The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities in Georgia to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Georgia's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. goal is to support Georgia's transition to a sustainable democratic state that fully respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. This includes helping Georgia develop a system of democratic governance, checks and balances, and a climate in which civic engagement and political competition thrive. Over the intermediate term, this includes helping support increased institutionalization of democratic reforms and processes, including a free, fair, and competitive election in 2013 that, for the first time in Georgia's history, may result in a peaceful, constitutional and democratic presidential succession.
To achieve this, the U.S. Government focuses on fostering: (1) rule of law, including judicial independence; (2) media independence and public access to information; (3) a vibrant civil society; (4) democratic governance supported by strong links between government and the governed; and (5) political pluralism and competition based upon a level playing field and free and fair electoral processes.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. Government uses an array of diplomatic and development tools to advance our goals in this sector. Diplomatically, Department of State officials at all levels, in Washington and Tbilisi, regularly discuss democratic governance and human rights concerns with their Georgian government counterparts, members of parliament, and stakeholders including NGOs, political parties, and independent media representatives. This includes the most senior levels of the Georgian government. The United States and Georgia established a joint Commission for Strategic Partnership including four working groups, notably one on democracy that met twice in 2009, and will meet again in 2010. The Democracy Working Group helps identify appropriate benchmarks and areas of cooperation and, thereby, encourages and measures Georgia's progress in each of the five areas of focus. In meetings with Georgian officials, all U.S. agencies emphasize the importance of further democratic reforms to achieving shared objectives in other sectors. U.S. officials also promote democratic development objectives through the use of public diplomacy, including speeches and press interviews by senior officials in Washington and at the Embassy. Local initiatives have included an extensive roll-out for the Department of State's annual Human Rights Report for 2009, which included press interviews, civil society roundtable discussions, a podcast, and talks on human rights at American Corners located in different regional libraries.
U.S.-funded democratic development programs include technical assistance, training, professional exchanges, and small grants. The Ambassador engages actively on foreign assistance matters and fosters assistance coordination. At the Embassy, sector-specific U.S. interagency working groups, including a Democracy and Governance Working Group, meet regularly to ensure that U.S. programs are effectively coordinated, have distinct roles, and receive necessary diplomatic support. U.S. Government officials also meet with representatives of other embassies and multilateral organizations to coordinate democratic reform assistance.
U.S. programs strengthen political party institutions, including in the regions. The Embassy helped create negotiation mechanisms between the ruling and opposition parties on democratic reforms. In the past year, the Embassy helped broker, including through these mechanisms, agreements to reform the electoral code reform and to establish a new C-SPAN-like political channel from the Public Broadcaster. The Ambassador participates in a working group of foreign ambassadors focused on improving electoral reforms and strengthening democratic institutions, including by improving election administration ahead of the May 2010 municipal elections. U.S.-funded implementers worked with the Central Election Commission on improving the complaints process, increasing staff professionalism, and reducing errors in the voter lists. The United States supported indigenous monitoring efforts, including media monitoring and monitoring of use of administrative resources. The U.S. Government also supported get-out-the-vote and other voter education campaigns, including televised candidate debates. In addition, after the May local elections, the United States will launch a new, long-term project to help improve the electoral environment and election administration.
The United States continues to promote the rule of law and an independent judiciary diplomatically and programmatically. The U.S. Government recently completed a program that increased public awareness of legal rights and assisted in reform of the legal system, including: strengthening the Bar association, workshops on judicial ethics, and support for law clinics, including one for victims of domestic violence. In 2010, the U.S. Government is supporting the installation of recording devices to enable courts to record proceedings for publication. U.S.-funded implementers also provided training on the use of electronic court filing databases to encourage the use of e-filing, with the goal of increasing the court system's transparency. By year's end, the United States will launch a new program to strengthen the institutional independence of the judiciary, improve the capacity of legal rights NGOs and advocates, and improve the legal education system.
The United States provided technical assistance to support the development of a new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) that was adopted into law on October 9, 2009. Scheduled to take effect October 1, 2010, this groundbreaking code provides for enhanced human rights protections and introduces trial and pretrial processes in which the judge will act as a neutral arbiter rather than investigator. The United States is working to prepare all parties for the advent of the new CPC and the adversarial system of criminal justice it introduces. Specifically, U.S. assistance provides training to prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers and the police, including: mock jury trial exercises and related trial skills training, substantive training on the due process protections and other requirements of the criminal procedure code, professional exchanges, training on proper procedures for collection, storage and processing of evidence, and training on both how to prepare expert reports on forensic examinations and how to testify as an expert witness for the court.
To promote the rule of law, the U.S. Government will continue to support ongoing efforts to battle corruption. The civil society, media, and rule of law programs include "watch dog" activities. The good governance program includes aspects that will increase transparency and create an environment in which citizens have more information about government activities. The United States will continue to fund professional skills training to raise police standards to a level consistent with international standards. To foster evidence-based prosecutions, the United States will fund and equip a forensic pathology facility for processing evidence gathered in homicide and physical and sexual assault cases. In addition, the U.S. Government funded the renovation and construction of two mock courtrooms for training police and prosecutors.
By late 2010, the United States will launch a new program to increase the professionalism and independence of the media. To promote independent media and the free flow of information, speaker programs are planned on convergence journalism (i.e., new media), traditional media employing new media, and social media. The U.S. Government has demonstrated support for independent media through frequent meetings with independent journalists throughout the country. The Ambassador has met extensively with independent media and repeatedly raised with government officials cases of intimidation against journalists. In February, the U.S. Government sent a Georgian journalist on a press tour to the United States, organized by the Foreign Press Center in Washington, focusing on social media.
In 2010, the United States will launch a program to support democratic local governance and a national government more responsive to the needs of the public, with the goal of increasing transparency and public input into policy formulation. In addition, the U.S. Government is conducting professional exchange programs on governance themes.
The United States will launch three new programs to improve civic awareness and civil society interaction in 2010. These programs will include civic education to increase student awareness of their rights and responsibilities in a democracy. The United States will initiate a program to increase support to civil society organizations, improving their ability to provide quality public policy options, advocate for issues, and monitor institutions. The United States will support a new program to create resource centers throughout the country that will enable political parties, civil society organizations, and media to meet with constituents/audiences, discuss policy issues, and access the internet.
The United States continues to promote dialogue between the government and minority communities and their integration into the social fabric of the country. U.S. Government officials, including the Ambassador, regularly meet religious and community leaders and groups and local government leaders in regions with large ethnic minorities. To support development of civil society within minority regions, the U.S. Government works with NGOs to organize capacity building seminars, social outreach programs, networking opportunities with domestic and international NGOs, and tolerance in the schools projects. In 2010, the United States is supporting small grants to local NGOs working on minority issues and monitoring the government's implementation of the National Integration and Tolerance program.
U.S. assistance continued to raise public awareness of trafficking dangers, using a variety of printed and visual materials with anti-trafficking messages. The United States is funding a comprehensive study of border crossing trends and migration patterns, and interviewing returning deportees to update information from a 2001 study on human trafficking in Georgia. Results of the 2010 study will be shared with the government and will inform anti-trafficking programs. U.S. assistance will also enhance the capacity of police working at state borders, mobile teams, and consular officials stationed in Turkey and Greece to properly and proactively identify trafficking victims.
The United States continues to work with the European Union Monitoring Mission, other multilateral mechanisms, and the government to find a peaceful solution to the conflicts with the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia without compromising Georgia's sovereignty or territorial integrity, and to promote human rights and democracy in these regions. Such rights include the right of internally displaced persons to return safely and voluntarily to their homes.