Civil society uses OGP summit to call for more transparent partnership with government

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CSOs use OGP Summit to call for better partnership with the government

From 17th to 19th July 2018, the 5th Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit was held in Tbilisi. This year’s Summit focused on the themes of civic engagement, fighting corruption, and public service delivery. A week before the Summit, in a joint letter to the Prime-Minister, Georgian NGOs called for more accountability, transparency and willingness to implement the reforms called for by the government's civil society partners and also by Georgian citizens. CSOs made it clear that they are looking not only for a convenient partnership with the government, but also a transparent one.

Transparency Awards

Five Georgian CSOs continue to be among the world’s most financially transparent think tanks, according to a report released on July 17, 2018 by Transparify– an initiative that provides the first-ever global rating of the financial transparency of major think tanks.

The think tanks, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), Transparency International Georgia, ISET - Policy Institute and PMCG - Research Center received the highest rating, 5 stars, which is awarded to think tanks that disclose information about all their donors, clearly identify all funding amounts for, and sources of, particular projects.

Transparify rates around 150 think tanks across the world, ranking their transparency on a scale between 0 to 5 stars. Their objective is to rate the extent to which think tanks publicly disclose their funding sources on their websites. The recently published report includes 92 NGOs from 24 countries.

Expression

According to a public opinion survey carried out by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Georgia in June 2018, around 20% of respondents strongly agree that people should have the right to say whatever they want as long they are not calling for violence, regardless of how offensive it may be to some groups. Thirty-six percent somewhat agree with that statement and 18% completely disagree. On the other hand, 29% of respondents strongly agreed and 9% disagreed that government should restrict certain types of speech that is offensive to certain groups. Around 90% of respondents believe that the rights of people with disabilities should be supported, however only around 20% believe that the protection of sexual minorities is important.

Peaceful Assembly

As previously reported on the Civicus Monitor, mass protests took place in Tbilisi at the end of May 2018. The demonstrations followed a court decision that found one of two suspects not guilty for the murder of two teenagers during a brawl between students of two different schools in December 2017. Despite the resignation of the chief prosecutor, Irakli Shotadze, on 31st May 2018, the protestors also demanded the resignation of Georgia's government.

On 1st June 2018, Georgian President Georgi Margvelashvili met with Zaza Saralidze, the father of one of the two deceased teenagers and the protest leader. The President reportedly expressed solidarity with the protests. 

Intermittent protests continued in the early part of June, but were ended on 11th June, with police dismantling protesters' tents and detaining opposition politicians and their supporters. Civil society organisations expressed concern at these police actions because they impeded the rights to freedom of movement and of peaceful assembly. Separately, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili had ordered a new probe into the killings before resigning on 13th June, 2018. While his resignation had been called for by protestors, the reason reported for his departure was a disagreement with Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the ruling party and Georgia's richest man.

Following the protests, CSOs urged the authorities to reform the justice system. Georgian human rights organisations released a statement expressing solidarity with the victims of the justice system, at the same time calling on authorities to take steps to address challenges within the justice system, including disregard for fundamental human rights and political corruption. The father of one of the two murdered students had also earlier strongly criticised the investigation into their deaths. A recent report by Transparency International Georgia also pointed to serious challenges within Georgia's judiciary, including "structural and other weaknesses of the Georgian court system caused by flawed legislation, which have not been remedied due to deep opposition from within and outside the judiciary".