The Georgian Academy of Diplomacy and Politics has just been created, with the goal of encouraging and assisting the young generation interested in diplomacy and policy-making. This month the academy is holding Georgian days in Florence. The Messenger spoke with the founder of the organization Teona Lavrelashvili about the academy, its aims and intentions.
Youth on agenda of the Georgian Academy of Diplomacy and Politics
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, July 15
Where did the idea to create this organization come from?
The idea behind the creation of the organization came from the United States. It was during one of the sittings of the United Nations (UN) where I met with my business partner who was leading the Georgian delegation there. I was representing the UNDP then. After the sitting, we agreed that enhancing the political culture and encouraging and assisting the young generation was vitally important for Georgia. Many share the vision that an educated generation plays a crucial role in the country’s development and advancement. Making an investment in education is beneficial in any case. Afterwards, I had a meeting with one of the congressmen who promised to provide assistance for the project. We are also planning a very interesting project for women – presumably in October.
How were you able to bring this into fruition in Georgia?
The Americans did a lot to assist us. We invited qualified lecturers and facilitators and combined practical and theoretical instruction.
Three months is a very short amount of time. What have you managed in this short period?
Indeed! It is a short amount of time. However, we have already had our first graduation ceremony. Our students have completed five modules, their practical and theory wings. These modules include how to negotiate, debates, public speaking, international negotiations, and leadership. We deal with officials and individuals who are directly involved in these topics. For example, one of the chief negotiators in signing the Association Agreement with the EU was Deputy State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Tamar Beruchashvili. We invited these types of officials so our students can receive genuine information on what is going on behind the scenes.
How do you select the young people interested in policy and diplomacy for this course?
From the beginning we selected them based on their CVs. However, we are going to make our rules stricter from September, and enrolment will also be based on tests and exams. Their education level is a key point for us, we should also be proud of our graduates. Currently we have three-month courses. We are going to make them longer and introduce new programs from this academic year.
What are your short and long term intentions?
We are leaving for Florence on July 21. We will hold Georgian days there. We will take paintings created by the children from the occupied Abkhazia, (Gali) with us. There will be an exhibition of their works. We are taking Georgian wine as well. We will have speeches there as well, and will use the international tribune to remind the world that we are going to reintegrate our occupied regions through peaceful means. The main message will be that the occupied regions will always be on the agenda of the young generation. It should be realized that the occupied regions topic is not just for politicians – the whole civil sector, and each individual should be involved in the process. We also aim to arrange for the children from the occupied regions to see Europe… the Europe we are striving for… The people living in the occupied regions should decide for themselves whether being with us is better and more beneficial for them. We are going to hold Georgian days in other countries as well. For instance, Brussels will be a very interesting site for such an occasion. Georgia requires better lobbies and diplomacy in Brussels and abroad. I was working in European Parliament and there were certain cases when Georgian diplomacy could not make adequate responses. I think that all directions – government, civil sector and the young generation should be actively involved in lobbying for the country’s interests. Our academy also invited Bournemouth’s mayor to Georgia. It is a successful English city, especially in terms of education and tourism. We composed the text of memorandum, which has not been signed yet, as Tbilisi did not have a mayor then. Such memorandums create benefits from an educational and tourism point of view.
How long will you stay in Florence and who assists you financially?
We will stay there for a week. There is a little co-financing via the Ministry of Culture, our own resources and the Italian side also has provided some assistance.
There was a lecture scheduled when I was at the academy. Thus, I had an opportunity to speak with students and their lecturer. All the students were from different universities. They were happy with their courses at the academy. All of them stated that the major shortcoming of Georgian universities is a lack of practical studies. The students stressed that even the short courses provided by the academy gave them the necessary practical skills and confidence during debates, speeches and other fields related to practical knowledge.
Professor of Negotiations at Ilia State University and member of Institute for Research and Education on Negotiation, Paris,Tato Sikharulidze informed me that his course was related to negotiations and was mainly based on cases and role-playing games.
“Thus, there is an interaction that enables students to be more open and gain much information in practice. In our short courses, the practical and theoretical fields are combined. I think that such a combination assists thee students in revealing themselves, to be maximally involved in the studying process and to gain a better knowledge of the topic,” Sikharulidze said.
P.S. Tato enabled me to attend and take part in the class activities, in two hours I really gained important and interesting information regarding mediation. I was also involved in a role-playing game that provided an opportunity for me to catch the major points of the mediation process.