Vector of third sector in Georgia

Vector of third sector in Georgia

Civil society until now unsuccessfully attempts to identify what happened on 26th of May 2011 in Georgia, why Georgian government brutally dispersed protesters and where protestors disappeared. Civil society could not influence over the government even when the dead bodies of protestors were found later on in the river in Tbilisi. Those events and facts showed incapacity of civil society in Georgia. Also, this showed governmental cynicism and radically aggressive attitude towards civil society institutions.

At the night of 26 may, when the government raided the demonstration, where number of demonstrates died, representatives of media outlets were also beaten up. They were singled out according to the media organization, which they were representing. On 27th of May, civil society was united and was protesting against violent actions of the government on 26th of May. Despite of this unity government did not punish anyone for using excessive force during the raid. Generally, there were no results of any kind following this united protest of civil society

In modern Georgia, following its communist legacy, strengthening civil society should be our main goal. International community has questions where is the civil society strongest in Georgia. Which organization makes it possible to answer main demands of civil society?

In developing countries forming and development of civil society is mainly depending on coordinated collaboration of civic institutions. Today main civil institutions are: 1) Church, which has most trust of the society; 2) Trade and Workers Union, which exist mostly with membership fees and therefore is accountable only to society; 3) Media outlets, most of which is controlled by the government; 4) Educational institutions which are also under governments pressure; 5) None-Governmental Organizations which had much more influence on civil society development before the rose revolution.

Existing researches show, that social capital in Georgia is on very low level. In Georgia, citizens avoid active civic responsibilities not only on local, but also on national level and this greatly contributes to their depolarization. Expert Marina Muskhelishvili notes, “Civil society should not give strong state possibility to establish dictate on society and if state is weak, then civil society should assist the strengthening process of the state”.

It is clear that to create strong state civil society needs to be strengthened and developed. Democratic values of the state should be in the consent with the awareness and consciousness rising of society. Most of the citizens in Georgia do not understand their role in the developing of active civil society. Researches conducted in the near past show that in this regard situation in the regions of Georgia is in dire conditions and needs immediate intervention. Research of the “Society Research Centre” shows that citizens are not in hurry to join active civil society. Many researches show that people in the villages do not unite to solve some common problem.

Reality in regions of Georgia is following: there are people who do not understand importance of civil society and therefore do not participate in its strengthening. In addition, there is the second party, politicians, who do not desire appearance of strong civil society actors in regions and villages of Georgia. It should be also noted that population is very skeptic to the people who start to become more active to reach public good. Citizens develop some kind of distrust to this kind of active people. It is the same type of mistrust that they develop towards politicians or civic institutions. As experts say, there is no transitional position in this case. They say that existing reality, which is incompatible with the democratization process, should be changed by the civil society. Civil society should become controlling force of civil activity and political situation in the country.

Role of Church in the civil society strengthening

Today Church is one of the institutions, which is quite active. However, experts say that in comparison with its possibilities church is still not very articulated civic institution. Research conducted by International Republican Institute (IRI) showed that Church has the most trust of the population in Georgia. Despite such rating, Church is not trying to express its position about such incidents as clashes between police and demonstrators on the 26th of may 2011. Role of the Church in this regard is not very visible. Contrary to Churches in western democracies, Georgian Church cannot ensure transition of citizens into active civic actors.

Some of the experts do not see Church as an active civic institution. They say that Church do not carry out the role of civic educator as it is in USA.  In Georgia relationship between priest and parish is based only on the fact of discussing religious dogmas, which undermines its role as an important civil society institution.

We may say that Georgian church is less politicized, mostly stipulated by legacy of the soviet system. Church tries to influence society only on the cultural, religious or national level. It tries to activate society only to protect these values and to fight off ideas and discourses unfriendly to them.

Analytics do not think that polarization of the Church is a good idea, but they underline importance of the Church in the development process of development of civil society. As they say Church was able to stand aside from political processes to please the population, what we can clearly see from researches.

In Georgia, position of Church during some heavy political debates was always very measured and oriented on some specific results. Experts consider such behavior is mostly conditioned by the fear to lose rating. When patriarch of Georgia addressed demonstrators and asked them to leave before police raided them, immediately people became very upset. Government was also dissatisfied whenever Church criticized them. Philosopher Gia Zedania thinks that Georgian Church is always able to stay out of specific political battles and this helps Church to remain its rating.

In last year’s there were some cases, when not only government, but also some opposition political parties were trying to use Church. Because of that, Churches role of developer and mobilizer of civil society is exceeded. Church will not become strong civic institution because of the two facts: it tries not to have any political position and not to turn into instrument of one political party or other and it does not try to make citizens more active trough mobilization activities or informal education.

Role of united Trade and Workers Union in the process of civil society development

Foreign donors mostly finance civil societies in Georgia. There is no other institution, which supports civil societies financially. Business organizations are afraid to strengthen such institutions.

In Georgia there is one organization and this is United Workers Union which is financed by membership fees. Since there is a high level of unemployment in Georgia Union does not have huge masses of members, but it is still able to carry out its duty. Government mostly ignores its activities, but there are some issues, that were successfully resolved by the actions of the Union. Today Union makes government a bit uncomfortable. Government is not happy with the union same way as with the Church. Government is trying to weaken the Union and make it governments satellite. One of such attempt was the ultimatum of the minister of education of Georgia, Dimitry Shashkin in 2010. He verbally warned directors of the schools  not to send Union any membership fees.

