Expert in Solid Waste Management – Lebanon

Looking for: Expert in Solid Waste Management (SWM)

Assignment title: Drafting a Policy Brief on SWM in Lebanon

Form of employment: Short-term consultancy

Contract Period: Until 31 October 2019

Start Date: As soon as possible

Deadline: 5 September 2019, 12:00 PM local time (Beirut, Lebanon)

 

Background

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin. DRI promotes political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions world-wide.

In the framework of its project “Setting an Agenda for Decentralisation – Phase II”, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, DRI is working with Lebanese civil society organisations and public officials to promote decentralisation and a public debate on local governance in line with good governance principles.

To do this, DRI Lebanon has conducted three large-scale surveys, in 2017 and 2018, assessing the role of the three tiers of government (municipalities, unions of municipalities and national government authorities) in public service delivery, with a focus on Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM).[1] This was in order to understand the needs and challenges of local and national authorities and develop concrete policy recommendations that support the decentralisation process.

On 6 July 2019, DRI held a workshop with municipal officials, CSOs and practitioners and wishes to build on this activity to lead a policy discussion around ISWM with the involvement of Lebanese policymakers and local communities later this year.

Objective of this assignment

DRI is looking for an Expert to draft a Policy Brief of 2,500–3,000 words on Integrated Solid Waste Management with a focus on decentralisation as an enabling framework, citizen participation through user inclusivity, and financial sustainability of SWM systems using cost-recovery schemes in Lebanon.

The copyright of the publication is the exclusive property of DRI.

 

Your duties and responsibilities

Under the supervision of DRI’s Country Representative, the expert will draft a Policy Brief as per the following guidelines:

  • The brief must focus on decentralisation, user inclusivity and cost-recovery systems as sustainability factors for a successful ISWM.
  • Based on joint discussions with DRI provide recommendations for Integrated Solid Waste Management with a focus on decentralisation as an enabling framework.
  • Conduct a literature review of DRI’s existing SWM publications, activity reports and brief context analysis of the current SWM challenges in Lebanon.
  • The manuscript should not exceed 3,000 words, including an Executive Summary with concrete policy recommendations.
  • The writing should be crisp and concise and follow a think tank style. The written language is British English.
  • The expert must be available in person, or remotely, for regular meetings with DRI throughout the reviewing process.

Qualifications we require:

  • Master’s degree or PhD in Environmental Engineering, Social Science, Political Science, Economics, Law or equivalent.
  • At least five (5) years of practitioner’s experience in local governance and SWM in Lebanon and/or abroad. Comparative expertise is a strong asset.
  • Excellent writing and communication skills and demonstrated research experience.
  • Fluency in English is a requirement. Knowledge of Arabic is an asset.

 

DRI is committed to achieving workforce diversity in terms of gender, nationality and culture. We strongly encourage qualified females to apply for this position.

 

Interested candidates should sent their application by 5 September 2019, 12:00 pm local time (Beirut). Please include (1) a cover letter, (2) your CV, (3) samples of similar assignments, (4) three references, and (5) a quotation to [email protected] cc’ing [email protected]. Please mention SWM Expert (Lebanon) in the subject line and refer to the source where you have found this opportunity.

 

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview. If you are one of those shortlisted, we will contact you within one week after expiration of the deadline at the latest.

 

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel +49 30 27877300

Fax +49 30 27877300-10

 

Data processing of personal data in third countries will not take place. We process your data in accordance with the provisions of § 26 German Federal Data Protection Act. More information about processing your personal data: privacy policy.

 

Note: This call does not entail any commitment on the part of DRI, either financial or otherwise. DRI may cancel the call any time without assigning any reason.

[1] DRI. (2017). Public Service Provision in Lebanese Municipal Unions: National Survey Report. Beirut: DRI.

DRI. (2019). Are Lebanese municipalities delivering? Survey results on solid waste management, public safety, and citizen outreach at the local level. Beirut: DRI.

Project Assistant (Pakistan)

Position Title:                                     Project Assistant

Form of Employment:                      Short-term Consultant (National Position)

Starting date:                                      01 September 2019

Duration:                                              4 months

Location:                                                 Islamabad, with travel within Pakistan.

 

Background

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin. DRI promotes the political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions world-wide. In an upcoming project, DRI Pakistan is planning to engage with national parliamentarians and media to discuss the role of NGOs and how they can effectively assist the socio-economic development of Pakistan in our unique national context. The overall objective of the project is to engage and organise a number of multi-stakeholder consultations to understand the role of civil society in our context and how an appropriate policy framework can make them even more effective in having a meaningful impact and state oversight.

