Draft Law “Agent of Foreign Influences” – evaluation of civil society of Kvemo Kartli
Part of the civil society of Kvemo Kartli responds to the draft law: “Agent of foreign influences.
“The mentioned legislative initiative envisages considering media organizations and non-governmental organizations as “agents of foreign influences”, which was elaborated by “People’s Power”, known for its anti-Western rhetoric. “People’s Power” was founded by deputies who left “Georgian Dream”.
One of the leaders of the union is the former ombudsman Sozar Subari. Sozar Subari and his wife Tamta Kubaneishvili worked for years in the non-governmental sector, the donors of which were the Western organizations.
The draft law, if approved, will force independent media outlets and civil organizations to register in the registry of “Agents of Foreign Influence”.
“The similar law has destroyed civil society in Russia. If our country aspires to limit the work of the civil sector and international organizations, and in this terms prevent the implementation of social, legal and economic projects, it will not bring anything good to the country.
Many important reforms have been implemented in Georgia by the international donor organizations through the local civil sector for the last 30 years. This has nothing to do with the civilized world and our aspiration, which is written in the constitution and means the membership of the European family. Also, it is at least embarrassing to force a person to be called an “agent” when he has been responding to the needs of the country for years” – Zaur Khalilov, executive director of the Civil Integration Foundation.
“We know the examples of many countries in which, the influence of similar law, weakened public participation, freedom of speech and democracy, social and political development of the country. This law is an open battle against the public sector, a direct attack. This process has been going on for a long time, but now it will all happen “legally”. It is very embarrassing in terms of human rights, thus the word “agent” is inconceivable to me. Splitting society and increasing hatter among each other. Where will our rights guaranteed by the supreme law disappear?!
When Georgia became an independent country in 1991, of course, country building was necessary. During these years, many things have been done with the support of our strategic partners through governmental and non-governmental organizations. The economic welfare and quality of democracy in Georgia has increased, and the country managed to stand on its feet as a whole. Construction and rehabilitation of thousands of schools and gardens took place. Also, a number of important reforms were implemented placing us next to the leading countries. For today, the changes made in almost all departments of the Ministry were executed with foreign grants. Most importantly, we as citizens of Georgia were proud of the reforms implemented in our country, the changes that we achieved with the assistance of strategic friendly countries. And now our country is slowly falling apart, falling apart every day”, – human rights activist Samira Bairamova. “
“In my opinion, the so-called draft law on agents is a part and a logical continuation of the campaign that has been carried on by the state for years (under all governance conditions) against public organizations in order to degrade and marginalize them creating a real basis for banning their work.
This law, if adopted in the given form, will destroy the possibility of existence of all those non-governmental and media organizations that today have the ability, knowledge and opportunity to express a critical opinion. Since financial independence is the main condition for the latter and is possible only with the support of international organizations in today’s Georgia “, – Guliko Shoshitashvili “Civil Society Development Association of Georgia” (ACSDG).
“Transparency of financial and contextual activities of non-governmental and media organizations has been mentioned many times. However, supporters of the draft law in the government insist on the need for transparency of funding and thus try to mislead the public.
The public should know that today in the country there are all legislative mechanisms that put the activities of this non-governmental/media sector within the legal framework:
Back in 1996, the Law “On Grants” was adopted, by which Georgia recognized the special importance of financing from Western donors;
The Law of Georgia “On Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism” obliges banks to ensure monitoring and control over the targeting of funds of grantee organizations.
Most of the projects financed by Western donors (especially in the case of large projects) are accompanied by a written condition in the agreement regarding the obligation of audit and/or inspection by the grantee.
Information about the received funding is public and available on the websites of grantee organizations. Organizations prepare financial statements and declare them.
Therefore, there is no argument that would justify the necessity of adoption of the mentioned law. Labeling the representatives of the civil sector as agents of foreign influence, introducing the eavesdropping policy and the measure of responsibility provided by the draft law (fine – 25,000 GEL and five-year imprisonment) serves to punish, repress, stigmatize, discredit, suppress and silence free and critical opinion of this sector of society.
