Kutaisi, 16 June 2015 (Meeting 4)

The fourth working meeting of the project was held in Kutaisi on 16 June 2015, where the following topics were covered:
– Georgia’s obligations and responsibilities within the Convention
– Involvement of the media and problems of information exchange/provision
– General and professional education in the sphere of cultural diversity
– Self-organization and private initiatives by the public
– The role of local self-government in the development of culture; quality assurance; public relations

Cultural professionals, local self-government representatives, journalists, artists and students participated in the meeting. Maia Nikolaishvili presented the project and the Convention.

A main problem in the cultural sphere of Kutaisi (and the Imereti Region in general) included education, which almost all participants underscored within various contexts.

The participants discussed how to disseminate information, and the difficulties encountered in exchanging information between cultural organizations, local government bodies and media outlets.

The development of artists was seen as very important, especially when considering the Article of the Convention that deals with the mobility of artists. There is a lack of financial resources, which inhibits freedom of movement.

Another issue raised was the need for the public to organize and increase private initiatives. There are positive historical examples for the latter in Kutaisi, and the present over-dependence on municipal resources was mentioned in the same context. Finally the participants agreed on the need for quality assurance and appropriate media coverage.

Tbilisi, 30 May 2015 (Meeting 3)

The third meeting of the project was held at Europe House Georgia on 30 May 2015, addressing the following topics:
– State cultural policy: problems of quality
– Improving the professional skills of journalists and the media
– The role of education in protecting and facilitating cultural expression

Experts in cultural policy and art managers participated in the meeting. Nino Gunia-Kuznetsova presented the project and the Convention.

The main subjects discussed at this meeting were the need for civil society to take an active position and how to influence government to implement the Convention. Participants discussed the division of responsibilities between the government and the nongovernmental sector, state regulation, monitoring and its unsatisfactory results.

They also noted that the state’s monitoring efforts are focused on quantitative and financial aspects, while monitoring of quality is either absent or inadequate. An important problem raised was that existing legislation, regulations and conditions are made to fit the interests of bureaucracy, while this negatively impacts development and quality.

The problems of professionalization within the media included whether the promotion of diversity of cultural expression by the media is adequate, quality-assured and correct. When mapping the problems, the low level of public education was evident. Today measures taken to raise public awareness are inadequate and of low quality. This, added to the poor quality and low number of educational programs aimed at improving qualifications in the field of culture, means Georgia cannot fulfill its obligations under the Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The following observations and recommendations were made:

– There is a need for external monitoring (implemented by professionals);
– There needs to be greater understanding and promotion of the role of education in protecting and facilitating cultural expression;
– The State must encourage artists and other persons involved in activities related to cultural expression by supporting greater professionalization.

Telavi, 8 May 2015 (Meeting 2)

The second working meeting within the framework of the project was held in Telavi on 8 May 2015, addressing the following:
– Issues of Georgia’s obligations and responsibilities within the Convention
– Exercising the right to equal participation in cultural process and benefiting from its results
– Conditions of/for artists
– The importance of culture for social cohesion

Professionals from Telavi’s culture and art scene, and heads of non-profit organizations within the system of the municipal cultural service participated in the meeting. Nino Gunia-Kuznetsova presented the project and the Convention.

The necessity to create an active society platform for the implementation of the Convention was underlined. This includes understanding the goals of the Convention and its relevance to local needs—in other words the usefulness/role of the project in resolving local problems. The participants also addressed the obligations imposed by the Convention, and the problem of mapping issues.

The instability caused by socio-economic conditions and the lack of interest in the sphere among young people were identified as main challenges.

A heated discussion was held around the issues related to the conditions of local artists and the restrictions on exercising their right to equal participation in cultural processes, or to benefiting from the results. These are often caused by economic problems. There is insufficient state support or encouragement for those who are involved in activities related to cultural expression.

The importance of culture for social cohesion became very clear at the meeting.
Using the potential of culture to enhance the status and role of women in society showed a need more projects that are inclusive. The group analyzed the difficulties to secure support and funding for inclusive projects, which is also related to issues of social cohesion and cultural diversity.

Participants filled out a questionnaire at the end of the meeting.

Tbilisi, 8 April 2015 (Meeting 1)

The first working meeting within the project, held at Europe House Georgia on 8 April 2015, covered the following topics:
– The essence of identity
– The role of language
– Issues of state cultural policy based on the sovereignty principle
– What environment is conducive to the implementation of the Convention

Experts in culture and art participated in the meeting. Ms. Nino Gunia-Kuznetsova presented the project and the Convention. Participants discussed methodologies for developing a database, questionnaires and recommendations for implementing the program of the Convention. They also discussed the goals and scope of application of the Convention, as well as the government’s attitude towards the Convention.

A questionnaire developed by the Young Sociologists’ Association was discussed, and recommendations made.

The role of language was analyzed as the essence of identity, including two presentations, “Linguistic diversity as a key element of cultural diversity” and “Problems of the advancement of the Georgian language online”. Participants discussed how learning various languages within the state language program could be done, and possible ways to promote linguistic diversity. They also touched on the protection and development of unique endangered languages in Georgia, specifically the problem of the reduced area of Abkhazian, the “russification” in Abkhaz areas and the identity and number of organizations working on issues of the Abkhazian language. Another endangered language discussed was Udi, especially the need to identify the population speaking this language and how the state can support its preservation.

State cultural policy based on the sovereignty principle was a key issue at the meeting, which included the activities of state, nongovernmental and private sectors with regard to the protection of diversity in cultural expression. Participants exchanged ideas on state regulations in Georgia, support programs, planning, implementation and monitoring measures — both existing and possible.

The meeting identified the most problematic issue: that of ensuring an environment conducive to the implementation of the Convention. This includes legislation and institutional development, addressing flaws in public awareness, and developing civil society activities. A related subject is the effectiveness of inter-ministerial cooperation and how to develop institutions that encourage implementation. A format of art councils was considered as a possibility.