Statement of Civil Society Organizations on Suspending Membership in the Consultative Group of the Parliament of Georgia
We, the Civil Society Organizations of Georgia, have been actively cooperating with the Parliament of Georgia in the direction of the Open Government Partnership since 2015.
Since 2015 the Georgian Parliament had been one of the leaders in OGP. In this period, several important reforms were implemented in terms of parliamentary openness, with the civil society being an active participant and main initiator of such reforms. The Standing Council of Open Governance was established with the Parliament of Georgia, which included the Consultative Group, composed of local non-governmental organizations and international and donor organizations.
Over the years, in cooperation with lawmakers and the Office of the Parliament, and with the financial assistance from donor organizations, we worked on and supported reforms that consisted of legislative changes and practical implementation. Reforms were made in the directions of parliamentary openness, transparency, citizen engagement, and innovations and technologies, all of which contributed to creating a more access to information, an inclusive environment, and the engagement of citizens in the law-making process. The website of the Parliament was made with the help of donor organizations, so was the infrastructure of the building of the Parliament adapted to persons with disabilities, various information was published on the website of the Parliament, including the register of lobbyists, statistical information, and others. The platform for petitions to the Parliament was implemented, a reception for citizens was created and equipped, the mobile application for the Parliament was created, etc.
With the implementation of these reforms, Georgia was one of the leading countries in the fairly large community comprising the Open Government Partnership for a number of years, and this successful format of cooperation between the Parliament and civil society was an example for many countries. One of the best examples of the local and international success of this cooperative process of the Parliament of Georgia with civil society was in October 2015, during the OGP Global Summit held in Mexico, when the Parliament of Georgia won the prize established by the OGP civil society. In 2018, the OGP Global Summit was held in Georgia, and the Georgian Parliament hosted hundreds of colleagues and visitors from across the world.
During this period we worked with Members of Parliament of three convocations. The process of working on open government was conducted in a format of cooperation and with the participation of both the parliamentary majority and the opposition, with members of the Standing Council belonging to all fractions. Our successes in parliamentary openness are the results of this joint work.
During a time when civil society organizations had been cooperating with the parliamentary majority, offering support and financial assistance to the Parliament in various reforms, the parliamentary majority initiated a law similar to one existing in Russia “On Foreign Influence”, the purpose of which is to force Georgian civil society organizations to register in the “Registry of Agents of Foreign Influence”, to stigmatize them and discredit them in society, to control, and finally to curtail and abolish their activities.
This bill was criticized by our international partners. The European Union, ambassadors of EU member states, the State Department of the United States of America and the ambassador of the USA to Georgia and international organizations stated that it is incompatible with European values and principles. Despite the fact that this law created a threat to the civil sector and, most importantly, to Georgia’s European perspective, parliamentary majority still chose to adopt the Russian law in the first hearing. Although, in response to several days of public protest against the draft law, the ruling party withdrawn the bill, they expressed that they still remain righteous to its principles and will more actively continue the information campaign to support and introduce this bill to the wider public.
As a result of these circumstances, the member organizations of the Consultative Group of the Standing Council of Open Government no longer see the possibility of continuing the format of cooperation with the parliamentary majority and suspend membership in the Consultative Group.
Member organizations of the Consultative Group:
Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) – Chair of the Consultative Group
Transparency International - Georgia
Civil Society Institute (CSI)
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)