February 7-13, 2014 Newspaper "GEORGIA TODAY" By Nino Sharashidze
Former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili met with the representatives of Georgian and international media outlets on February 4, revealing details of the goals and vision of his newly established NGO, 'Citizen', a name was recommended by Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia David Usupashvili.
The executive director of Citizen will be Giorgi Sabanadze, 30. He is a completely new face in Georgian public life and has a Master's degree in social sciences, currently a student at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA). According to the founders, Citizen's primary goal is to help media representatives improve qualifications and also to train new analysts.
"Through objective and quality information we will improve the level of public debate. We will then be able to act as a check on our government," Ivanishvili said. He added that sometimes even the most professional journalist or analyst lies shamelessly. Apart from increasing qualification, he noted, the objective of "Citizen" is to conduct comprehensive surveys about media objectivity.
After Ivanishvili quit politics on November 24, 2013, he announced that he would be strengthening civil society in Georgia and many had expected that Ivanishvili would choose to finance an already established NGO in Georgia or create a fund for such support. Therefore, it was somewhat surprising when he announced the creation of an entirely new NGO.
"People asked why Ivanishvili quit politics. As he said, he is not going anywhere; he stays with Georgia and the Georgian people. Realistically, the civil society needs to be strengthened and developed," the PM said. "I believe that Bidzina Ivanishvili will make largescale changes in this direction too and bring many positive developments to our country. Without developing the civil sector, changing the government is not enough," he continued.
At the press conference, Ivanishvili said that Citizen will cooperate with several NGOs, including Archil Kbilashvili's recently founded non-governmental organization European Choice, adding that the goal of the former chief prosecutor's organization will be Georgia's European integration.
"Archil Kbilashvili is a professional lawyer. I think the name of the organization - the European Choice - is very interesting and it will help the public in working on different projects in the legal direction. I am still fascinated by the Chief Prosecutor's statement when he entered politics; he was speaking about responsibility," Ivanishvili said. According to him, Kbilashvili has a very good team. "I was with him and he has a European office. He has amazing partners, they have a dignified income from their honest work and have a great feeling of responsibility to help the country in speeding up European integration", Ivanishvili added.
Answering questions at the press conference, Ivanishvili said he was very content with the government's performance and slammed journalists for some questions, in particular about Georgian Dream's "failure" to deliver their campaign promises. Such a reaction led some NGO representatives and media in general to question whether Citizen will be able to criticize and control the government to fulfill the key task of the civil sector.
"The main goal of the NGO should be to criticize the government and thus help them to develop. However, an NGO should be assessed according to its activities, hence we need to wait until Citizen starts to operate," said Kakha Kojoridze, a head of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association.
"It is too early and not sensible for Ivanishvili to criticize the government that was formed by him, he left his post as a Prime Minister less than three months ago, this is a very short time to become neutral and get involved in criticism. We need to see what Citizen will do in the future" - said Goga Khaindrava, a filmmaker, and former government official.
The two new NGOs have the same values but they have different goals and strategies. The founder and chairman of Georgia's European Choice says that his organization aims to create a lawful state based on European values, which means strengthening human rights and democratic institutions as well as business regulations and social policy issues in a judicial framework. "I do not see any reason to criticize the government at this stage but as soon as Georgia's European Choice becomes actively involved in civil society issues, I will express my professional opinion, which might be both positive and negative," said Kbilashvili in the TV show Politics Time on the Imedi TV Channel.
It has not been made entirely clear as to how these NGOs will be financed. “A wonder how Citizen will finance the NGOs, who will be in the board that discusses the proposals,” said Khatia Dekanoidze, the director of Tbilisi Center for Policy Analysis.
Kbilashvili states that he does not receive any financial assistance from Ivanishvili’s Kartu Group, but he does not exclude the possibility of Georgia’s European Choice getting financial support for some joint projects. Kbilashvili expects financial support from other foundations as well. “Ivanishvili thinks that financial support to these NGOs should be minimal and they successful people who have regular income will work there to use their expertise and their country and citizens,” said Kbilashvili.
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