Context  

Providing a forum where citizens can actively work to meet their own needs, whether in terms of freedom of expression or provision of services, civil society is an integral part of any democracy and essential for socio-economic development.

In Pakistan, civil society has evolved over the years with periods when the government’s policy has been broadly supportive to periods where the work of CSOs was limited to some extent. Globally, we are seeing a trend in the space for civil society being curbed and the same has been observed in Pakistan in the last few years. Internationally, a debate has been initiated on how to address the issue and efforts are being made worldwide to support the civil society in regaining its position. There is also a need to orient Pakistani politicians and media to understand the positive role of civil society sector and how a better regulation can make them even more effective in contributing to improving the conditions for the population as a whole.

Keeping this notion in consideration, DRI intends to initiate a debate by engaging with parliamentarians, politicians, government bodies, media and the general public with the aim of primarily increasing their awareness of the issue.

DRI currently seeks an incumbent who will support the project team in carrying out project activities.

Your duties and responsibilities:

The Project Assistant will work in close collaboration with the Project Team in the Country Office (CO) for effective achievement of project results through:

  • Provision of technical and administrative assistance for implementation of project.
  • Provision of support to the project consultants in planning and preparation of events including briefings, consultations, etc. This will include but will not be limited to preparation of agendas, invitation letters, arranging meetings, sending out invitations, following up with participants for confirmations and minute-taking.
  • Contribution to the preparation of project reports.
  • Preparation and maintenance of contacts database.
  • Coordination with various project stakeholders.
  • Any other tasks assigned by the team.

Qualifications we require:

  • Bachelor’s degree in any social science field preferably political science and /or humanities or any related field, (Master’s degree an advantage).
  • At least three years of working experience with NGO/INGO.
  • Experience of engaging/working with public institutions and politicians.
  • Extensive experience in organising events, workshops and meetings
  • Familiarity with concepts and developments related to civil society in the country
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Windows and MS Office applications

Interested candidates are expected to ensure their availability for assigned tasks for a period of 4 months starting from September 2019.

DRI values diversity and is an equal opportunity employer. Women and people from diverse backgrounds are highly encouraged to apply!

If you are interested in this position, please send your application (cover letter and CV) to [email protected]. Please include “Pakistan: Project Assistant” in the subject line and refer to the source you have found this opportunity. Applying for this position by post mail is possible, please find our address details below.

Closing date for applications: 20 August 2019. The position may be filled before the end of the deadline so early applications are encouraged.

 

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel +49 30 27877300 – Fax +49 30 27877300-10

Parliamentary Engagement Expert (Pakistan)

Form of Employment:                     Short-term Consultant (National Position)

Starting date:                                     01 September 2019

Duration:                                             up to 36 working days

Location:                                                Desk work with travel to Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar.

 

Background

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin. DRI promotes the political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions world-wide. In an upcoming project, DRI Pakistan is planning to engage with national parliamentarians and media to discuss the role of NGOs and how they can effectively assist the socio-economic development of Pakistan in our unique national context. The overall objective of the project is to engage and organise a number of multi-stakeholder consultations to understand the role of civil society in our context and how an appropriate policy framework can make them even more effective in having a meaningful impact and state oversight.

Context  

Providing a forum where citizens can actively work to meet their own needs, whether in terms of freedom of expression or provision of services, civil society is an integral part of any democracy and essential for socio-economic development.

In Pakistan, civil society has evolved over the years with periods when the government’s policy has been broadly supportive to periods where the work of CSOs was limited to some extent. Globally, we are seeing a trend in the space for civil society being curbed and the same has been observed in Pakistan in the last few years. Internationally, a debate has been initiated on how to address the issue and efforts are being made worldwide to support the civil society in regaining its position. There is also a need to orient Pakistani politicians and media to understand the positive role of civil society sector and how a better regulation can make them even more effective in contributing to improving the conditions for the population as a whole.

Keeping this notion in consideration, DRI intends to initiate a debate by engaging with parliamentarians, politicians, government bodies, media and the general public with the aim of primarily increasing their awareness of the issue.

DRI is seeking a national expert to engage with and provide technical support to the Parliamentarians at the National and Provincial levels, the country’s political leadership and the relevant Government bodies to highlight the issue of shrinking space for civil society and how this may impact the overall socio-economic development of the country. The engagement with these stakeholders will be through briefings, consultations and one-one meetings.

