2023 LiA Project: Blog Post II

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Lika Gegenava

Leadership in Action Project: Blog Post II

Tbilisi, Georgia: May – June 2023

My LiA project followed a very uncertain period in Georgian politics. Earlier in March, the ruling party introduced a Law Against Foreign Agent Influence, which targeted civil society movements and organizations and would significantly limit their ability to operate. Despite the clear protest and backlash, the government adopted the law at the first hearing. This caused a series of week-long protests with frequent clashes between the protesters and the police. The unrelenting protests, luckily, influenced the government and they recalled the law. 

Despite this development, however, the precedent of such a clear attack on the indepence of civil societies, which are often the most effective democracy watchdogs in the country, sounded the alarms for not only the members of the Georgian civil society, but our international partners in the West as well. Following the first introduction of the law, the civil society mobilized and formed a certain alliance to fight against the implementation of the law. After the law was repelled, the alliance remained as an effective tool to combat future potential threats to democratic institutions and independent organizations. 

Open Society Georgia Foundation – the organization I worked with for my project – was one of the leaders of the movement to mobilize against the harmful law. As a certain headquarters for the meetings of several organizations, OSGF was a perfect place for me to directly witness the impact of the authoritarian tendencies and policies I had observed in my research. Having a chance to sit in on these meetings, I had the opportunity to witness the work that is being done to combat the authoritarianisation processes in Georgia, and provide my knowledge through the research project I had undertaken in the previous summer. 

The findings of my research project were not optimistic, though they were not hopeless either. Working with OSGF was reassuring in a way as I witnessed and was a part of effective efforts against the alarming processes I observed during my summer of research. Though there is still much to do, and it is nowhere near easy, there is concrete work being done and unrelenting, effective measures being taken by civilians to protect and maintain the democratic progress Georgia has achieved in the last three decades. 

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