Civic Education and Engagement( English Version)09.07.2014

Executive summary of the project:

The CIPDD request support for expanding activities of the project “Civic Education and Engagement 2014-2015”. The project was first initiated in 2012 under the title “Civic Education 2012-2013.
The authors of the proposal created a website - which provides an easy opportunity for Georgian citizens to find out about their representatives and what decisions are made in the parliament in their name. With the help of the web-site electors could express their views and concerns directly to their representatives, increase the interest of public in the work of the parliament, improve the level of accountability of Georgian parliament and make legislators’ work more transparent. The proposed project aims at improving communication between citizens and their political representatives in Georgian parliament and increase transparency of parliamentary politics through making key debates in legislative institutions more accessible to the public.

Project Goals and Justification:
Parliamentarism as well as civic participation in Georgia face mnges. There is a tradition of domination of the executive branch over the legislative, and this trend exacerbated after 2004 changes in the Constitution. Political parties are internally overcentralized and mainly depend on personalities of their leaders, thus reducing the role of individual members, including individual members of Parliament.
Traditionally, most active and influential MPs are those elected through party lists rather than from single-mandate constituencies; but the former have weaker links to specific social groups and localities. As a result, citizens see less point in working through their MPs and prefer to address their concerns to the executive power.
However, there are hopeful developments as well. Amendments to Parliament that came into force after a new president is inaugurated following the October 2013 presidential elections significantly strengthen the role of Parliament – especially after, in September 2013, parliament revised those amendments once more. In general, the aftermath of October 2012 parliamentary elections, which were the first elections that brought change of power in Georgia, increased appetite for civic participation among Georgians. It is also important that the last elections produced a more diversified parliament with a stronger opposition.
The recent developments creates a more fertile ground for civic initiatives that are aimed at more transparency in activities of Parliament, as well as of stronger contacts between representatives on all level of governance and their constituencies. During the past decade, parliaments in the world have received increasing attention from the international development community, and citizen-based groups have begun to monitor the functioning of parliaments or their individual members in many other countries, often seeking to facilitate and promote public knowledge of and participation in parliamentary processes. In particular, over the last three years the US government designed and started assistance programs implemented by the National Democratic Institute in Georgia.
The problems of parliamentary transparency, accountability and civil engagements have been addressed through establishment of the NGO Liaison Office in the Parliament that has undoubtedly increased publicly available information on bills and other documents on parliament’s activities. During 2012 the CIPDD together with the Transparency International has taken the information provided by NGO Liasion Offics on the website and combined it with other publicly available information on MPs to create a very useful website, . In 2013the CIPDD further upgraded and developed the web-site independently and continued its activities on further upgrade of the web-site and support improvement of communication channels between MPs and their constituencies. The was created according to the version of the British website , as well as The renewed version of the web-site was launched in August 2013. The main task of the website was to monitor the activities and performance of individual MPs, make information about their bios, voting behavior and financial assets public, as well as performance of parliamentary party groups and institution as such. The website provides users tool to contact their political representatives and to retrieve an answer from them; The Shenmartav Facebook account has all applications installed which integrate web-site database and makes it accessible to Facebook users. The CIPDD proposes to complement monitoring activities with more constructive approach and stimulate reforms and improved democratic governance in Georgia in order to avoid public indifference towards politics and increase their engagement in politics and government. Project Goal. The project aims at bridging the democratic disconnect between citizens and their political representatives in the parliament, in particular, increase the transparency of parliamentary politics through making key policy related debates more accessible to the public, showing citizens what decisions are made by the elected officials on their behalf; empower citizens to actively engage their political representatives in a dialogue on key policy choices and decisions; With the proposed activities the CIPDD intends to intensify dialogue between citizens and elected people by building mechanisms to facilitate citizen’s input to their representatives on legislation or other types of constituent requests, and to advance representatives’ responsiveness. The CIPDD has developed a variety of innovative tools and techniques to achieve the results―allowing electorate to score performance / of elected representatives, or simply to track their work and contributions to the legislative or policy related process. Detailed Description of the Project and Activities:

Activity 1: Project Administration Project team will ensure continued functioning of the website and permanent updating of information, promote civil society initiatives and reach wider audience through social media. For this purpose a staff of 2 people will be necessary to administer the website and ensure its permanent updates - monitoring of the processes in the parliament as well as news developments on the level of local elected offices. In addition , a service of a person/company will be needed to ensure website’s technical maintenance and implementation of the new tasks set out in the project.

Activity 2: Monitor and Evaluate Legislative developments in the parliament The CIPDD will continue to overview and publish information on each draft/adopted law on which include its sponsor, text, status, and votes, and with a short description prepared by the CIPDD research unit. Together with the adopted laws in the parliament this information will help website users to count the number of initiators of the draft laws reviewed and view its graphical model. These calculations provided a number of insights into roles of the parliamentarians in shaping legislation.

Activity 3:
Increase public engagement in the parliamentary work The project authors propose to work actively with the civil society and help representatives to engage in communication with their MPs. taking into account that Georgian electorate is less active and engaged in politics, the project team plans to dedicate civil engagement part of the www.

shenmartavge website database to publishing the following information:
1) citizen’s rights and rules of engagement with the legislative process, 2) ongoing advocacy campaigns organized by civil sector; 3) written initiatives and draft laws prepared by civic activists on the website. 4) questions and answers (Q&A) part, through developing communication mechanisms between individual citizens and civil society activists with the elected MPs. The number of public initiatives and draft laws responded by the MPs will become one of an indicator of the level of public engagements in Georgia. In addition the project team will organize several direct meetings with different interests groups in Tbilisi (students, civil society advocacy activists, teachers) and encourage them to address the most urgent questions to their representatives in order to further promote engagement in the legislative process. Expected Results: Result 1: empowered citizens to be actively engaged with their political representatives in a dialogue on key policy choices and decisions Increased citizens’ capacity to overcome feeling of disconnect with the parliamentary politics and disengagement with their elected representatives and increased motivation to address their concerns not only to the executive power. In a short run it is expected to see increased transparency of parliamentary politics; opened and more accessible legislative process for the public. Accordingly, the project team will make efforts to bridge the democratic disconnect between citizens and their political representatives in Georgian parliament. Besides, it is expected that MPs will become more open in communicating with the public, and more responsive to the demands of their constituencies. To achieve the above mentioned long term result the CIPDD will work to address the problem of lack in civic education among Georgian public and provide some technical and innovative tools which helps civil society to make their representatives more accountable to the public.

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