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Norway Funded Programmes
Enhancing Minority Governance and Developing Civil Society in Minority Regions of Georgia

Drawing on several years of experience throughout the country, ECMI Caucasus has implemented several projects related to civil society development in the densely settled minority regions of Georgia. The interventions, funded by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other donors, have continued efforts of enhancing governmental and parliamentary awareness on minority issues. This has been supported through research, documentation and consultation activities concurrent with efforts to build civil society in the minority regions, while facilitating dialogue between executive and legislative structures together with minority representatives. To meet these aims, the project has encompassed the following four project components:

  • Component I - Strengthening the capacity of civil society structures in the densely settled minority regions of Georgia, with a focus on Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli, and facilitating dialogue between the central government and representatives of national minorities.
  • Component II - Promoting policy changes on minority-related issues through research, documentation and consultation.
  • Component III - Raising public awareness in densely settled minority regions on specific policy issues affecting the communities.
  • Component IV - Enhancing social inclusion of ethnic Roms into Georgian society.
  • Under Component I, the regional initiatives have initially targeted the densely settled minority regions of Samtskhe- Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli. With the aim to enhance integration of these regions, ECMI Caucasus has contributed significantly to improving information exchange and constructive dialogue between regional stakeholders and the government on issues of common concern. To this effect, ECMI Caucasus has empowered minority communities through the formation the regional civil society structures of Javakheti Citizens' Forum (JCF) in Samtskhe-Javakheti in 2005 and Tsalka Citizens' Forum (TCF) in Kvemo Kartli in 2007. During the past years, ECMI Caucasus has implemented activities directed towards improving the institutional capacity of these organizations to ensure their self-sustainability. This has been undertaken through trainings, consultations, mini-grants and other capacity building measures, as well as facilitating constructive dialogue between these civil society structures and local, regional and central governmental institutions.

    Owing to the above-mentioned interventions, these civil society fora now play a role as mediators between the government and the minority communities. Accordingly, JCF and TCF have become very effective platforms for voicing the concerns of the national minorities to the state authorities. Therefore, seeking to transfer the positive experience of these consultative fora to other parts of Georgia ECMI Caucasus in July 2009 conducted an assessment of feasibility and need for establishing similar networks of minority players in other regions. Suitably, this initiative coincides with the declared goals of the Georgian government as formulated in the National Concept for Tolerance and Civil Integration and Action Plan, which was adopted in May 2009. Specifically, ECMI Caucasus conducted a preliminary assessment on the national minority structures and the levels of community mobilization in the regions of Imereti, Kakheti and Shida Kartli, as well as in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara. Following the assessment, ECMI Caucasus has started implementing activities directed at empowering minority communities through the development of civil society. This has been undertaken through community mobilization, awareness-raising meetings on the role of civil society organizations (CSO) and capacity-building trainings for existing CSOs in the respective regions.

    Under Component II, in addition to facilitating policy dialogue between representatives of civil society in minority regions of Georgia and respective local and central authorities, ECMI Caucasus has been conducting research to identify main issues of concern for minority communities in Georgia and how to address them. Conducted research has resulted in several policy papers that include recommendations for relevant state institutions. For examples of policy papers produced by ECMI Caucasus, please see publications.

    Under Component III, ECMI Caucasus has conducted a number of awareness-raising initiatives/campaigns for the minority communities of Georgia concerning issues ranging from the legal framework on access to higher education for national minorities to decentralization of general education to privatization of agricultural lands.

    Under Component IV, ECMI Caucasus has undertaken activities involving Georgia's small Romani community, which deserves special attention owing to the fact that they are the most marginalized, economically deprived and socially stigmatized ethnic community in the country. For this reason, particular efforts have been made to support the Georgian Roms in gaining access to basic social services, such as health care, education and social benefits. To this end, ECMI Caucasus has facilitated the establishment of two CSOs – the Adjara Roma Union “Roma” in Kobuleti (Adjara region) and the Kakheti Roma Union “Roma” in Leninovka (Kakheti region) – while holding several trainings to enhance their organizational capacity. ECMI Caucasus has also been working on ensuring access to general education for the Romani children. In particular, transportation has been provided for the children from the village of Leninovka to allow them to attend Dediplistkaro Public School No. 2. While this initiative targeted Romani children, local ethnic Georgian children have also benefited from the provided transportation. In addition, in July 2010 ECMI has financed the commencement of Integration Classes for Romani children residing in Kobuleti, who will attend two-month classes in preparation for the start of Kobuleti Public School No. 5 in September.