impression: "Keep doing what you are doing. You should all prepare yourselves to moving into the role of service delivery and actually becoming a part of the government. Keep doing what you are doing for your country. You are an example for the entire world to follow. And there are many in your country try that had not realized the benefits of what you can do. And keep doing what you are doing for the regions as well. All eyes in this part of the world are on Georgia and your work. You are an outstanding example of the very best of civil society”.