Human Rights, Democratization and Civil Society
The Association Agreement pays special attention to the strengthening of democratic institutions, rule of law and respect for human rights in compliance with Georgia's international commitments. The status of progress in these areas is regularly reviewed by both sides through established formats such as the EU-Georgia annual Human Rights Dialogue.
Assistance in these areas is delivered through a number of different instruments, allowing the European Union (EU) to employ a variety of approaches at central, regional or local level, depending on what is most effective in the given context.
On human rights, the EU has made a considerable contribution through its facilitation of Thomas Hammarberg in his advisory capacity to the Government of Georgia. The National Human Rights Strategy of Georgia 2014-2020 and its associated Action Plan represents a major step forward in the protection of human rights in Georgia. In addition, the EU continues to support the Office of the Public Defender (Ombudsman) and has assigned more resources under the 'more for more' programme through a 'Human Rights for All' initiative.
Another source of funding comes through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) which has financed a wide variety of projects in Georgia since 1998, both through large projects managed from Brussels and through the micro-projects which are managed directly by the European Union Delegation to Georgia. Recurring themes in the EIDHR programme have been protection of rights of vulnerable groups of population (children, women, elderly, victims of domestic violence, ethnic minorities, Internally Displaced People). Complementary to the EU's justice sector support programmes, EIDHR has also supported projects which aim at increasing access to justice; assisting juveniles in conflict with the law, prison population; or combating torture in places of detention and at rehabilitating victims of such mistreatment.
The Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development Programme (re-named the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities Programme since 2014) is aimed at developing the capacities of these two entities to support all aspects of participative democracy process at local level, as well as building co-operation between them in the pursuit of this goal. The Delegation has awarded grants to a total of almost 40 applicants under the four cycles of this Programme implemented so far in such diverse sectors as agricultural development, environmental protection, juvenile justice and HIV prevention. The Civil Society Facility, a response to democratic changes in the Neighbourhood, has seen three cycles of funding in Georgia, with almost 25 projects funded. The main objectives of this programme will be to build civil society's capacity for policy dialogue and support ways for their greater inclusion in policy processes linked to European integration. This programme is to be de-continued, but its objectives will continue to be supported through other means by the Delegation in Georgia.
On the central level, the EU works to strengthen key pillars of good governance. Support for the development of independent media has been delivered through a number of projects, most notably the media monitoring project, which has made a highly respected contribution to the improvement of media monitoring capacities in Georgia, as well as helping to raise journalists' awareness of ethical and professional standards. The legislative component of the project was also instrumental in ushering in key reforms such as the 'must-carry/must-offer' principle.
The Central Election Commission has benefitted from a series of support projects which have built its capacity and that of the Centre for Electoral Reform. Under the Comprehensive Institutional Building Instrument (operational in Georgia since April 2012), three oversight institutions in the area of democratic development, good governance and human rights will be supported: Public Defender Office, Parliament and Chamber of Control.
Over the years, the Georgian Parliament has benefitted from a variety of actions, both in terms of material support in the shape of equipment and library resources, as well as in the reform of its administrative procedures. The parliament's website has also been re-vamped with EU assistance. In February 2014 a large scale assistance project to parliament got under way. It will focus on building technical capacities in Parliament, especially in the fulfilment of its oversight responsibilities, as well as improving parliamentary competence and outreach on EU integration matters.
All aspects of the electoral system have received intensive support from the EU. In this area, the EU has employed a multi-vector approach, supporting efforts to reform the legislative framework, working with the election administration officials, providing training for non-partisan election observers and strengthening media awareness of their rights. The Central Election Commission has benefitted from a series of support projects which have built its capacity and that of the Centre for Electoral Reform.
Support to civil society is mainstreamed through all the above mentioned instruments, as well as increasingly through the sector support and budget support programmes in areas such as agriculture, vocational education and training and justice reform. Increased involvement of civil society is an aspect of its co-operation to which the EU is firmly committed.
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