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UN agencies present an annual progress report for Georgia

By Levan Abramishvili
Thursday, May 2
On Wednesday, May 1st, the Government and the United Nations system in Georgia held a meeting in Tbilisi to take stock of the progress made under the UN Partnership for Sustainable Development (UNPSD), a jointly agreed strategy for 2016-2020 that links the UN’s work in the country to Georgia’s development priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to identify priorities for further action.

At the meeting, Ms. Louisa Vinton, acting UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia, reviewed projects implemented in 2018 and presented priorities for 2019. Officials of the Government of Georgia (GoG), Parliament, civil society, diplomatic missions and representatives of international organizations attended the meeting.

For the 2016-2020 period, the UNPSD partnership framework is structured around the following five focus areas: (1) Democratic Governance; (2) Jobs, Livelihood and Social Protection; (3) Education; (4) Health, and (5) Human Security and Community Resilience.

These areas were identified by GoG and UN partners based on the analysis of the country context and the remaining development challenges. These are all the domains where UN expertise, advocacy, and capacity building support could play a critical role in systematic and sustainable change for the people of Georgia.

During the meeting, Louisa Vinton explained that the 16 UN agencies active in Georgia covered a wide range of areas but that all UN efforts were united under a shared commitment “to leave no one behind,” the overarching motto of the Sustainable Development Goals. Vinton noted that, at USD 41.6 million for 2018, the UN financial contribution to development efforts in Georgia was significant, and that total UN annual spending was likely to exceed USD 50 million in 2019 and 2020. She underlined the gratitude of the UN system for the generous support received from the donor community.

During the meeting, Vinton went over each of the five focus areas, summarizing the results of 2018 and the priorities for 2019-2020.

Some of the main achievements in the Democratic Governance area in 2018 were the implementation of the Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan and improving the justice system’s response to gender-based violence, including by assisting in the creation of a Human Rights Department in the Interior Ministry; helping to shape a new national vision of decentralization and regional development, as well as promoting development of the high mountainous regions of Georgia.

The main Democratic Governance priorities for 2019-2020 are to keep and strengthen the existing achievements, as well as: assist in establishing an effective national mechanism for reporting and follow up in the area of human rights; help to improve support services for survivors of violence against women and domestic violence, including GPS monitoring for perpetrators;

The 2018 achievements in the second focus area, Jobs, Livelihood and Social Protection include: expanding agricultural extension services for farmers; Providing more than 10,000 secondary school students with basic skills in 50+ vocational fields to help them make informed decisions about their career paths; helping to shift from a medical model to a social model of disability assessment; analyzing women’s labor force participation and informal employment; applying international labor standards, including adoption of a Labor Safety Law; etc.

Vinton emphasized the importance of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), which was conducted in 2018. It provides data on 48 percent of SDG indicators and helps to generate sex-disaggregated data which will be of significant assistance moving forward.

Some of the 2019-2020 priorities in this area are to provide business support and entrepreneurship training to IDPs, refugees, stateless persons, and asylum seekers to improve well-being and inclusion and to support children victims of violence overcome trauma from abuse and neglect.

The Education focus area also saw some significant results in 2018 - healthy lifestyle and sexual and reproductive health issues were integrated into specific subject standards (Biology and Civic Education) for basic and secondary education; Support of gender equality in schools grew with an instruction on all gender-relevant criteria for the assessment of school textbooks and specialized training for 95 teachers. UN also supported the professionalization of preschool teachers in 7 of 64 municipalities.

Moving forward, some of the main priorities for 2019-2020 in the Education area include developing a concept on Safe Schools to end violence against Children for nation-wide scaling up in schools. As well as conducting a study among teachers to understand gender bias and barriers for intervention and reporting in cases of violence against children and domestic violence.

In the Health focus area, there were several noteworthy achievements, including the reduction of tobacco use through measures adopted under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, including full ban on advertising and limits on smoking in public; 100 hospitals countrywide went through the Hospital Safety Assessments; the quality of reproductive health and maternal health care were significantly improved.

The Health priorities for 2019-2020 are: support adoption of a new Law on Medicines to improve access to affordable quality medicines; to integrate healthy lifestyle, sexual and reproductive health issues and prevention of harmful practices into the curriculum of all types of education in the country; as well as to continue support to improve HIV prevention, including through expanded testing.

The Human Security and Community Resilience focus area encompasses a wide range of issues. Including the topics of environment and human security.

According to the UNPSD Framework Document, one of the outcomes is that by 2020 conflict-affected communities should enjoy better security and stronger resilience to conflict-induced consequences. The UN is working within the conflict-affected areas and across the dividing lines. As the Framework envisages, “The UN will focus on confidence-building initiatives through people-to-people communication by more active engagement of CSO, women and youth organizations. The initiatives, among others, will include unconventional models of peace-building, such as online social media, education, especially mother tongue education and youth participation and development activities.”

2018 results in terms of the human security are: advocating for human rights adherence in conflict-affected areas, especially on freedom of movement. Shuttle bus for vulnerable groups crossing Inguri Bridge; providing humanitarian support to at-risk families among IDP-returnees; providing free-of-charge sexual and reproductive health services, such as cervical cancer screening, to more than 3,600 women and girls; training social workers in pilot districts to identify and support vulnerable children and many more.

The human security priorities for 2019-2020 include continued work with the civil society groups and communities on a grassroots level across the divide, expanded social work with vulnerable children and their families, etc.

The Framework document identifies the problems in the environmental protection sector in Georgia, which is “challenged by excessive deregulation, unsustainable use of natural resources, inadequate policy and legislative frameworks and limited knowledge and institutional capacities of both central and local authorities”.

In terms of the environmental protection, a number of goals were achieved in 2018: supporting Batumi in adopting a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan; expanding protected areas in Adjara by 11,600 hectares with robust community support and many other achievements that are crucial for the sustainable development of Georgia.

Several of the environmental priorities for 2019-2020: Assist Georgia in fulfilling its national commitments under the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; increase the financial sustainability of 12 protected areas in Georgia and continue advocacy for promoting the use of alternative energy sources (biomass, solar, wind) to increase the share of renewables in the overall energy mix.

At the meeting, the Government of Georgia was represented by Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Prime Minister. He personally thanked Louisa Vinton and the UN for their continued support of Georgia.

“Joint Strategy fully complies with commitments and values of the Government of Georgia. In addition, priorities defined for 2019-2020 within the Joint Strategy are attuned with sector-specific policies and current reform agenda of my Government, thus enabling us to achieve greater success in the effective implementation of reforms and due delivery of the undertakings” noted Bakhtadze.

By the end of the meeting, The Ambassador of Sweden in Georgia, HE Ulrik Tidestroem gave a speech, he reiterated Sweden’s support of Georgia and UN “thank you to Georgia and UN for a wonderful partnership. …we are working in sync and harmony”.

In the closing remarks, Louisa Vinton emphasized the importance of cooperation of different institutions “we are here in the spirit of partnership and friendship” and once again expressed her hopes for Georgia to develop in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.