Public Forum: the Role of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs in Ensuring Food Safety in Georgia
On January 24, 2017 Europe Foundation (EPF) conducted a public forum on the role of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs (MoLHSA) in Ensuring Food Safety in Georgia. The event took place at Rooms Hotel Tbilisi.
Successful implementation of food safety reforms requires efforts and cooperation of multiple actors, including that of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs. The forum was dedicated to addressing two of the most pressing issues that require the attention of the MoLHSA: slow rate of regulatory reforms and the need for collecting more accurate statistics on foodborne diseases. While efforts toward these ends have started, the speed and breadth of these efforts leaves much to be desired. Thus, the Ministry’s efforts to improve the existing regulatory framework in support of a more effective food safety system is fairly modest. Furthermore, problems with data collection (which is the prerogative of the National Center for Disease Control) lead to inaccurate data, which then makes it difficult for relevant public authorities to consider real disease-related risks in the planning of state control.
The forum brought together representatives of public, private, and non-governmental sectors to engage in a constructive and future-looking discussion of these issues. The panelists included Ms. Marine Darakhvelidze, Head of the Health Protection Department of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Mr. Akaki Zoidze, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Healthcare and Social Affairs, Mr. Zviad Kvlividze, Programme Officer, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and Ms. Ketevan Vashakidze, President of Europe Foundation. Representatives from civil society organizations, international actors, and the media had a chance to voice their opinions, table issues, and request information from MoLHSA and other public agencies present at the event.
Europe Foundation has been supporting increased stakeholder participation in food safety reforms since 2007. EPF and its partners have monitored Georgian food markets, including through random laboratory testing of food samples. EPF has also contributed to improved advocacy capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) working in food safety and consumer protection fields, so that they are able to wage successful advocacy campaigns for improved food safety system. At the same time, EPF has been supporting informed dialogue between CSOs and the business community on food safety and DCFTA-related reforms, thus, contributing to arriving at balanced solutions to the identified needs. Apart from bi-annual public opinion surveys on the citizens’ knowledge and perception about the EU, EPF has been conducting annual assessments that review the Georgian Government’s performance with respect to food safety and consumer protection reforms. The January 2017 public forum was largely informed by the findings of these assessments.
The forum was organized through the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).