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Citation Information

Type Working Paper - European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI)
Title Institutions of Georgia for governance on national minorities: an overview
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
URL http://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/10695/ssoar-2009-sordia-institutions_of_georgi​a_for_governance.pdf?sequence=1
Abstract
Since the ‘Rose Revolution’ in November 2003, significant reform has taken place in
Georgia. The new Georgian government led by Mikheil Saakashvili, eager to push forward
the process of reform and enhance the pace of integration with Euro-Atlantic structures
and institutions, has taken a range of important steps to develop the institutional
arrangement of government. A number of key ministries have been radically reformed,
including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the
Ministry of Education and Science. Structural reform is also ongoing in many other
ministries and state bodies.
As part of this process of reform, the civil integration of Georgian society, a term that
takes in the inclusion and protection of national minorities, has been formally prioritised as
a key issue for state consolidation. The importance of civil integration for building a strong
and viable state is frequently emphasized by top decision makers, including the president,
the speaker of parliament and others. Though at the practical level progress has been
inconsistent at best, advances have made in terms of the institutional arrangements for
devising and implementing policy on civil integration.
The post-2003 administration has created various bodies whose remits covered minority
issues. Initially (from 2004 onwards), the implementation of national minority policy was
the duty of the State Minister for Civic Integration Issues but later, following the structural
modification of the government in 2008, this responsibility was assumed by the State
Minister for Reintegration Issues. Alongside these bodies, the Civil Integration and
Tolerance Council under the auspices of the Presidential Administration and the
President’s Advisor with responsibility for civil integration issues began to play an active
role, especially from spring 2008 onwards. The fruit of this additional input was a highly
important document – the National Concept on Tolerance and Civil Integration, adopted
on 8 May 2009 by the government of Georgia along with an action plan of specific
activities for the next five years.
At the same time, development programmes for several of Georgia’s regions are currently
being drafted, including development plans for regions inhabited by national minorities.
Georgia’s parliament has also ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of
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National Minorities, taking effect from April 2006. Currently, preparations for the signing
and ratifying of another highly important international agreement, the European Charter
for Regional or Minority Languages—another of Georgia’s commitments and obligations
to the Council of Europe—are underway. Other recent legislation includes a law on the
repatriation of deported Meskhetians, adopted by parliament in July 2007. In addition to
these legislative steps to create a better framework for governance of minorities, a number
of new bodies and services have been established within the executive structures,
responsible for issues relating to civil integration, protection of national minorities and
other issues connected to state policy on civic integration.
However, while progress on the development of policies on national minorities has been
considerable if compared to previous governments, serious deficiencies are noticeable as
regards practical implementation. While Georgia now largely seems to be fulfilling its
commitments to the Council of Europe de iure—with a few notable exceptions, namely the
signing and ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and a
law on national minorities—there is still a long way to go to ensure that the treaties and
other commitments are actually being effectively implemented. One of the serious
obstacles for the government in actually implementing these treaties and laws is a lack of
capacity in the state bodies responsible for integration, minority issues and related areas.
The main problem that has emerged, particularly over the past two or three years, is the
instability of these institutions, which are undermined by frequent changes in mandate or
the establishment of parallel structures. Responsibilities are not clearly distributed among
the institutions, hampering their smooth functioning. In addition, coordination between
institutions is very weak and their efficiency is further hindered by low salaries and
insufficient funds.
This paper aims to discuss the institutional set-up around civil integration and minority
protection issues in Georgia since the ‘Rose Revolution’, and the study reviews the state
structures relevant for governance and legislative practices on civil integration and
minority issues. It seeks to provide an overview of the institutional problems that beset
civic integration by presenting a brief outline of the history and responsibilities of the
relevant state bodies and analyzing some of the problems in the current institutional
arrangements. The research for this paper has been conducted by way of consultations and
interviews with the representatives of the bodies concerned, both executive and legislative.
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Use is also made of official documents, principally the mandates, constituting decrees,
legal documents and regulations of the bodies covered by our research.
The paper is divided into three sections. The first section examines the emergence of
institutional structures for handling minority issues during Shevardnadze’s rule and
discusses the institutional changes and cabinet reshuffles after the ‘Rose Revolution’,
reviewing all of the nine reshuffles since 2004. The second section describes the current
mandates and activities of minority policy related bodies at the executive level of
governance, while the third section presents some of the key activities and work of the
legislative body in relation to minorities. The paper contains four annexes: one describing
a few temporary bodies that existed for a short time after the ‘Rose Revolution’, two sets
of tables that graphically outline the institutional development of the government bodies
from 2004 to the present and the text of the National Concept for Tolerance and Civil
Integration

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