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Election Media Centers – Hub of Election-related Activities in Regions of Georgia

The Election Media Centers located in Centers for Civic Engagement across 10 regions of Georgia play an active role in disseminating critical election-related information in Georgia’s regions. Since the official launch on July 26, media centers have hosted and organized 150 election-related events, involving 3,453 participants. Local and national media covered these events 104 times.

Political parties and independent candidates topped the user list, organizing around 40% of the events. They used centers to meet with activists and party members to plan electoral activities and campaigning in their respective regions; organize public discussions on local and national issues of public concern; hold media briefings on electoral environment and violations; etc. Local CSOs are the second most active users of media centers. They have held awareness-raising seminars and trainings for women, youth and first-time voters, election observers and other volunteers; conducted focus group discussions to study public attitudes towards the upcoming elections; held discussions to evaluate pre-election environment. International and local monitoring organizations have met with political parties, local CSOs, and media to receive information about the electoral environment and the new and recurring problems, also to coordinate activities.

Election Media Centers have initiated their own events aimed at: a) bringing citizens’ needs and concerns to the attention of politicians; b) scrutinizing election platforms and engaging the general public in discussing the key electoral issues; c) raising public awareness about elections in general and its importance for democratic development.

Election Media Centers are supported by USAID’s Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) project, implemented by East-West Management Institute. The Media Centers offer citizens, journalists, civic groups, authorities, and election subjects a neutral space for organizing public events aimed at increasing citizens’ knowledge of and participation in the electoral process.

Detailed information about the Media Centers operation is provided on EWMI ACCESS website.

EWMI ACCESS Awards Grants to Georgian CSOs

In August, 2016 EWMI ACCESS awarded two grants to Georgian CSOs from its Citizen Outreach Grants Program. Both projects aim to increase public awareness and engagement in the upcoming parliamentary elections and bring citizens’ needs to the attention of electoral candidates.

1. CSO - Analytical Center for Inter-ethnic Consultation and Cooperation, project “Election Comics Tents”. Project uses innovative civic education methods to inform population of Samtskhe-Javakheti region about the upcoming parliamentary elections and encourage their participation in the elections. Youth selected from the given target region will prepare bilingual (Georgia-Armenian) comics on elections, conveying easy-to-understand information about elections in general and its procedures. One month prior to the Parliamentary Elections (mid-September) outdoor fairs “Comics Tents” will be organized in Akhaltsikhe, Akhalkalaki, Ninotsminda and Adigeni, where interested citizens will get comprehensive information about elections through discussions, performances, mock elections and information materials.   

2. CSO - Stepantsmida, project “Advocacy for Rights of Kazbegi Population during the 2016 Parliamentary Elections”. The project purpose is to increase engagement of Kazbegi population in the electoral processes through organizing public discussions between communities and the majoritarian candidates; also identifying priority community needs and communicating those needs to the electoral candidates.

Best Practice-sharing Events with Regional CSOs

The Guria-based CSO “Young Scientist’s Club of Ozurgeti” through EWMI ACCESS funding launched an innovative mechanism for engageing citizens in local governance process in Ozurgeti Municipality - an online and SMS-based platform informing citizens about upcoming Sakrebulo (City Council) meeting dates and agendas, attendance procedures, etc. To make this program operational the Ozurgeti Young Scientist’s Club developed special electronic software that sends short messages to all citizens who have signed up for its service. As of August 2016, more than 800 Ozurgeti municipality residents received text messages about upcoming meetings at the local government. In addition, recipients also receive links on decisions taken at the Sakrebulo meetings. The online tool is already integrated in the Ozurgeti Municipality Sakrebulo website enabling new users to get registered. 

Over the period from August 29 to September 2, EWMI ACCESS together with the Ozurgeti Young Scientist’s Club are holding best practice-sharing meetings with interested CSOs and government members in Batumi, Zugdidi, Kutaisi, Gori and Rustavi. The Young Scientist’s Club representatives will speak about this innovative approach and its success in Ozurgeti municipality, as well as offer cooperation to interested parties. These meetings are part of the Best Practice and Innovation Events series held by EWMI ACCESS which aim to share effective civic engagement and community mobilization strategies and tactics with interested parties. 

Dusheti Municipality Adopts Legislative Changes on Petition Submission Regulations

On August 5, the Sakrebulo (City Council) of Dusheti Municipality adopted legislative changes concerning the rules and regulations on preparing and submitting petitions. According to the new amendment, the number of signatures required to submit any type of petition to the Dusheti Municipality Sakrebulo has halved and instead of 1% of the registered voters of the municipality, 0.5% is now sufficient. The amendment was initiated and advocated by EWMI ACCESS Grantee – the Center for Civic Activities which carries out a citizen engagement project in upper mountainous regions of Georgia. Due to high migration quite few people live permanently in the target region. The new legislative amendment will enable those staying in the regions to initiate petitions (without seeking signatures of formally registered voters) and engage in solving their priority problems.

Facilitating Civic Engagement in Upper Mountainous Regions of Georgia

Residents of Akhmeta and Dusheti municipalities have initiated and submitted three petitions to local Sakrebulos, requesting the establishment of municipal waste management services, the rehabilitation of village roads and the installation of public toilets along the main motorway to Tusheti. Petitions were drafted and circulated by activists of the local CSO – the Center for Civic Activities within the EWMI-ACCESS funded civic engagement project. The authors will attend Sakrebulo hearings and advocate for solving the problems outlined in the petitions.

Thanks to advocacy efforts carried out by the Center of Civic Activities, the Kazbegi and Gurjaani municipalities began to set up Citizen Advisory Councils. Such councils never existed before in the target municipalities, although local governments are required under the law to form and operate them. The Citizen Advisory Councils will start functioning in September.

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.