Your duties and responsibilities:

In order to deliver the component focusing on building the awareness levels of parliamentarians and government bodies on the issue of shrinking civil society space DRI requires the services of an experienced professional to deliver the following:

  1. Identification of key parliamentarians, members of relevant parliamentary committees and government officials who have an interest in and will have an influence on addressing the issue of shrinking civil society space in Pakistan.
  1. Design and deliver consultations and briefings for various stakeholders including parliamentarians and politicians in the Federal as well as Provincial Capitals to increase their awareness of the issue.
  2. Hold one-on-one meetings and briefings and provide technical advice to the Government as well as Parliamentary bodies for sustained efforts to move the issue forward.
  3. Show progressive development towards issue identification and then graduating the debate leading to public action (statement, resolution, public resolution or a successful meeting etc.) through individual and public engagement making sure the whole campaign and engagements are well knit, coherent and goal oriented.

Required qualifications:

  • University degree in Development Studies/Human Rights /Law/ Political Science or equivalent.
  • Demonstrated experience in engaging/working with public institutions and senior politicians ideally in a campaign setting. Should bring to the table a vast contact based and engagement history with key stakeholders.
  • Demonstrated understanding of how laws and policy works and what can be the role of various institutions, procedures, mechanisms to advance a policy agenda.
  • Excellent understanding of the issues being faced by the Civil Society in the country and the domestic legal framework applicable to registration and regulation of civil society organisations.
  • Excellent communication skills

Interested candidates are expected to ensure their availability for assigned tasks for a period of 3 months starting from September 2019.

DRI values diversity and is an equal opportunity employer. Women and people from diverse backgrounds are highly encouraged to apply!

If you are interested in this position, please send your application (cover letter and CV along with two references) to [email protected]. Please include “Pakistan: Parliamentary Engagement Expert” in the subject line and refer to the source you have found this opportunity. Applying for this position by post mail is possible, please find our address details below.

Closing date for applications: 22 August 2019. The position may be filled before the end of the deadline so early applications are encouraged.

 

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel +49 30 27877300 – Fax +49 30 27877300-10

Parliamentary Coordinator (Lebanon)

Looking for: Parliamentary Coordinator

Assignment title: Coordination of 4 high-level national consultations with public officials to discuss amendments to the Lebanese Municipal Act

Nature of the Contract: Individual Consultancy (up to 15 expert days for the entire assignment period)

Assignment location:  Beirut, Lebanon

Start Date: As soon as possible

Contract Period: Until 31 December 2019

Closing date: 15 August 2019, 12:00 pm local time (Beirut, Lebanon)

 

Background:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH (DRI) is a nonpartisan, independent, not-for-profit international organisation registered in Berlin, Germany and operating in different parts of the world. DRI has worked in Lebanon since October 2016.

In the framework of its Lebanon Project “Setting an Agenda for Decentralisation in Lebanon – Phase II”, DRI is working with Lebanese civil society organisations and public officials to promote decentralisation and a public debate on local governance in line with good governance principles. To do this, DRI Lebanon has conducted three large-scale surveys, in 2017 and 2018, assessing the role of the three tiers of government (municipalities, unions of municipalities and national government authorities) in public service delivery. This was in order to understand their needs and challenges and develop concrete policy recommendations to improve the decentralisation process.

In further support of this process, DRI Lebanon has been supporting the reform of the legal framework of local governance by providing, since May 2017, legal research assistance to the parliamentary sub-committee discussing the 2014 Administrative Decentralisation Bill. Since July 2019, DRI has provided legal research assistance to the parliamentary sub-committee discussing the reform of the 1977 Municipal Act.

 

Objective of the assignment:

In consultation with the members of the parliamentary sub-committee working on the Municipal Act, DRI Lebanon has planned four (4) thematic high-level national consultations with Lebanese Members of Parliament (MPs), national government officials, governors, district commissioners (qaemaqam), municipal officials and practitioners between September and December 2019. The sessions shall take place on a monthly basis at the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut, as per the following format and schedule: Three (3) half-day working sessions between September and November 2019, and a full-day workshop in December 2019.

The thematic series shall address a number of key aspects of the current Act, such as but not limited to: (1) the creation of municipalities, (2) their election and membership, and the introduction of a gender quota, (3) their competence and scope of work, and (4) municipal finance. The feedback collected during the consultations will be summarised and submitted by DRI Lebanon to the sub-committee members in the form of legal memos.

In this light, DRI Lebanon is looking for a Parliamentary Coordinator to ensure the commitment of the MPs throughout the process and their participation in the consultations.

