Enhanced civil society influence on public decision making processes.
The Engage and Monitor for Change Program (EMC) is one of EPF’s longest running programs that aims at supporting civil society capacity building and improved civic engagement in public decision making. Throughout the years, the EPF was able to foster increased and better-informed citizen participation in social, political, and economic decision-making, through grants and operational programming. Over the years, the program covered the following self-governing cities and municipalities: Adigeni, Akhaltsikhe, Batumi, Bolnisi, Borjomi, Chokhatauri, Dmanisi, Gardabani, Gori, Gurjaani, Khashuri, Kutaisi, Kvareli, Lagodekhi, Lanchkhuti, Marneuli, Ninotsminda, Oni, Ozurgeti, Rustavi, Sighnaghi, Tbilisi, Telavi, Tetritskaro, Tsalka, Tserovani, Tusheti, Zestaponi, and Zugdidi.
As a result of EMC efforts to date, more than 35 CSOs and 750 residents of targeted communities engaged in monitoring public authorities and advocating for change. In doing so, they utilized six different monitoring techniques, which resulted in improved dialogue with policy-makers. Up to 20 recommendations have been fulfilled by the targeted public authorities and about 40 salient problems have been resolved. More than 400 volunteers have been mobilized within the projects specifically aimed at promoting volunteering in the country.
CSO Platform “Partnership for Budget Transparency” with aim to enhance coordination among civil society actors to develop common stance on and to increase civil society participation in a national-level dialogue on improving public finance management and budget transparency in Georgia was established in 2015. In addition to its periodic meetings, the Platform members had opportunity to discuss and present their vision to broad audience and interested stakeholders during the Public Forums organized within EU funded project Partnership for Budget Transparency: Civil Society Oversight of Public Spending in Georgia.
Due to EPF’s capacity building efforts, 36 individuals were prepared as civic monitoring and advocacy trainers, who, in turn, trained 70 civic leaders and CSO representatives in civic monitoring and advocacy methods, thus, contributing to enhance quality and profile of participatory civic monitoring actions by community groups, CSOs, and media outlets. Other capacity building efforts directed to local civil society actors involved 13 trainings on volunteer recruitment and management, network building, modern methods of advocacy, mobilization of strategic resources, result-based management and other. Representatives of 37 CSOs (18 Tbilisi-based and 19 regional CSOs) benefited from the series of trainings on public-policy making and budget implementation monitoring organized within already mentioned project on Partnership for Budget Transparency. EPF funded four project proposals submitted in the grant competition conducted after the trainings. Two of the funded projects are focused on state programs monitoring, while the other two address local budget transparency issues.
More than 20 grantees of the EMC program, of which five were grassroots CSOs, succeeded in raising additional funds to continue the work that they started with support from EPF. In addition, three practical textbooks that support CSO capacity building efforts have been developed or translated. In the next five years, EPF will strive to further enhance civil society participation in and influence on public decision making processes.
To foster increased and better-informed citizen engagement in social, political, and economic decision-making, EPF will look into mobilizing stakeholders to develop more enabling regulatory and policy environment for CSO operations. To this effect, EPF will lead the CSO efforts to identify main issues of concern and then liaise with relevant stakeholders (the civil society sector, donor community, the Parliament, and the Prime Minister’s office) to create a multi-stakeholder platform for effecting positive changes with respect to civil society development. Since different Georgian and international actors have tried to address those issues of regulatory framework or public policy that create obstacles for CSO operations, EPF will first engage in a stocktaking exercise to identify the main players in the field, as we as legal and policy obstacles to CSO operations, in order to design a nuanced intervention strategy to achieve the desired outcome.
EPF will continue advocacy efforts through CSO Platform “Partnership for Budget Transparency” with aim to ensure productive dialogue between civil society and public authorities public finance management and budget transparency issues. Further efforts to create institutionalized model for this dialogue will be taken by EPF. Public Forums with participation of all interested parties, as well as other instruments will be utilized actively with this aim.
EPF continues to advocate rights of the particular group of beneficiaries in order to empower them to effect change for social justices and economic prosperity. On the way to the citizen engagement in social, political and economic decision-making, one of the vulnerable groups is the recent and potential environmental migrants. In the framework of European Union funded project “Advocating for the Rights of Eco-migrants”, EPF in partnership with Institute of Democracy and Young Scientists’ Union Intellect, will be supporting the adoption of coherent policy and legislative changes designed to improve the plight of environmental migrants, as well as ensuring meaningful participation of the existing and potential environmental migrants in making decisions that affect their lives. EPF plans to organize public forums to raise the issues of concern and work with various stakeholders (Government, Municipalities, and International, National CSOs, and community representatives) to define their roles and duties in the way of tackling the challenges of the recent and potential environmental migrants. In addition to it, EPF will actively be involved in research, analysis and evaluation and complimenting the partner organization's Institute of Democracy activity - capacity building for increased civic integration of environmental migrants, including grantmaking.
In addition to working on creating enabling for CSOs regulatory and policy environment, EPF will support active citizens and CSOs in the regions to influence national level decision-making. To do so, EPF will link regional CSOs with each other, in order to (1) discuss salient for each region issues, (2) ascertain commonalities, and (3) wage collaborative campaigns to address common for all regions issues. The fact that there is no mechanism for CSO engagement with national authorities (both the Parliament and the GoG) further hinders citizens’ influence on national decision-making. With Sida support, EPF will mobilize regional CSOs and support the efforts to create a more institutionalized channel for participation and information exchange between regional CSOs and national authorities.
As part of its capacity building efforts directed to promoting participatory civic monitoring and advocacy interventions, EPF will focus on enhancing civil society organizations’ utilization of Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation in Georgia’s selected self-governing cities. EPF will work with regional CSOs and media outlets to improve their understanding of FOI legislation and to promote issue-based dialogue between the civic sector and local authorities in the targeted cities, so as to ensure improved access to public information and increased government accountability. To this effect, EPF will promote utilization of innovative e-solutions to contribute to building democratic information society with hands-on mechanisms to monitor the public finance expenditure. To leverage technologies for empowering civic activists and promoting transparency of governance, in partnership with Fundacja TechSoup, EPF will create a standalone web platform visualizing budget expenditures of the targeted self-governing cities, building upon solutions tested by the EPF’s partners in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region, which can be replicated in other municipalities of Georgia.
Given the previous years’ successes, EPF will continue to provide grant support to civil society organizations to undertake civic monitoring and advocacy efforts, in order to enhance civic participation and to contribute to more accountable and transparent public policy making. As during the previous years, the CSOs will be encouraged to partner with local media outlets to ensure better outreach and more effective advocacy. In addition, they will be encouraged to collaborate with local grassroots CSOs, to provide them with additional opportunities to engage in community life and enhance their capacity.
EPF will also continue with small institutional development grants to grassroots CSOs, but will additionally consider taking a more long-term perspective, when the institutional performance so warrants. The grant support provided to regional CSOs will be complemented with organizational development technical and financial assistance, when CSOs’ institutional capacities and their standing in the regions have reached the required levels. This, together with an opportunity to receive strategic grants through the Open Door Grantmaking Program, will significantly contribute to building more robust civic sector in Georgia.