Civil society still weak in Georgia
By Messenger Staff
Thursday, April 19Everyone both inside and outside of Georgia highlights the importance of civil society development in order to reach democratic goals. In Georgia however, civil society still faces certain difficulties and therefore democracy also has problems.
This was confirmed by research financed by USAID carried out some time ago. In Georgia, civil society is generally understood as non-governmental organizations. Such organizations began emerging in Georgia soon after it regained its independence in the 1990s. They grew like weeds, thanks to grants from abroad, mainly from Western countries. The West generously distributed those funds with the implicit understanding that NGOs should oppose the ruling power and serve as watchdogs for democracy, facilitating the protection of human rights, democratic development, and security of the principles of democracy.
Pretty soon however the ruling power adjusted to the situation and so-called non-governmental governmental organizations (NGGO) began to appear. Outwardly they were appeared to be championing democratic principles but in reality they were supporting government officials. This of course complicated the situation because civil society in an emerging democratic system is very fragile. NGOs need public interest, trust, and support. The USAID-financed research highlighted several issues preventing civil society development in Georgia. First of all citizens do not know what NGOs do, or how they do it. Very often the acute problems people face are not reflected among the issues NGOs cover. Due to economic problems there are not enough resources to fund the NGO sector effectively – for example, turn one-time projects into regular activities. The research also found that grant-issuing organizations often choose programs close to their interests, not based on the needs of the public. Often the problems highlighted by the door organization do not coincide with the problems inside the country.
The poor economic situation in Georgia, where the majority of people live close to the poverty line, creates unfavourable situation for the development of civil society. Business in Georgia is occupied with its own interests and has almost no financial resources to fund NGO activities.
There is also the politicization of certain NGOs, and the tendency to label an organization as "pro-government" or "opposition". Sometimes those NGOs that seek to protect universal human rights or other democratic values are labeled by the administration as pro-opposition, limiting their ability to make contact with the government and do work that will help all Georgians.