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U.S-Georgia Strategic Partnership Charter meeting in Tbilisi

By Inga Kakulia
Monday, April 1
On March 29th, the meeting of the US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Charter Commission was held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. People to People exchange and Cultural exchange working groups discussed the progress and achievements of the last year and discussed plans for future cooperation.

On the Georgian side, the meeting was chaired by the Deputy Foreign Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equity, Ruslan Abashidze. From the U.S side, the meeting was attended by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Aleisha Woodward, along with Peter Wiebler, Mission Director of USAID/Georgia, as well as the US Ambassador in Georgia, Roy Wilson.

U.S – Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership serves as an affirmation for the strength of U.S-Georgia relations. It was first signed on January 9TH, 2009 in Washington. Between an ex-Foreign Affairs minister, Grigol Vashadze, and the former U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

The Charter covers 4 main issues: Democracy, Defense and Security, Economic, Trade and Energy issues and People to People and Cultural Exchange. Each of these topics has its own working group within the charter.

Senior-level American and Georgian policy-makers lead yearly meetings of each working group to review commitments, update activities, and establish future objectives. Since the signing of the Charter, the United States and Georgia have strengthened their mutual cooperation based on U.S. support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and its commitment to further democratic reform.

According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, within the framework of working groups discussed the existing cooperation within the countries regarding education, sports, culture, healthcare, and strategic communications. The working groups also focused on the challenges of involving the people living in the occupied territories of Georgia.

The participants confirmed the importance of implementing reforms on all levels of education. The Georgian side thanked the U.S Government for the projects implemented in the field of education through the second Compact of the U.S Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and expressed hope that the cooperation will continue in this direction.

During the meeting, it was confirmed that the governments will keep cooperating for the improvement of the Georgian education system. The goal is to create a quality-oriented model that focuses on critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities of the students.

The sides also agreed upon continuing their work in professional education through different exchange programs as well as other innovative methods.

During the meeting, the officials discussed the Georgian Government initiative, “A Step to a Better Future”, which is a Peace Initiative aimed at enhancing educational opportunities for the residents of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region. The US side was informed about the action plan of the Georgian Government.

The U.S officials, on the other hand, expressed support for the Government's efforts. The sides expressed commitment to creating trust-building measures, aimed at reducing tensions, achieving peace and reconciliation in the occupied regions and agreed that intercultural engagement is a valuable and important factor for the development of relations and the advancement of the reconciliation process.

Misinformation and Propaganda were also discussed during the meeting. The Georgian side expressed gratitude towards the U.S Government for the support of ongoing projects in Georgia that aim to improve strategic communications in all official structures. Different activities carried out by the Georgian Government around this issue were also discussed. During the meeting, the working group also talked about future plans.

One of the most important issues discussed was the healthcare sector. Conversations focused on the healthcare reforms in Georgia. The US expressed satisfaction over the active involvement of Georgia in the initiative of the "Global Health Safety Agenda" and thanked the Georgian Government for the long-term partnership in this field. The progress achieved by Georgia in the elimination of hepatitis C was also noted.

The sides also discussed the possibilities of new cooperation in the fields of sports and youth and agreed to promote the implementation of the programs aimed at promoting youth involvement. Discussions focused on the implementation of Joint Youth Programs between Georgian and American Youth Affairs Organizations.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Alisha Woodward, said that the meeting is an excellent opportunity to resume the US strategic partnership with Georgia on a number of key issues, including International contacts, Education, Strategic Communication, Exchange and Involvement of people living in the occupied territories.

"We have discussed all the above-mentioned issues and I think we have identified the areas in which we can cooperate further. We had a great discussion, we confirmed the close partnership with Georgia and highlighted Georgia's progress on the way to establish itself as a more stable, successful and dynamic democratic country"- said Woodward.