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Ana Dabrundashvili

Georgia’s Civil Society: Fourth Government in Action

Among thousands of NGOs registered in Georgia there are, of course, much less functioning, and even less are truly active. NGO representatives comment on legal and political environment almost every day, but this hardly makes them parts of decision-making.

Georgian Ombudsman's HQ, author: giocomai, source: Flickr

Choosing the Ombudsman

Perhaps the most comical case for Georgian NGOs was the process of choosing Ombudsman of Georgia.

The post of the key defender of human rights has got additional charm in Georgia since the prison abuse scandal. A political debate flourished around the issue between the new ruling party, the new opposition and civil society. The post remains vacant since September.

Largest Civil Society Organizations normally suggest the candidate for the Ombudsman, which Parliament tends to consider. SCOs got down to few established human rights lawyers but could not make the firm decision. The process turned into separate elections with the candidates coming on screen every day speaking of how much they cherish each and every citizen of Georgia. The annoyed citizens were ready to accept any random person on the post when the Coalition Georgian Dream named its own candidate, Nina Khatiskaci, former head of the Transparency International Georgia.

As months of nerve-wrecking ended in nothing for NGOs, politicians keep praising their invaluable role in the process and promise to ask their opinion whatever the issue. The question of course is, does this opinion really matter?

What do NGOs do?

According to the Caucasus Barometer 2011 by Caucasus Research Resource Centers, 34% of respondents in Georgia say they don’t know whether they trust or not the NGOs, while only 22% respond positively to the question.

Though the role of Civil Society Organizations is assessed as rather important, it is rather vague for general public. Activities of the Georgia’s fourth government gives rather solid information to the outside world about the country, but that’s pretty much all to it. Government is normally reluctant to consider their opinion when it comes to important decisions. If anyone reads uncounted number of reports and analysis conducted by Civil Society Organizations, it’s perhaps only their partner Civil Society Organizations.

However, many young people strive to get a job in large NGOs, as they provide secure and prestigious employment. After all, many NGO employees, enjoying close ties with the government, eventually end up in politics, finally becoming those who make decisions.

Thus, NGOs are more of a closed circle than the representation of civil society. There are own rules and interests and people who are kept in or out.

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Ana is from Tbilisi, Georgia, where she currently works for the Caucasus Research Resource Centers. She has an MA in International Relations and BA in Journalism. Pursues writing in free time and is interested in literature.

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