NGeOrgia
10 September, 2015
NGeOrgia
“Bidzina Ivanishvili let a member of some Soros NGO drop knitting sticks and attain the right to veto, which he uses to get on our and the people’s nerves.” These words were used a few days ago by Tamaz Mechiauri, chairman of Parliament’s financial-budgetary committee, to describe Giorgi Margvelashvili’s presidency. Thankfully, our society has not yet reached the point of being completely apathetic to such remarks by politicians, and Mechiauri came under extreme criticism not only from the general public,
but from his fellow party members as well. Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli has called his statement shameful and said proudly that she used to be a “Sorosian” as well. Davit Zurabishvili, member of the ruling coalition, called the fact of politicians such as Mechiauri occupying senior positions very troubling.

“In the period of re-thinking social values, there emerged people who thought that NGOs endangered their traditional values and identity. Twenty-five years have passed since then, but the new sector still hasn’t overcome alienation and hostility of certain societal groups.”

Embarrassing as it is, this brouhaha nevertheless begs a question: After all, what is the NGO sector and what role does it play in our country?

For better or worse, Georgia keeps up with world trends – the country’s NGO sector is considered an inseparable element of the civil society. First NGOs emerged here in the 90’s, mainly funded from abroad, such as the Soros Foundation, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Eurasia Foundation and many others. There was little enthusiasm or idealism associated with their activity back then, but they provided inhabitants of a destitute, struggling country that Georgia used to be with something useful to do. Against the background of mass unemployment, people started seeing youngsters who, while not doing something obviously important, had an opportunity to go abroad, receive an education, own a car, etc. And so legends and rumors started circulating.

Later, in the period of re-thinking social values, there emerged people who thought that NGOs endangered their traditional values and identity. Twenty-five years have passed since then, but the new sector still hasn’t overcome alienation and hostility of certain societal groups. Georgia is hardly an exception in this case – similar things happened in Asia, Africa and many European countries. Such problems are faced by globalists always and everywhere, especially in societies that existed in near-complete isolation for years. After the 70-year-old communist rule collapsed and gates to the immense outside world were thrown open, it was only predictable that problems with preserving Georgia’s national identity would emerge and that the NGO sector would be seen as a subversive element.

“Maybe later, when future generations see that their traditions are not going anywhere and the nation is not crumbling, hostility against NGOs will abate. Unfortunately, claws of Soviet rule have left deep gashes on Georgian society, and the country’s social and financial difficulties have left many people bitter and looking for a scapegoat.”

This attitude hasn’t largely changed today; moreover, a known favorite of Georgian Patriarchy, conservatively-minded businessman Levan Vasadze has recently stated that the NGO sector in the country should be closed completely. However, many ignore the fact that donor organizations have really helped with development of many democratic institutions. It is with their help that IDP housing and roads are being built in Georgia and the social sector receives generous financial infusions, along with the projects aimed at protecting the country’s cultural heritage. I will not argue with those who say there is no such thing as free lunch; instead, I will only say that everyone has goals and interests, and the main challenge is to determine to what extent they align with ours.

Let’s take the Soros Foundation, which Mr. Mechiauri accuses of anti-national activity. This organization has undoubtedly helped in the building of modern democracy in the country, but “Sorosian” continues to remain a pejorative in Georgia.

Maybe later, when future generations see that their traditions are not going anywhere and the nation is not crumbling, hostility against NGOs will abate. Unfortunately, claws of Soviet rule have left deep gashes on Georgian society, and the country’s social and financial difficulties have left many people bitter and looking for a scapegoat. Some of them even occupy high political offices.

Author: Rusudan Shelia
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