Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia holds a working meeting with State Minister and Deputy Ministers of Reconciliation and Civic Equality of Georgia

9 February 2023

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia met Thea Akhvlediani, State Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality and Deputy Ministers at a Working Meeting today.

Priorities and plans from within the policy scope of civic equality and integration were discussed at the meeting, as the mandate of the state minister comprises both directions. Focus was made on the performance of the Development Strategy of Georgia – Vision for 2030.

State Minister and Deputy Ministers briefed the Head of Government of Georgia about all those major initiatives, programs and projects that are implemented during the current year.

It was noted at the working meeting that one of the main priorities of the office of the state minister remains to be the provision of care to conflict-affected communities, as well as reconciliation and rebuilding of trust between the artificially torn societies.

Thus, special importance will be paid to the people-to-people contacts, dialogue based on common interests and development of cooperation through the peace initiatives of the Government of Georgia and those supported by international partners. Irrespective of the situation witnessed in the occupied regions, artificially imposed restrictions and grave condition in terms of human rights, topped with interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, interest and desire of the affected population has been high towards engagement in such initiatives and projects.

Policy of reconciliation and engagement will be further revisited in 2023, which is intended in close coordination with strategic partners of the country. It is worth noting that by taking into account the vividly altered security environment in the region, the referred process is essentially related to the need of attuning the thematic documents with a new reality within the scope of a common government approach towards a peaceful conflict resolution.

In addition and prior to the adoption of the new strategy, implementation of the already-launched and newly-developed mechanisms will be continued within the scope of the reconciliation and engagement policy, along with the peace initiatives.

Given the limited access to occupied regions of Georgia, steps will be taken toward sharing information with conflict-affected population on the services and programs readily made available at territories kept within the control of central authorities of the country.

Efforts will be intensified for a greater development of trade and economic ties on both sides in 2023, inter alia through a peace initiative branded as a Step Towards Better Future and its unique sub-component Peace Fund for Better Future, which is operating with a financial support of international partners. So far 75 joint business projects have been funded from the referred foundation.

In line with the peace initiative, access to quality education will be available to the youth living in occupied regions through the effective delivery and further improvement of existing concessional programs.

Access to the free-of-charge quality healthcare services will be continued and further extended for the local residents of occupied regions, both through the state reference programs (servicing almost 1500 beneficiaries annually) as well as primary healthcare services delivered on site.

With an aim of locating the missing individuals due to the armed conflicts of 90’s and Russia-Georgia war of 2008, as well as support of their families through the state programs and further improvement of their effectiveness, role and significance of engaged public institutions will be increased gradually in line with recommendations of the International Committee of Red Cross. Close cooperation with international partners will also grow towards this end.

Within the scope of a Temporary Commission of the Government working on the response to the needs of local residents in the affected communities, support is provided to the population through the implementation of relevant infrastructure, social, economic, agriculture, educational and other programs, total value of which reached 85 MLN GEL in 2022. With an initiative and personal engagement of the Prime Minister of Georgia, decisions made at the referred Commission Meetings led to the intention of restoring 28 damaged houses in Zardiaantkari of Gori Municipality, which will enable the local residents to return to their original dwellings.

To ensure the inclusive process of reconciliation and engagement policy, significant interaction and role of women will be solidified in the peace process and greater cooperation will be solicited with civil society, inter alia within the Advisory Council and Women Consultancy Platforms at the Office of the State Minister of Georgia.

New initiative branded as Peace Prize for Youth launched by the Office of the State Minister will be extended in 2022 and specific steps will be made for empowering the youth in the peace process.

Performance of the State Policy of Civic Equality and Integration was also discussed at the Working Meeting, along with their plans for the future, which is one of the significant factors for a further strengthening of culturally diverse and democratic societies.

Namely, effective measures planned within the priority directions of the State Strategy on Civic Equality and Integration for 2021-2030, which implies improvement of official language fluency among the ethnic minorities, improved access to quality education, increased engagement in civic, political, socio-economic processes and further advancement of inter-cultural dialogue, which will facilitate the effective civic equality and better integration processes in the society. It was noted that within each activity envisaged in the Action Plan for 2023-2024, special focus will be made on empowering women and youth of ethnic minorities through targeted programs.

It was highlighted that the key priority of the civic integration policy remains to be the improved knowledge of the official language and its promotion in densely populated ethnic communities. With this aim, free Georgian language programs and trainings will be further delivered to any interested individual in an active manner and through regional training centers as well as remotely or local mobile groups. With an aim of promoting the official language, planned measures will become more wide-scale.

Again, special attention will be paid to the access of quality education. A number of measures are planned towards this end and include the following:

Bilingual programs will be developed and gain greater coverage at non-Georgian pre-school and general schooling institutions. Teaching resources will be further developed and teacher qualifications will be improved towards individual disciplines as well in the fluency of the official language. It was noted that the initiative of the Prime Minister of Georgia related to the construction and rehabilitation of kindergartens and schools will have a major breakthrough in the availability of pre-school education in ethnic minorities as well as in the improved provision of school infrastructure.

Native language teachings of small ethnic groups will be further promoted in Ossetian, Assurian, Chechnyan, Udi, Avaric.

With an aim of better attuning the needs of non-Georgian-language-proficient youth, tailor-made programs are updated and developed for vocational training and higher education.

So-called 1+4 Education Program will become more wide-scale through the delivery of special internship programs for students and graduates in the public sector of the country, which is aimed at the development of professional skills among the youth, acquisition of vital experience in public administration and facilitation of competitiveness in the labor market.

With an aim of facilitating civic and political engagement, efforts will be made at improving the effectiveness of consultancy mechanisms operated with an engagement of ethnic minorities. Also, the initiative is aimed at improving the access to relevant information in response to the current needs for the improved public awareness. Wide-scale information and public awareness campaigns will be held on legal matters, empowering of women, disinformation and propaganda, media literacy, European and Euro-Atlantic developments as well as other crucial topics in densely populated ethnic communities. At the same time, Vrastan and Gurgistan newspapers respectively in Armenian and Azerbaijani languages will be further published with an aim of information sharing with non-Georgian-language-proficient population.

Social and economic integration of densely populated ethnic communities will be further promoted through the pro-active provision of information on priority state programs and services.

Within the scope of an inter-cultural dialogue priority will be given and major focus will be made on showcasing the cultural diversity, including that of the various ethnic theatres, museums, libraries, support of joint cultural, education, sports programs and events with representatives of various ethnicities.

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia gave new instructions to the State Minister and Deputy Ministers of Reconciliation and Civic Equality of Georgia.