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EWMI ACCESS Announces Request for Applications for Citizen Outreach Grant (COG) Program

On June 20, the East-West Management Institute (EWMI) Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) project announced request for applications for the Citizen Outreach Grants Program for the Georgian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), particularly those from the regions of Georgia.

The Grants program will support projects that ensure increased, effective, and sustained citizen engagement with CSO advocacy activities, especially in the regions of Georgia. COGs aim to bring CSOs and the constituents they serve closer together in addressing priority community issues.

Grants RfA and the application form can be downloaded from the following link: http://ewmi-access.org/request-for-applications-for-citizen-outreach-grant-cog-program/ 

Deadline for submitting grant applications is July 15, 2016.

CSOs Assess Implementation of the Self-Government Reform

On June 16, several civil society organizations presented their assessment reports on Georgia’s self-government reform implementation and the efficacy of the ongoing decentralization process. This was the first time when leading Tbilisi-based CSOs prepared assessment in close cooperation with the regional CSOs.

Key problems and challenges identified at the conference were the following:  a) segregation of competences between local and central governments; b) ensuring a transparent and competitive state procurement process – there are cases when tender requirements and conditions are tailored to specific providers that increase risk of corruption; The frequently used simplified procurement practices also raise concerns; c) low capacities of public officials and cases of nepotism during the recruitment process; d) proactive publication and dissemination of the public information; e) financial independence- local self-government bodies are still significantly dependent on the central government. f) low level of public involvement in decision-making processes – both the local government and communities lack knowledge and experience about public engagement mechanisms; any form of civic engagement is happening thanks primarily to NGOs. 

In addition to the aforementioned problems, participating NGOs also spoke about positive developments in  self-government reform, such as introducing direct elections of mayors and gamgebelis that would increase independence of municipalities; also adding seven new self-governing cities.

Local government representatives expressed an interest and willingness to cooperate with CSOs to enhance effectiveness of the self-government process.

The report was prepared by Civil Development Agency (CiDA) and ISFED in cooperation with three regional CSOs with financial support from EWMI ACCESS and NED. Representatives of the leading national CSOs – Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association, Transparency International-Georgia, and Institute for Development of Freedom of Information also delivered presentations.

State Preparedness to Natural and Man-made Disasters and Lessons Learned from the Tbilisi June 13 Tragedy

A year after the catastrophic flood of June 13th 2015, Tbilisi is still developing its disaster mitigation and response mechanisms. Currently efforts are underway to review existing legislation and its ability to properly codify prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery actions, as well as to improve coordination among various agencies and develop early-warning system.

On June 15, EWMI ACCESS organized a policy forum to discuss the issues mentioned above. Public officials from the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, Education and Science, Internal Affairs, as well as State Council on Crisis Management, and Emergency Management Agency, local CSOs and international organizations took part in the discussion.

The participants discussed details of the 13-14 June disaster and the responsive actions. As public officials claimed – considering the scarce resources and the magnitude of the disaster, the government did its best to respond and recover from the disaster. However, significant shortcomings hindered effective response (e.g. lack of rapid response coordination system, and other issues).

The Crisis Management Center was established in February 2016 for effective coordination of various agencies during emergencies. The Center runs the fully equipped situation room and mobile center. The weather forecast agency is now equipped with the delta radar usage license and some additional weather measurement devices enabling accurate weather forecast a couple of hours in advance.

New policy documents and legislative amendments are also being developed: the National Strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction is currently under preparation and will be finalized by the end of the year. Purpose of the document is to prevent natural disasters and reduce the damage. Furthermore the National Plan for Civil Defense was approved.

UNDP representative presented key findings of the assessment on performance of DRR during the disaster and spoke about key shortcomings and challenges.

All participants spoke about importance of risk analysis and early warning system. Public education on disaster risks was also mentioned as a top priority. The Ministry of Education and Science is already working to develop relevant handbooks and teaching materials for school students – as they said, the Disaster Risk Reduction section will soon become part of the civic education curriculum.

Conference “Georgian Advertising Market: Changes and Challenges”

On June 14, three leading Georgian CSOs - Transparency International Georgia (TI-Georgia), Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and Media Development Foundation (MDF) held a joint conference to present their research findings on various aspects affecting media transparency and independence in Georgia: recent trends in media advertisement industry (TI-Georgia), International and Georgian practices and regulations concerning TV rating systems and auditing of TV rating companies (GYLA), trends of distribution of public funds to media organizations and its impact on media content and independence (MDF). 

Research projects were funded by EWMI ACCESS.

Centers for Civic Engagement Mark the World Environment Day

The Centers for Civic Engagement celebrate the World Environment Day every year. This year in the period from June 6th to 10th all Centers in 10 regions of Georgia organized various events dedicated to raising public awareness and encouraging positive actions towards protection and preservation of the environment.

Manreuli Center for Civic Engagement hosted a photo exhibition illustrating man-made damage to the environment. Rustavi Center organized screening of the documentary and a follow-up discussion on environmental issues involving local youth; Information sessions were held for school students in Zugdidi and Akhaltsikhe highlighting importance of forests. Students were also encouraged to participate in environmental contests currently underway in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions. A similar discussion was held in Ozurgeti. Information session for kindergarten children and teachers in the Sagarejo informed beneficiaries about ways of preventing contamination of the environment. 

Public discussions with the participation of local government, CSOs and media were held in Batumi, Telavi, Kutaisi and Gori. Local government representatives in Telavi presented the city projects aimed at solving waste management problems at the local level. Meeting participants agreed to work closely with the Telavi City Hall to study best practices regarding waste separation and management, and put some of them in practice.

ACCESS is a five-year, $5.5 million USD civil society development initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development and implemented by EWMI. The U.S. Agency for International Development administers U.S. foreign assistance programs providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.