 

Your Duties and responsibilities:

Under the supervision of DRI’s Country Representative in Lebanon and the Project Coordinator, the Parliamentary Coordinator shall:

  • Develop an invitation template to be extended to all MPs involved in the process;
  • Extend invitations to all MPs and follow up to ensure attendance confirmation in each activity;
  • Provide DRI with the list of MPs contacted and confirmed at least one week prior to each activity;
  • Support DRI Lebanon’s Project Coordinator and Procurement and Logistics Officer in all organisational and logistical matters to ensure the smooth implementation of each activity.

Qualifications we require:

  • A university degree in Political Science, Law, Public Administration, Social Science or equivalent;
  • Minimum 5 years of practitioner’s experience in the field supporting parliamentary development and parliament administration in Lebanon;
  • Significant experience in the Lebanese political system and the law-making mechanisms in theory and practice;
  • Practitioner’s experience in the municipal legal and regulatory framework in Lebanon;
  • Knowledge of decentralisation frameworks is a strong asset;
  • A proven track record of organising projects and activities with MPs and parliamentary officials;
  • Fluency in Arabic and English is a requirement.

 

The estimated level of effort for the entire assignment shall not exceed 15 expert days.

DRI is committed to achieving workforce diversity in terms of gender and culture. We strongly encourage qualified females to apply for this position. Individuals from minority groups and persons with disabilities are equally encouraged to apply.

 

How to Apply

Please submit your application in one PDF document including: (1) a cover letter, (2) a Curriculum Vitae, (3) at least three references, and (4) expert daily rate.

Interested candidates should sent their application via e-mail to [email protected], cc’ing [email protected]. Please mention “Parliamentary Coordinator – Lebanon” in the subject line and refer to the source where you have found this opportunity.

Closing date for applications is 15 August 2019, 12:00 PM local time (Beirut, Lebanon). The assignment may start before the end of the deadline so early proposals are encouraged. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

 

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel +49 30 27877300

Fax +49 30 27877300-10

 

Note: This call for applications does not entail any commitment on the part of DRI, either financial or otherwise. DRI may cancel the call at any time without assigning any reason.

 

Data processing of personal data in third countries will not take place. We process your data in accordance with the provisions of § 26 German Federal Data Protection Act. More information about processing your personal data: privacy policy.

Senior Social Media Analyst (Myanmar)

“TERMS OF REFERENCE”

“Support to Electoral Processes and Democracy in Myanmar” Project

And

“Myanmar Vision 2030: Supporting Voices for Pluralism” Project

Senior Social Media Analyst

 

Form of Employment: Long Term consultancy contract

Position Location: Desk work

Reporting to: DRI Country Representative Myanmar

Contract Period: 60 fee-days, expected to start in 15 August 2019 for an initial duration of 12 months, with the possibility of extension subject to availability of funds and performance.

 

Background:

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin. Democracy Reporting International promotes political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions world-wide.

Objective:

The project Myanmar Vision 2030: Supporting Voices for Pluralism will conduct social media monitoring to unveil how hate and violent discourses directed at minorities spread on social media. It will provide data on how malicious actors use the platform and at the same time identify online voices for the protection of diversity and pluralism.

As part of STEP Democracy, a project implemented by a consortium of 9 national and local organisations and working with the Union Election Commission (UEC), political parties and civil society organisations (CSOs), campaigning in social media will be monitored together with a local partner CSO.

To support its efforts under both projects, DRI is recruiting a Senior Social Media Analyst to contribute to DRI’s social media monitoring work in DRI’s Myanmar office. The expert will be part of the technical team developing a methodology for data collection, coding and analysis, building the capacity of local partners in social media monitoring and contributing to quarterly public reports.

 

Tasks:

  • Assess, together with DRI‘s in-house Social Media Expert the feasibility of the research regarding data access and social media platforms in Maynmar and adjust the research plan accordingly;
  • Prepare, code, and monitor the scraping of relevant data during the monitoring period, ensuring data reliability and retention, in close coordination with the coders embedded in national partner CSOs;
  • Develop the classification and coding system of data for relevant research questions and prepare an efficient system for hand-annotation of data;
  • Analyse data and produce visualizations to communicate insights and findings, as well as advise on the design and presentation of reporting;
  • Provide input into written reports;
  • Other relevant duties, as required.

