Myth that NGOs are foreign mercenaries fighting against their own country is groundless

19 October, 2015


Tamar Khorbaladze

Certain interested groups and the part of media actively promotes the idea that the NGOs are the spies of foreign secret services and their actions are directed against their own country and traditions.

In fact, a non-governmental organization is the unity, which is not the part of the government; it is not a profit-oriented organization either. The goals affiliating the members of the non-governmental organization may be different: it can be broader, such as the achievement of democratic changes, promotion of fair elections, protection of human rights, ensuring fair trial, support media independence and development, etc. The goal can be more specific as well, for example, the maintenance of Tbilisi cultural heritage, respect for traffic rules, delivery of a variety of services to the people with disabilities or other vulnerable groups and their full integration into the civil society.

In Georgia the non-governmental organizations achieve these goals in different ways:

The monitoring and control over the activities of the Authority, i.e. Watch-Dog activity is one of the important functions of non-governmental organizations. The NGOs supervise the authority and provide the society with the information in order to curb and balance those who hold the power tools.

Many people remember the campaign "This Affects You Too”. The campaign was launched in February, 2012 by the NGOs and media-organizations. The outcome of the campaign similar to this one was the so-called Must Carry achievement; as a result, all the cable channels were bounded to give the air to the licensed televisions, enabling in this manner the population to increase their choice of free information.

The subject of high bonuses practiced by the government after 2012 turned out to be quite noisy. Number of reports developed by the NGOs (Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers Association, IDFI etc.) on the scales and rules of issue of bonuses became the basis for the development of new rules for the bonuses in a public sector.

The study conducted by the non-governmental organization Media Development Foundation this year drew a wide response; the study blamed the authority in funding the media inciting hatred. This study was passed in vain but followed by an attempt of self-justification of the government.

Advocacy and an attempt to achieve the changes through the courts is also one of such functions applied by the non-governmental organizations for protection of human rights:

For example, on the basis of the lawsuits initiated by the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, the Constitutional Court made the decision; as a result, the permit system for assembly and manifestation was replaced with a notification system and the people's right to freedom of their will became more protected;

Among the successes achieved in the European Court of Human Rights we should recall the decision of February 2, 2010, when, as a result of the decision made by the European Court of Human Rights, on the basis of the lawsuit instituted by the GYLA, Georgian authority carried out the measures to enable thousands of citizens of Georgia – the victims of the Soviet repression as well as their first generation heirs - to receive the compensation for their suffering and loss.

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights made on the basis of the lawsuit, instituted by the organization Identobawas also important. With this decision related to the events developed on May 17, the Court established that freedom of expression and ensuring the safety of people participating in the action is the prior responsibility of the government; this decision is extremely important for any individual who tries to express his/her opinion out in the streets.

Combat the monopoly in the sphere of shipments was also aimed at ensuring the free market; this fight involved the organization Transparency International - Georgia.

Precedential case won by the Media Development Foundation to the Non-Commercial Legal Entity Agriculture Project Management Agency in Tbilisi City Court was also aimed at ensuring the greater transparency of public information; under the decision made by the Court the government obliges the Non-Commercial Legal Entities to issue public information. 

The lawsuit of the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), aimed at protection of drug addicts is under trial in the Constitutional Court; in its lawsuit the EMC calls for easing punishment for drug purchase / storage (note: decision is already upheld). 

Legal aid and the free counsel, lobbying of human rights before the various institutions for those, who cannot afford it, is one of the important functions of non-governmental organizations. Statistics in this regard is quite impressive: 

For example, since 2011 the Transparency International - Georgia provided 1762 individuals with free legal aid; legal representation was carried out over 507 cases, including 245 successfully resolved and 31 settled cases. 

During 21 years of functioning the Young Lawyers Association has provided up to million individuals with legal aid; it has prepared more than 70 000 legal documents (application, claim, appeal), brought up to 7 000 cases before the common court including 500 ones successfully completed; 135 complaints were filed to the European Court of Human Rights, 8 of those were completed successfully; among 30 lawsuits filed to the Constitutional Court 17 were completed successfully; 

Article 42 of the Constitution has been providing free legal assistance to the alleged victims of human rights violations for more than 18 years. Over the past two years, the organization provided free legal assistance to 538 people, it litigated 400 strategic proceedings. The lawyers of the organization litigated the interests of the victims over 26 cases before court.

 Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) provides the religious minorities with free legal assistance. In addition it defends the rights of the citizens of Georgia before the various bodies.

Identoba, the non-governmental organization litigated 49 cases over the past year - from January 2015 to date, including 12 cases completed.

Tolerance and Diversity Institute, in cooperation with the Tbilisi Free University, offers free legal aid to religious, ethnic and racial minorities within the framework of the Memorandum. During 2015 it rendered assistance to German and Muslim community representatives.

Services provision is the other way to direct the donors’ funds on the well-being and needs of population:

For example, just one project implemented by the non-governmental organization CIDA – "Personalized Assistance for Migrants in Greece and Turkey” - provided 1137 individuals with free legal counsel. 167 juvenile probationers in Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti benefited the legal aid from the Juvenile Probationers Justice Reform Support Project organized by this organization with the media and the NGOs.

The "School of Tolerance" of the Media Development Foundation gives an interesting example: last year it gave the opportunity to the representatives of ethnic minorities enrolled in Tbilisi universities to show their skills in setting up communication, better use the Georgian language, learn new media skills and try themselves in competitions.

Major direction of the non-governmental organization Economic Policy Research Centre is to influence the state economic policy. However, the organization provides other services as well: in recent years the Centre organized the trainings and consultations for up to 120 representatives of small business in 4 regions on the issues of the Tax Code; it taught 80 business women projects writing and helped 4 of them with start-up the business; besides, it facilitated 10 regional televisions in Georgia to install e-accounting and continuously operates telephone counseling for those who desires to draft governmental or nongovernmental business projects.

The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information provided more than 200 civilians with consultation in the process of transition to digital broadcasting and helped 20 individuals to get public information.

Young Lawyers Association’s Legal Education Fund has 4000 graduates; it supports training of 1 500 pupils within the scopes of the Sunday School program. More than 260 readers enjoy the GYLA monthly library. Besides the mentioned, up to 1 000 students completed an internship at GYLA's legal aid centers.

NGO’s union SAPARI offers psycho-social and medical rehabilitation to the victims of domestic violence. The International Center Empathy provides the victims of violence and torture with free medical treatment and rehabilitation.

This is only the part of the activities the non-governmental organizations in Georgia are engaged in with the financial support of international donors. One of the most important functions of those is to support the public awareness in order to enable the civil society to conduct control over the authority with the help of NGOs, to force the government to deal with any problems that arise on the path to democracy and in some cases to fill the vacuum (eg.: gaps in services, training courses, etc.), that the state fails to or does not provide.

Usually, in realization of these goals the non-governmental organizations are supported by the international donors, such as the Foundation of the American Agency for International Development - USAID, the United Nations Development Program - UNDP, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency - Sida, EU, OSCE; Various embassies and international and local funds, such as the National Endowment for Democracy - NED; Open Society - Georgia (Soros Foundation); EPF and others. The goal of the mentioned foundations and international organizations is to promote the democratic process around the world, to strengthen civil society and protect human rights. The basis of these activities is the high standards of transparency and the accountability.