On 22 September 2022 the Council of Europe organised the international conference “The Future of Deliberative Democracy in Georgia and Beyond”, which was dedicated to the topic of participation of citizens through deliberative mechanisms in decision-making processes at local level. The event brought together more than 80 participants from public authorities, municipalities, civil society, and international organisations in Georgia, who discussed with national and international experts the opportunities that come with deliberative processes.
At the opening of the conference, the Head of the Council of Europe Office in Georgia, Natalia VOUTOVA, emphasised that it is essential to not only consult citizens, but also empower them through enabling deliberation processes. The Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha KALADZE underlined the willingness of Tbilisi City Hall to promote active participation of youth, ethnic and religious minorities in decision-making and highlighted the role of the Council of Europe in achieving this goal. The Head of the Austrian Development Agency in Georgia, Alexander KARNER, highlighted that citizen participation is a key pillar of good governance and every functional democracy.
During the first panel, that focused on international experience, Council of Europe expert, Andy WILLIAMSON, presented the study “Mapping Deliberative Democracy in Council of Europe Member States”, providing a conceptual overview and outlining key principles for successful deliberative initiatives. Michael LEDERER, representative of the Office for civil engagement and participation of the regional Government of Vorarlberg/Austria introduced to the audience Austria’s 15-years’ experience in organising Citizens Assemblies and shared very practical insights into and achievements of their work. Furthermore, the participants had an opportunity to hear about the work of the Open Government Partnership Local Programme (OGP local) towards enhancing civil participation and deliberative democracy in Eastern Partnership countries from Jose Maria Marin/OGP local.
In the following panels, which focused on the national context, new developments to strengthen participatory approaches in policymaking in Georgia have been presented by the Administration of the Government and the connection of human rights protection and civil participation at local level was examined in the light of the work of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia.
Furthermore, representatives of Rustavi, Oni, Akhmeta and Ozurgeti municipalities shared their insights and experiences with civil participation initiatives in their respective communities.
In the framework of the conference, the mayors of 15 pilot municipalities: Tbilisi, Marneuli, Akhmeta, Ambrolauri, Bolnisi, Borjomi, Chokhatauri, Gori, Oni, Ozurgeti, Telavi, Tetritskaro, Tskaltubo, Zestaphoni, Rustavi signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of Europe formalizing their future collaboration with the Council of Europe Project “Strengthening Participatory Democracy and Human Rights at Local Level in Georgia” to ensure effective, sustainable and inclusive decision-making and a functioning democracy.
This event took place in the framework of the project “Strengthening Participatory Democracy and Human Rights at Local Level in Georgia”, implemented by the Directorate General of Democracy and Human Dignity, Division of Elections and Participatory Democracy, and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, within the Council of Europe Action Plan for Georgia 2020-2023 with the financial contribution of the Austrian Development Cooperation.