Qualifications:

  • At least 5 years of relevant professional experience in electoral assistance, social media monitoring and democratic reforms; experience in Myanmar will be considered an asset;
  • At least 2 years experience in social media monitoring using open source or private social listening tools;
  • Demonstrated expertise in a programming language or other tools for data analysis and data visualization (such as R, Python, or Tableau);
  • Experience conducting open source investigations across a range of disciplines, including human rights, information operations, and online harassment;
  • Relevant publications on the influence of social media in politics will be considered an asset.

 

DRI values diversity and is an equal opportunity employer. Women and people from diverse backgrounds are highly encouraged to apply!

Deadline for applications is 30 August 2019.  Shortlisted candidates may be contacted before the deadline.

Candidates should submit a CV and a Cover Letter to [email protected] with ‘Senior Social Media Analyst’ in the subject line.

 

Organisation responsible for this vacancy:

Democracy Reporting International gGmbH

Prinzessinnenstraße 30

10969 Berlin, Germany

Tel +49 30 27877300 – Fax +49 30 27877300-10

 

Data processing of personal data in third countries will not take place. We process your data in accordance with the provisions of § 26 German Federal Data Protection Act. More information about processing your personal data: privacy policy.

Georgian Study Visit to Berlin

Nine participants from Georgia spent the first week of July touring the institutions of Berlin to learn about political pluralism and the German experience of building a consensual political culture. Three of the participants were members of DRI’s partners in Georgia, ForSet and Georgia’s Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), one was the winner of GYLA and DRI’s competition for articles on media and polarisation, and five were winners of the communicathon organised by DRI and ForSet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The group attended meetings with leaders from different civil society organisations, think tanks, media groups, political parties and government institutions. The topics ranged from the role of media in pluralised atmospheres, the current political environment in Georgia and Germany’s history with political polarisation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the places the group visited included:

The participants all left Berlin feeling like they had a stronger idea of German political history. One participant said that they felt the “German example of reflecting on [the] past and creating a functioning pluralist democracy serves as an incredible lesson for young democracies such as Georgia.” Another lesson taken away from the week was that improving democratic tendencies inside Georgian political parties and equipping party members with the necessary tools to combat polarisation is key. The group was additionally very impressed by their meetings with the various media watchdogs and fact-checking organisations like Correctiv, Die Medienanstalten and Deutsche Welle. Overall, the participants left feeling that while they can not copy the German solutions to extreme political polarisation and paste it onto Georgian politics, they can interpret bits and pieces that they learned through the Georgian context.

The study visit was organised as part of the project “Strengthening political pluralism in Georgia – phase III”, part of the German governmental programme “Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia”, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

Photocredit: DRI

Polarised Country and Sacrified Democracy

“It’s them that I have a problem with – how they poured water over the United National Movement’s mill.”

This statement was made by the leader of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, during an interview with TV Imedi on 9 April. The state was made about the MPs who left his team, in particular Eka Beselia, Gedi Popkhadze and Levan Gogichaeshvili. These three MPs had been actively opposing the United National Movement (UNM) during their time as the opposition, later while in government, and recently again after leaving Georgian Dream. Their opposition comes even though they share similar opinions with UNM regarding the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, the opinion of UNM and this trio on this particular topic coincide with opinions of many political powers and non-governmental organizations. The government refers to them as the ones “pouring water on UNM’s mill”. Many statements made by Georgian Dream regarding the appointment of judges can be cited to prove the similarities in opinions. The campaign launched against the non-governmental sector is especially interesting because it shows that neutral institutions who are critical of authorities are a supporter of the UNM and an enemy of the ruling party. What people fail to mention is that this is a joint opinion and has nothing to do with supporting the UNM in particular. In reality, the ruling party is on one side and everyone who does not share the Georgian Dream opinions on every issue a-priori unconditionally is on the other. This side is deemed “the enemy” by Georgian Dream.

In this case, it is easiest not to include judiciary reform benefits or disadvantages because it is an entirely separate topic. Instead, there is greater interest in the attitudes of judiciary reforms towards those who disagree with their opinions. The issue of appointing Supreme Court judges can demonstrate the polarisation of Georgian political (and non-political) spaces. Analysis of the polarisation in Georgia can help identity factors contributing to the problem, which can in turn point to a potential solution.

“Those who are not with me are my enemies.”

The popularity of this phrase has been observed in many aspects of everyday Georgian life, from politics to current media to human relations. Regarding academia, there are numerous international research publications and reports that assess the current situation in Georgia as alarming. These reports often find Georgia to be one of the most polarised democracies in Europe: a sentiment that has even been repeated by European Council resolutions. The International organization, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders), recently published their annual report on global freedom of press. This document recognized the polarisation in Georgia as a significant problem facing press freedom.

