CSO Day in the Parliament of Georgia
The Memorandum of Cooperation was executed on December 12 in the Parliament of Georgia between the civil society organizations (CSOs) and the Parliament. The Memorandum was signed by the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, joined by the representative of up to 150 CSOs.We interviewed one of the initiators of the Memorandum signing the Head of Civil Society Institute Vazha Salamadze.
Interviewed by Mariam Patatishvili

Mr. Salamadze, what is the Memorandum about and why is it important?

Vazha Salamadze - The document signed in the Parliament of Georgia consists of 10 paragraphs and I would like to focus on some of them. One of the key aspects is political - in this respect the Memorandum is important to the extent that for the first time in the Georgian history, the Parliament of Georgia has recognized CSOs as independent actors and equal partners. This is a very significant political step from the Parliament.

Second aspect I would like to focus on relates to the state support of the sector's development. The very first paragraph of the Memorandum provides for the development by the Parliament and us of state concept on the support of CSO development in Georgia, which will be then adopted as a parliamentary concept. Further, as in Article 2 of the Memorandum we agree that the Parliament will facilitate the improvement of functioning legislative environment for CSOs, this already sets up in one context a political and legislative environment, in which we can freely operate and be effective to maximum extent.

Involvement in the law-making process is a significant aspect. Several paragraphs of the Memorandum are dedicated to participation in the Parliament's activities specifically, including timely access to information, ensuring effective communication and the political tools of participation in the law-making and supervising processes.

And finally, I would like to mention the recognition by the Parliament of Istanbul Principles on CSO Development Effectiveness as the basis for dialogue with us. Georgia is the third state after South Korea and the United States, which has individually recognized the Istanbul Principles.

Mr. Salamadze, could you please tell us about the process of developing the Memorandum.

Vazha Salamadze - As for the development of the Memorandum, at the last year's meeting with the Parliament I have put this issue on the agenda and asked the Chairman of the Parliament to execute a document and set up a working group. The Chairman of Parliament has actively followed up on this issue and asked us to draft this document and launch consultations with the Parliament. The first draft of the document was developed at CSI's initiative. A working group was set up afterwards and the document has transferred to the CSO Development Effectiveness sub-group of the National Platform. Elaborated document was sent to member and non-member organizations of the Platform in spring, following which the document was finalized based on received comments and consultations with the Parliament. I believe the process was open, exposed and transparent.

A foundation was laid to the new tradition on December 12 as well...

Vazha Salamadze - Apart from the Memorandum signing ceremony, the Parliament of Georgia has also hosted the meeting of CSO representatives with the Chairman of the Parliament. 22 representatives of the civil sector have delivered speeches, raised concrete issues and described the problems and ways of problem solution offered by this or that organization.

The Memorandum has officially instituted the CSO Day in the Parliament of Georgia. Like on December 12th, we will meet with the Parliament on an annual basis and share our concerns and visions on the developing processes in the country.

At the ceremony the Chairman of the Parliament has stated that by this document CSOs have become partners of the Parliament of Georgia. How will the civil sector build on its partnership with the Parliament of Georgia?

Vazha Salamadze - It will be a bit difficult for me to speak in the name of the civil society, but I can speak on behalf of our organization. To a certain extent, CSI has delivered leadership functions in this process and we should probably continue working with our colleagues and partners to establish general relations between the Parliament and the CSOs. On one hand, the Chairman of the Parliament has noted that the door is open, but one needs to enter this open door. Entering means that the other side, i.e. we must have sufficient competence and professionalism to identify problems and formulate ways of solving these problems, i.e. to create public policy alternatives, transform these documents into programs or legislative initiatives, submit them to Parliament and have skills for advocating and lobbying the solution of these problems. This is the very future task. I understand this partnership this way and this is how the speech of the Chairman was comprehended.

And finally, is the document open, are there any criteria and is it possible today for the organizations to join the Memorandum?

Vazha Salamadze - The Memorandum is not a closed document, so any CSO can join it any time. Full text of the Memorandum is available on the web page of the Civil Society Institute - civilin.org. Right here, any organization can join the document online. Both parties - Parliament and CSOs - can withdraw. However, the document is executed for indefinite period of time and it can be terminated only upon the will of the parties.

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