This policy is in effect after the fact when government clearly felt Unions strength. Union started to be active in recent years and is trying to carry out its duties in the capacities, which it has. Union is trying to become active part of the civil society, which can mobilize representatives of different fields to solve common problems and achieve welfare.

In the existing political regime, it is clear that Trade and Workers Union cannot change the whole picture in the country. Although any kind of attempt and result oriented activity could be considered as important achievement. Events that took place in the beginning of the year 2011 underline importance of this civic institution. There was a miners’ strike in the little city of Tkibuli. They were demanding perpetual work agreements, improving working and safety conditions in the coalmines of “Saknakhshiri”. Other miners in other cities joined strike, which was organized by the Union. Strike of this scale was unprecedented in Georgia and this was the main reason why government and leadership of enterprise were forced to fulfill demands. After the activation of the Union, government is actively trying to control this institution. There were some facts of firing person because of his membership in the Union. Various enterprises and employers that are unconditional servants of the current government criticize openly the Union and its members. They claim that Union is trying to brainwash their employees. These actions are directed towards one goal – to weaken this civic institution.

Control of the Media – one of the most important civic institutions.

Attitude of the Georgian government towards civic institutions is clearly visible simply by counting all of the controlled media outlets existing in Georgia. Media was and is main troublemaker for every government everywhere. In developed countries media’s position is taken into account, but in the countries of the third world, such as Georgia, government is trying to control the media. Controlling media was the main concern of the “revolutionary” government. Many media outlets were subjected to the control after the Rose Revolution, but there were some media organizations, which were trying to exist independently. In experts opinion media outlets in Georgia do not take intermediate position either and are protecting interests of different political groups rather than citizens. As recent researches, show population do not trusts this institution much and that reflects badly on the development of civil society.

To remain its political power Georgian government tried to punish independent media outlets many times. It was the main reason when in 2007 television company “Imedi” was raided and deprived from its rightful owner. Today this television is considered as one of the governments satellites.

Intolerance of current government towards freedom of speech and freethinking did not end by seizing TV company “Imedi”. The blunt intervention of the government to weaken one of the most important civic institutions is continuing. This should be the reason why tax inspection started to check media holding “Palitra” recently. Media holding “Palitra” which unites number of media organizations was one of the few media outlets that were actively covering events of 26th may. Experts and other representatives of civil society connect the fact of unexpected check by tax inspection to the journalistic activities of the “Palitra” media holding.

Role of Universities

Facts mentioned above already indicate that civil society in Georgia cannot carry out imposed duty. Main goal of every civil society in every country should be democratic development of the state. In this regard, educational institutions have one of the most important roles. In Georgia the government also controls this civic space. At the first glance it looks like state does not interfere in the activities of educational organizations, but it controls elections of the heads of the universities and functioning of student unions.

Universities do not carry out the duty of civic institution at any level. Student unions, which should protect students’ rights and should aid them, are protecting interests of specific groups. In the May of 2011 students of Tbilisi State University demanded translation of the study materials that are in foreign languages into Georgian. They were stating that finances that are being spent unreasonably by Students Unions should be redirected to address students’ real problems. After this announcement, the members of Student Unions physically and verbally insulted students responsible for the statement. Even after number of physical confrontations between students and public attention administration of the University did not reacted.

Such facts clearly show that Student Unions take directives from above and they are not being punished for their reckless actions. Today, the government is controlling universities in the same way as other civic spaces. As experts say, aggression of the Students Union towards students was an attempt to frighten them. Government is doing everything to extinguish any possible core of civic activity.

Government tries to exclude students from the civic activities. This policy makes it much easier to establish full control of civil society and use it for own purposes.

Role of Non-Governmental organizations

When we talk about development of civil society and its importance, we should also focus on NGO’s. In developing countries, NGO’s should be one of the main actors in civil society development.
In Georgia NGO’s play mostly cognitive role and its main purpose – to turn indifferent population into active citizens is not fulfilled. Despite this, NGO’s are still under strict supervision of the government. As for today, government is trying to annex this sector of civic space with different measures. Government creates big donor organizations and finances them. These donor organizations give grants to NGO’s working in Georgia and afterwards attempt to create satellites from them. Government also tries to recruit chairmen and members of different NGO’s and is offering them different positions in the state institutions.
Researchers of civil society think that with this and other measurements Government is partially controlling NGO’s. Organizations’ that government cannot control are being marginalized or are already marginalized and do not represent any threat to government.


One of the most outstanding researchers of post soviet societies, Mark Howad states that low level of social capital and low quality of civil society in Georgia is conditioned by the soviet past. In his words, Georgian society distrusts different organizations and institutions because of soviet experience. Howad also points out two reasons such as 1) clan connections and 2) post communist disappointment.

Researchers say that there is no specific way to increase quality of civil society. They think that pattern of organizations should be changed. Attention should be driven towards citizens and not foreign donor organizations. Experts say that interest of the citizens should be somehow redirected towards strengthening civil society and values.

One thing is clear – civic sector should be strengthened so that it could exist independently. In this case, it will be responsible to society and not to donor organizations. As experts say, today it is impossible to relay on volunteer work in the process of civil society development. Citizens expect that they should gain some financial profit from this process. They do not see their role in the process of civil society development. People who are actually involved in active civic life are serving different purposes in reality. Analytics say that it is very important, to analyze society and study specifically how activities of civil society influences every representative of the society in Georgia.


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