Development of Civil Society Organizations in Georgia


<p>In Spring 2005 the UN Association of Georgia, with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), researched the development of civil society organizations (CSOs) operating in Georgia. The research covered 184 organizations in 8 regions and 16 towns, including the capital, Tbilisi. It was a second research of the kind, following on heels of the initial baseline study conducted in2002 by UNAG and the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Gerogia. The aim of the current research was to identify the trends in CSO development. Thestudies were conducted under the Citizens Advocate! Program, which aims at strengthening of the capacity of CSOs to advocate for the interests of citizens' groups nationwide.</p> <p>We interviewed one of the main authors of the study, Keti Kharatiani who participated in drafting the methodology, as well as in interviewing the respondents both in 2002 and 2005.</p> <p><em>Q. What kind of methodology was used while conducting this research and what was its main purpose?</em></p> <p>A. The research aimed at defining the level of institutional development of Georgian civil society organizations, namely what kind of changes have occurred since 2002. A group of experts selected 8 criteria under which these organizations were evaluated. These criteria are: activity/experience, structural development, mission/strategy, presence of procedures of activities, financial sustainability,logistical capabilitiesbase, human resources management, and external relations. Each criterion was divided into sub-criteria - 28 of them in total - which served as a basis for evaluation.</p> <p><em>Q. How would you estimate the current level of development of non-governmental organizations in Georgia?</em></p> <p>A. The non-governmental organizations gained highest scores in the criteria regarding thelogistical capacityand activity/experience. This is common, since with the support of donor organizations, Georgian civil society organizations have accumulated huge technical resources necessary for their activities.</p> <p>The situation is worse in the regions, most notably Adjara, where the civil sector is still young. Among other regions, the Guria region is best equipped.</p> <p>On average, the Tbilisi organizations have implemented 20 projects during the period of their existence, while the regional organizations have introduced only 10 projects. However, more "aged” and developed organizations have implemented over 50 projects, on average, while in some cases this figure amounts to 160. As for the regions, the average parameter of projects is high in Imereti and Kakheti. This parameter is lowest in Adjara.</p> <p><em>Q. Whatare the areas where there is still much to be done?</em></p> <p>A. The Tbilisi civil society organizations scored the lowest under criteria of external relations/cooperation and structural development, while the regional organizations struggled the most under the criteria of mission/strategy and human resources management.</p> <p><em>Q. Can it be said that there is particular difference between Tbilisi and other regions in terms of development?</em></p> <p>A. As a whole, if we compare the organizations from Tbilisi with the peripheral regions, the Tbilisi organizations gained higher scores - which is normal. Formation of the non-governmental sector was launched in Tbilisi several years earlier than in other regions. Concentration of donor organizations was higher in the capital. The same can be said about the communications, which frequently promoted the dissemination of information about grant competitions. At the same time, in Tbilisi it was much easier to get in touch with donors.</p> <p><em>Q. Is the situation different from that one existing two years ago?</em></p> <p>A. The situation has really changed under each criterion as average scores have increased in all eight criteria both in Tbilisi and in the other regions. It means that the institutional development of Georgian civil society organizations is underway; their structure is being perfected, more attention is being paid to distribution of functions among the employees, planning of activities and assessment procedures.</p> <p>The annual budget of organizations has significantly increased; for example, if in 2000 the budget of 8% of organizations amounted to USD 200 000, by 2004 a share of such organizations exceeded 20%. The number of organizations, which managed to make their budgets stable within past years has increased.</p> <p>However, the situation has not significantly changed in terms of attracting new financial resources as 50-100% of the NGO budget is still replenished by donor organizations.</p> <p>Overall one could say that the CSOs are developing nationwide, but the regional CSOs are also catching up with their counterparts from the capital.</p> <p><em>Q. Is the legislation impending the CSO developend in any way?</em></p> <p>A. The legislative base related to the non-governmental organizations did not create any serious difficulties to the civil sector. In any case, the legislative problems were not named during the survey conducted both in 2002 and 2005.</p> <p>Since 1 March 2005, according to the amendments to the Civil Code of Georgia, the registration of organizations was transferred to the Justice Ministry. This amendment enabled the Justice Ministry to create a constantly renewable registry, which is available on the official web page of the Justice Ministry.</p> <p>Moreover, the procedures of registration of organizations have been simplified. If previously a term of registration was defined by 30 days, now this term has been reduced to 15 days. Moreover, the founders can give registration documents to a notary, who, in his turn, is obliged to send them to the Justice Ministry or a relevant territorial body within 5 days. This method is more convenient for a founder, as he will have to come only to one place only, under so called "one-stop shop"principle.</p> <p><em>Q. What kind of difficulties are observed in terms of development of CSOs?</em></p> <p>A. The main difficulty is that the CSOs still overwhelmingly depend on foreign donors and have very limited capabilities to fundraise locally. The second, most frequent problem is the relationship with the authorities. The regional organizations frequently say that the representatives of local government bodies are not always ready for cooperation. The civil sector still comes across the problem of availability of public information.</p> <p>The problem of keeping and attracting highly skilled staff persista. In many cases, highly skilled, qualified staff moves to international or governmental organizations. Especially after the November 2003 "Rose Revolution" many qualified individuals from CSOs have moved to the government, as the salaries in the public sector have increased, and its public image also improved. At least one staffer from 26% of Tbilisi based and 13% of the regional CSOs has moved to the public sector in the past years. This has damaged the capacities of the regional CSOs more, as they employ less staff.</p> <p><em>Q. Which fields are most popular for the activities of the non-governmental organizations?</em></p> <p>A. The fields of activities of the civil society organizations are diverse. However, the following are most popular: human rights protection, promotion of democracy and civil society, environmental protection, women’s problems, children’s and teenagers’ problems, youth problems, public health, promotion of state reforms, conflictology, peace building, support of local self-governance, problems of refugees.</p> <p>The civil society organizations of Adjara are working on human rights and monitoring of activities of state structures. In Samegrelo the problems of children and teenagers, conflicts and peace building, public health, problems of women and refugees are most troublesome. Samtskhe-Javakheti focuses on environmental protection.</p> <p>The Kartli NGOs are working over promotion of state reforms, children’s and teenagers’ problems, and local self-governance and refugees, in Guria, human rights, civil society development, and public health.</p> <p>As for the Kakheti region, the civil society organizations are basically involved in youth problems, environmental protection, and development of local self-governance, in Imereti, human rights, development of local self-governance, small and medium business development, and women’s problems. </p>