Fact-checking allegations against Sida – The purpose of the anti-NGO campaign - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

Fact-checking allegations against Sida – The purpose of the anti-NGO campaign

04 February, 2015

 

On January 26 former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili announced that he would release a very 'interesting report' on active civil society leaders. Since then, a deliberate campaign to discredit the Swedish government and its development agency – Sida – has been taking place. The underlying message of these accusations is that the activities of nongovernmental organizations are questionable since they receive part of their funding from the Swedish government.

We believe this campaign against NGOs aims to damage the reputation of these organizations but also as a consequence harms Georgia’s relationship with the Swedish government. This brings the reforms and processes, initiated and funded by the Swedish government and other Western partners at a risk. Regardless, the Georgian government has not reacted to this incident to date. It is unclear why the government has not made statements in support of their Swedish counterparts.

KHAINDRAVA'S 'SOURCES'

On Imedis Kvira talk show on Sunday, Goga Khaindrava mentioned that the former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, and ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili were involved in a corrupt scheme and the Swedish media is talking about this. In fact, only one Swedish media outlet has written on this issue – a tabloid Aftonbladet, whose source is Khaindrava himself. It is a circular and self-referential argument – the false statements that Khaindrava was making on Imedis Kvira, he was basing them on his own allegations referred to by a Swedish tabloid, while presenting them as the truth to the public. Carl Bildt himself responded to the allegations in the article. 

Moreover, articles with the same content are being published in Russia, including the Russian government-owned English language outlet Sputnik News. There is no evidence supplied nor valid sources referenced in these articles either. This leaves an impression that these articles are part of the Russian government propaganda against foreign donors.

Furthermore, according to information provided to us, there is no 'political scandal', nor has a criminal investigation been launched into Carl Bildt's activities. Even the aforementioned media outlets don't claim that. Therefore, by alleging that a corruption scheme involving Bildt has been referred to the Swedish courts, Khaindrava is spreading libelous information and leading the public to believe what is untrue.

SWEDISH ASSISTANCE TO GEORGIA

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) is a Swedish government entity, which implements development projects in 33 countries. Sida represents the Swedish government’s assistance fund to developing countries as well as to the states in transition. It aims to fight poverty around the world, support reforms and aid democratic consolidation. The budget of Sida is approved by the Swedish government, along with the priorities specific to the states Sida operates in. The projects of the organization in different countries are determined by the country or regional strategy and are financed with Swedish tax revenues.

In Georgia, the goal of the organization is to support the country's European integration, as well as its establishment as a democratic and accountable state. The Swedish government has been helping Georgia since 1998 and has implemented projects amounting to USD 33.8 million through Sida, including financial aid to the government of Georgia which exceeds USD 20.4 million. Through Sida, the Swedish government financed such programs as the provision of settlement to internally displaced persons (IDP) as a result of 2008 war, as well as modernization of the public registry, and technical assistance to the Central Election Commission.

It is important to note that for the past three years, from 2012 to 2014, the government of Georgia received 8.33 million USD from Sida. The receivers of the aid include the National Food Agency, National Statistics Office of Georgia, Competition Agency, and Public and Civil Registries. As is well known, the reforms carried out by some of these entities have gained international recognition. Additional information regarding the government projects financed by the Swedish government is available on Sida’s website.

Besides providing support for Georgian government projects and action plans, Sida – as do other large donor organizations – funds government monitoring projects and initiatives that strengthen human rights protection. Such projects are usually implemented by nongovernmental organizations. In 2012-2014, the Swedish government provided USD 4.78 million to NGOs, which is approximately half the funds provided for government implemented projects in the same time period.

The government of Sweden, through Sida, is TI Georgia's largest donor and partner. Sida funded our representative electoral observation missions for the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections during 2012-2014, enabling TI Georgia to present high quality election-day reports and Parallel Voting Tabulation (PVT) results. The Swedish government through Sida also funds NDI's public opinion polls, which are the most trustworthy and recurrent surveys on Georgia. They are an invaluable resource for researchers and academics interested in studying the perceptions of the Georgian people. More information on Sida-funded civil society projects can be found at http://openaid.se/.

We believe that the defamatory statements made against the Swedish government do not only harm the reputation of Georgian civil society organizations but is also a blow to the Georgian government. It is disconcerting that the Georgian government has not reacted to these false allegations aimed to discredit one of its most important partners. We call on the Prime Minister and the Georgian government to publicly distance themselves from the accusations against the Swedish government and Sida, and express their support for what this organization does in Georgia.

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