Tbilisi, 8 October 2015 (Meeting 10)

The project’s tenth working meeting was held at Europe House Georgia (Tbilisi) on 8 October 2015 and covered the following topics:
– Issues of state cultural policy based on the sovereignty principle
– The environment most conducive for implementing the Convention
– The role of media in the development of cultural spheres

Nino Gunia-Kuznetsova presented the project and the 2005 Paris Convention to the participants, who were experts in a variety of cultural spheres– sociologists, journalists and staff from state bodies such as the Tbilisi State Conservatory and the national Ministry of Reconciliation and Civic Equality. The presentation was followed by a discussion.

Participants expressed great interest in the development of the Cultural Strategy currently being developed by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia. They discussed the implementation of the Paris Convention and the potential for tangible results, especially the significance of including the Convention principles and goals into the national Cultural Strategy.

Points raised included how implementation of the Convention can be monitored if the state has not yet developed an implementation plan. The tools to ensure implementation must be clarified in order to fulfill the obligations of its signatories. Related issues included how Georgia can benefit optimally from preferential treatment for developing counties, as declared by the Convention, and the best way to request favorable treatment from developed countries. Is it even possible to benefit from the Convention yet–are state bodies and the Georgian public ready for it?

The lack of a budget of the national Strategy and Action Plan was also identified as a difficulty, according to the participants. It is difficult to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a cultural policy when its budget is not known. The same holds true for implementing the Convention, as it does not have funding—since it was signed into force in 2008, there have never been funds budgeted to implement it. Some participants pointed out that in this context the conditions for monitoring the Convention are not met. A partial solution would be to create a coalition to develop a monitoring action plan. This would include monitoring the Culture section of the Association Agreement signed between Georgia and the European Union.

The coverage of culture by the media has not improved over the last two decades, according to some of those present, and there is still no TV channel or a print media outlet dedicated to culture. The educational environment necessary for becoming a professional cultural journalist is still lacking, and no stable institutional development of this profession is funded by the state or facilitated in any way.

Institutional and organizational difficulties prevail in the sphere of education. Issues raised included specific and negative changes resulting from insufficient cooperation between government structures, such as the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection and the Ministry of Education and Science. These continue to cause unnecessary difficulties in arts education. The participants agreed that particular attention is needed to promote education in the arts, and that the Ministry of Culture and professionals in the field should make greater efforts to cooperate with the Ministry of Education when developing qualifications frameworks, standards or curricula. It is necessary to harmonize the cultural professions to comply with international standards, especially for interdisciplinary areas such as cultural management, art history, etc.

In conclusion, participants recognized the need to conduct interdisciplinary research on the cultural needs of ethnic minorities, IDPs and refugees living in Georgia, and to address their needs for intercultural education. Staff members of the state Ministry of Reconciliation and Civic Equality pointed out that–despite the absence of systematic research–there are some advisory documents available that address some of these concerns. The issues of endangered languages in Georgia, including Abkhazian and Ubykh as well as Chechen, were also discussed in this context.

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