Additionally, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and Democracy Reporting International have published a joint report on the country’s extremely polarised environment and ways in which to improve it.

Although polarisation is currently a very acute problem, it is not new to Georgia. Instead, the problem has very deep roots that likely extend back to the Soviet period where anyone with opposing views of the government was considered the ‘enemy’. This was also problematic because there was no free press to discuss differing views openly. After the restoration of Georgian independence, the polarised political situation remained when UNM came to power. A deeply entrenched resentment towards different opinions has led UNM to distrust even their own supporters – a situation that has been taken advantage of by the Russian Federation. Although the political polarisation in Georgia is ultimately a very broad issue, a critical factor is the ruling party’s perception of differing opinions has resulted in significant feelings of animosity. This political divide has also affected societal relations – going so far as to cause divorces amongst married couples.

Radicalized confrontation continued since the Soviet era, and the aforementioned quote has helped even current governments come into power. In October 2011, Ivanishvili was quoted saying “middle should be rooted out” during a political campaign interview with Ia Antadze. The is the idea that a person can only be on one side or another and therefore anyone who is not aligned with the ruling party is a “National” or an enemy.

Even though the problem is not a new one, there has been evidence of its recent escalation. While some analysts argue that over-discussion of the problem makes it seem more pronounced, the issue is indeed older and thus more complicated.

Gia Nodia, a political scientist and professor at Ilia University, pointed out that politics in Georgia have always been polarised, but that the topic was discussed at greater length when the term polarise was introduced. “There was a time when people used to be more apathetic, although, in general, more or less activism results in deepening of the polarisation.” Nodia attributes the lack of public trust in the political elite as the main reason for polarisation.

“Criticism of politicians is generally quite popular, and politicians attempt to gain trust through negativity rather than positive issues. Politicians believe that you should attack the opponent in order to obtain scores. The best competition method is to be the most uncompromising towards your opponent.” Nodia notes.

Polarisation in Georgia

Polarisation is not a phenomenon unique to Georgia. Even the labelling of political systems as “left” and “right” is a consequence of this radicalization. However, in western civilizations, it does not imply that the whole country is confronting itself on every level.

Nowadays, the call for ‘rooting out the middle” goes beyond the confrontation between political parties and affects society in many ways. Thus, when discussing polarisation, a primary question is what causes the formation of the so-called Georgian polarisation phenomenon. Emzar Jgerenaia, a sociologist, explains this phenomenon in relation to the behaviour of society.

“Generally, public thinking is a very complex phenomenon with a lot buried deeply. For instance, today in society you can meet the supporters of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze, Mikheil Saakashvili and Ivanshvili, but we can only see two opposing sides. The reason for this is that every individual considers their own needs and assesses what benefits each political party can offer them. These individual perspectives is one of the reasons that polarisation is created within the society.” Jgerenaia points out.

Political scientists associate the sociological factors to the lack of alternative ideologies that is commonly featured on polarised political environments.

Bakur Kvashilava, Doctor of Political Sciences and a professor at GIPA, points out that “due to political culture peculiarities, a political party may try to demonstrate that it is the only unconditional portrayer of society and people’s will. Accordingly, it is difficult to find compromises between parties, or even decide which is the opposition, such as a party that represents another segment, another layer of the population or another legitimate point of view because each claim to represent the whole nation.”

He believes that the main problem is not the ruling party, but rather that all the actors agree on the subject and then have nothing unique to tell society.

“If we look at our election campaigns, we see that the parties with their own polls were aware that they could not obtain more than 7-8% of the votes. It was these parties that always promised the electorate they would win the majority of the votes because they believed this was the only message that would ensure them at least 7%. These are the parties that believe society will not accept a party or organization that admits it only represents a small segment of the population or that another party could win more votes. Accordingly, this creates a situation where the other side tries to relate the opponent to the enemy of the country, internal or foreign, to win more votes.” Kvashilava mentions.

This poses the question: why would society accept all of this and allow the political parties to radicalise the situation? According to Kvashilava “the society itself expects such behaviour . . . the society expects the political party to unite the country and confront others cooperatively. Society does not recognize that there may be significant differences, such as between employers and employees, or between the youth and elderly in terms of interests. Society believes that these toast-like promises or programs being implemented can make both pensioners and youth happy. So while everybody promises heaven, society prefers to believe those whom they trust on a personal level.”