The joint work of the non-governmental sector and western donors in our region, Kvemo Kartli, has created a lot of opportunities, and it is regrettable that the harmful consequences of this draft law for the wider circles of society do not go beyond the non-governmental sector.
However, if the Russian bill is adopted, vulnerable groups (persons with disabilities, children, women, the elderly, people with special needs, minorities, etc.) remain without services and relevant activities focused on their needs; Young people (including those of school age) and professional groups, for whom many volunteer and exchange educational programs have been created by Western donations, are left behind. Not to mention awareness-raising information meetings and campaigns, which give citizens the opportunity to have information in many directions and to engage in the monitoring and advocacy process at the local or central government level;
The presence of non-governmental organizations and media at the regional level is vital to learn how and for what the budget filled with our taxes is spent on and if it responds to the needs of the local population, how fair state tenders are held, to reveal the facts of corruption, to show us impartially of all socio-economic problems existing at the local level and ensure their advocacy in the relevant institutions, to defend us in court in case of illegal dismissal related to gender, political or any other grounds; All this is an incomplete list of the good things that this sector creates in our region and which the government intends to announce as agents’ work. In
the last two years, we have tried to work effectively in the Kvemo Kartli region in such directions as: economic empowerment of women, prevention of all types of violence against women, conducting studies related to gender policy and advocating the results at the local self-government level, promoting the integration of ethnic minorities, encouraging young people to become active at the local level, not to mention educational/informational meetings of a campaign nature with different target groups throughout the region. Without this movement and activism, not only one specific non-governmental media will cease to exist, but the society of the region will be cut off from all the opportunities that the state does not and cannot provide. Adoption of the Russian draft law will certainly stop the society’s desire to unite in the Euro-Atlantic structures”, – Gvantsa Shishinashvili “Civil Activity and Regional Development Center”.
“This draft law is a manifestation of the establishment of a dictatorship, regression of the country and rejection of democracy. Also banning all those good things and opportunities that bring us closer to the developed world”, – Gvantsa Tvaliashvili, youth worker.
“We are in the process of self-destruction. With this draft law, they actually want to legalize the government’s control over the activities of public groups and media outlets. Do you know what they want to achieve with this move? To end the development of our people as a nation once and for all. The activities of public groups aimed at creating public good, based on healthy values, are very visible against the backdrop of inactivity of state institutions. That is what they want to end.
It is impossible to influence developed, realized, critical-thinking, creative people faithful to the right values. They know this very well. Therefore, they do not want such citizens to be the major part of the society. They will lose power and that’s why. It’s as simple as that. We are the agents of foreign influence because we the like-minded people, work together for the welfare of children every day?! Why, because we carry out planned activities in kindergartens and schools to create an environment adapted to the needs and interests of children?! Or because we have questions and try to identify problems in order to direct our resources to solve them?! Do they think that we are doing all this because of foreign influence? It is in the interest of foreign countries when they offer us financial support, and it is not in the interest of Georgia to once and for all live with dignity in our country?! I am a member of the parent association “Parents for Education”, as well as a co-founder of the “Nekeri-Kvemo Kartli Community Organization”. As a parent, above all, I want our children to grow up in a free, equal, fair, development-oriented environment, not in authoritarianism, fear and disorder. During its 5 years of existence, “Parents’ Association” has implemented a number of projects focused solely on the best interests of children. We try to promote the involvement of parents in the life of the school; We spread and establish the idea of positive parenting among parents. Therefore, we are against violent upbringing methods.
It’s been 6 months since the establishment of “Nekeri-Kvemo Kartli Community Organization. The public financing campaign “More toys and books for children” is our first project, within the framework of which we should provide developmental toys and modern, illustrated children’s books to 2 kindergartens in Bolnisi” in March – Rozi Devnozashvili.
Author: Manon Bokuchava
Translation: Tamar Cherkezishvili
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