Therefore, there is no ideology in the country that the parties can dispute about in a way that would help society make a choice between the parties. The easiest approach is to declare each other as enemies in a way that reflects very aspect of life and society.

“This is alarming because while there is talk about destroying the enemy, there is no ongoing discussion about what is better for country development. Instead, the focus is on who is to blame. We are going through cycles where each new government wants to eliminate all the signs of the previous one. Georgian Dream was unable to achieve this and now supporters are dissatisfied that there was not a more complete destruction of the United National Movement. We are going in circles that is negatively reflected in our development.” Nodia explains.

This overall damages the democratisation process and could be contributing to a prolonged transition process.

A key principle of democracy is that democratic decision making needs the incorporation and debate of the differing ideas or opinions provided by the opposition party. If the ruling party views everybody else as an enemy, a consensus between the government and opposition is not achievable. This has been observed during all significant decision-making processes in Georgia, showcased by formal one-party decisions made by the government.

Another important democratic principle is the conditions and freedoms of media and civil society. In Georgia, it is evident that the media is polarised, pro-government and being pressured to refer to the public sector as an enemy. This hinders the potential power of the two actors, which is a serious problem for democratisation.

These two issues, as noted by Kvashilava, can “cause damage to the democracy, as one party is a considered a destructive force which creates a monopolistic democracy. Democracy is abstractly recognized by all political parties as the best form of governance, however, they also believe that democracy can function without opposition parties. Such democracies do not exist. Rather than focusing on discussion, debate and how to best help the electorate, this system operates on the idea that one party is more honest, more or less Georgian, who is the most trustworthy, and what one party can do better than the other. Therefore, the focus is placed on the heads of parties and the trust that comes from an individual, rather than the rationale of the political agenda. It ignores the feasibility of the offer made to the population in favour of private offers and relationships.”

It is noteworthy that these problems are referred to in aforementioned research that considers polarisation as a “significant hinderance for Georgian democratic consolidation.”

Solution Perspectives

When considering such a significant problem, finding the solution is of paramount importance. However, due to the complexity of the problem, some analysts do not see the way out in any immediate timeframe.

“No leverage has yet been identified. The roots are quite deep in political culture. The way out is for the society to have more trust in political elites; however, the presence of polarisation and confrontation only deepens political distrust and drags itself down,” Nodia points out.

Nodia also believes the solution can be sought in emerging public trust towards political elites. Regarding how to raise this trust, Bakur Kvashilava discusses long- and short-term opportunities:

“One issue that may impact trust in an evolutional way is economic development.  When a large part of the population becomes middle class (recent studies have shown that 75% of the population does not represent the middle class) and the middle class becomes critical (at least 40-45%), then more importance will be given to rational understanding of the programs presented by political parties and politicians, along with personal trust. For instance, nobody will believe that, for instance, the decrease of taxes would cause an increase in social and healthcare expenses. This concept must be sold to a population who does not cling to hope but rather calculates whether or not this offer is rational.” Bakur Kvashilava notes.

Kvashilava refers to emerging financial resources as a comparatively short-term perspective: who will consider funding alternative political parties that will not be successful against one concentrated financial power plus administrative resources? This current situation puts competitors in a bad position to act against the ruling party.

“When the parties are able to grant regular members actual rights along with obligations, then these parties will become more dependent on the population. Eventually this will be successfully presented within the government with fewer financial resources. This will be much easier starting in 2024 with the introduction of proportional representation in the Georgian electoral system.”

According to him, if the opposition choses this route, tactics should be correctly selected. For instance, to depend on more members who pay for membership, they must be aware that they will decide who is within the ruling structure of the party. However, according to Kvashilava, even if done this way, achieving victory will be impossible after the first cycle.

“We will have to wait for several cycles to see a change, unless something unexpected happens such as increased opposition party funding. A significant financial resource for the opposition would have a dramatic impact in Georgia. The majority of parties are conformist and still hope for money, but it is out of their control. Nobody knows if money will be provided or where it would come from. Where the money comes from represents a separate problem because it could be to finance the party that favours the interests of our northern neighbour. The way out of this situation is a medium-term problem as well, but the results will not appear immediately. Announcing “I am the third party” will not make you the third one.” Kvashilava points out.

 

Rusa Machaidze

This article was submitted in a contest for journalists organised by DRI, GYLA and ForSet as part of the project “Strengthening political pluralism in Georgia – Phase III” part of the German governmental programme “Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia”, funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

The content of this article is the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of DRI.

*The quotes have been edited in their English translation to preserve meaning and enhance clarity.

DRI shrinking space initiative goes international

“The participants are thinking about suing DRI in the ECHR for the over-human treatment of participants”

Extract from the evaluation form

In such relatively young democracies as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, public organisations, initiatives and volunteer groups appear to be the decisive driving force of reforms and committed human rights monitors. Recently, the pressure on such organisations and initiatives from both the government and pseudo-human rights organisations has increased significantly. This pressure negatively affects the efficiency of organisations engaged in holding public authorities accountable and protecting human rights. Such a negative trend is observed in the entire OSCE region, but in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova it has similar roots and mechanisms. DRI’s project in Ukraine aims to tackle this problem.

During the last weekend of May, DRI Ukraine and its long-time partner Freedom House held an international conference devoted to the security of human rights defenders (HRD). The conference was a continuation of the year-long efforts by DRI and Freedom House to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations, human rights and anti-corruption activists in the field of physical and IT security and communication strategies.

This time DRI brought together ten human rights activists from eight different regions of Ukraine and ten from Georgia and Moldova. Through a combination of discussions and interactive training, the event’s international environment fostered a setting of creative innovation. Here, the participants were able to develop many new ideas on how to minimise risks human rights activists often face.

Quite surprisingly, the conference also became a sort of short-time shelter for the activists who live under permanent pressure. The friendly atmosphere and intensive working sessions helped them to refuel their optimism.

Hopefully, such international forums will remain in the DRI’s portfolio in the future.

 

Overcoming Polarisation – Media Conference in Batumi

On 3 May, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, a media forum entitled “Overcoming Polarisation in Georgia: lessons learnt, media perspective” was opened in Batumi.

The forum focused on situation of media in Georgia, different aspects of media freedom and the main challenges faced by media. The discussion also addressed the role of the Georgian public broadcaster in a polarised media environment. During the event panel participants reviewed extreme political polarisation in Georgia and discussed solutions and ways forward.

DRI Georgia

During the media form, the Communicathon winning team, Dzialogi, presented their application and received very positive feedback from the forum attendees. The winner of the competition for journalists  was announced, and Lasha Kavtaradze’s article “Media and polarisation” also received positive audience feedback.

The second day of the forum consisted of workshops for regional media, including journalists from Batumi and Kutaisi. One of the workshop findings implemented within the project “Strengthening Political Pluralism in Georgia” was that solution-based journalism could reduce the extreme political polarisation. During the workshop, participants learnt about solution-based journalism and how to apply it in their daily work. Participants also discussed how small media outlets can contribute to more pluralism and what role they can play to reduce polarization.

In the end, the participants of the media forum agreed that in order to neutralise Georgia’s extremely polarised media environment, it is necessary to take concrete steps. The participants concluded that the Public Broadcaster should fulfil its obligations to provide a neutral space and ensure unbiased journalism, work to encourage ethical journalism, and strengthen regional and online media.

Photos provided by DRI Georgia’s Facebook page and Bodie.com from Flickr

Youth engagement in local governance

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

If it were necessary to select an epigraph for our programme, it would be these words of Mahatma Gandhi.

On 11 May in Lviv, a joint study programme called “Strengthening Youth Engagement in Local Governance” was launched together with our partners. These partners include Centre for Perspective Initiatives and Studies, DESPRO, Lviv Regional Council and Lviv Regional State Administration.

The programme provides an opportunity for young people to participate in the change-making processes in the Lviv region. Each participant will be trained in various Lviv Regional Council and Lviv Regional State Administration departments for four months. During these four months, the participants will attend training sessions that cover diverse and, more importantly, practical components of the civil service in Ukraine and abroad.

All our participants have different types of experience with government agencies: some have previously participated in civil service internships whereas others are newer to the field. Several participants have even had negative experiences with the civil service in the past but were not discouraged. These participants have chosen not to abandon their efforts to make changes in their country and decided to join our programme.

As shown by the participants in the programme, it is true that people with absolutely different backgrounds and education can become actors of change. In our programme there are lawyers, journalists, public activists and PR managers among the participants. All of them have a common motivation, which was successfully deduced by one of the participants: “I want to be useful for my small homeland.”

We are pleased to announce that over the next four months we will be providing updates and coverage of our programme participants during their internships.  This will include details on the participants impressions, experiences, achievements and the potential difficulties of working in government agencies. We hope to convey to society what the civil service really is and how it welcomes fresh faces.

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Some more information about our programme can be found in this video from a local TV channel. The clip about our programme begins at 8:15.