Future Challenges

Now I´m back in Sweden after three month in Georgia. It has been a wonderful and instructive time, and I hope that the cooperation will continue in the future. Together we have got to know each other and our different kind of struggles, methods and visions for the future.

We still have a huge challenge in front of us, to change the world into a place where we all respect each other and the environment around us. I hope 2015 will be a year to remember as the starting point for a changed development. This year, the UN sustainable development goals, which is supposed to be reached until 2030, put the bar very high. For example, the goal includes the end of poverty in all its forms everywhere, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. In addition, the climate summit in Paris that will be held soon will hopefully produce a binding agreement for all to take serious action.

However, we know that well written goals or even ambiguous global agreements are not going to make any change if not real actions are taken at all levels. The goals and agreements are only frames that has to be filled with actual content. Global, regional, national, local and individual levels will all fill their different functions and solution in the development to sustainability and equality. Activism, hard work, innovation and political struggles will always be needed everywhere to make something happen.

The green values have never been as important as now, when we are on our way to destroy the world as we know it. Green values is needed to keep the society intact, for equality and sustainability as prevention of conflicts, environmental degradation and intolerance. We are not the naive ones, we are realists. The naivety lies in the conception that it´s possible to continue as before, to keep old structures and systems in a changing world.

Regional Meeting

In week 44 the Georgian Young Greens held the annual regional meeting with participants from the Southern-Caucasus region. A meeting to strengthen the cooperation in the region, and to support each other in their political struggle.

The theme was about activism and how political participation works in the different countries in the region. The group consisted of activists from Azerbaijan and Armenia face suppression from the government and opposing the government is hard to do publicly, as well as activists from Georgia where democracy has made it easier to get your voice heard, but where it is still hard for green voices be heard in the mainstream public space. Here are some of the activities:

Vahid on activis in Azerbaijan<—  Vahid, a LGBT activist in from Azerbaijan spoke about the difficulties they are facing in everyday activism and that you, for example, could suddenly be thrown out of the university or get sent to prison because of your activism and opposition against the government. Amongst other things he spoke about an organization he had been a part of called: N!DA Civic Movement, which functions as an umbrella organization for various activists with different values that cooperate to be able to have more strength as an opposition. Everything from greens, leftists, LGBT activists to some fascists, with the same ambition to create a society based on democracy and human rights.

Drug policyHere is a session on drug policy, —> about how they actually managed to changed the law due to persistent campaigns to save a friend and many more from being victims of a repressive drug poicy that send you to prison in many years due to an illness called addiction. After well-spread foto campaigns on the internet and protests in the streets, they managed to influence the government to take the first step into decriminalization of drugs. The progress spurred them to fight even harder for drug addicts to be seen as victis instead of criminals, for a system that provides health care instead of repression and prison for 7-14 years.

Vegans Georgia<— Vegans Georgia spoke about their educational activities to promote a vegan lifestyle, how they push for amendments to legislation to save animals from suffering, running a vegan restaurant and about initiating various protests. The use of animals for human pleasure in all its formes creates more suffering than all wars put together, and creates more environmental degradation than any other human behaviour.

Workshop trafikmaktsordningenA workshop was held on how to  —> create a campaign for change in the transportation system in Tbilisi. How do we get rid of cars and let bikes and busses to reclaim the streets once again? If we don´t act soon, the infrastructure is gonna collaps, and the air is totally gonna be unbreathable.

Dinner Regional Meeting<— Dinner with participants from the regional meeting. A strengthening aspect with the regional meeting was that regardless of conflicts in the region, geo-political intrigues or orientations, the participants all agreed on the strong bond between the people in the region and saw the borders as a social construct dividing them from fully cooperating to bring their values to fruition. The regional meeting shows a way to promote conversation and cooperation between borders; to share and unite the struggle for a pluralist, democratic and sustainable society in the region.

New working group on foreign policy

Now I have started a working group for Georgian foreign policy, and we are now going to focus on EU-Georgian relations. In June 2014, the association agreement between the EU and Georgia was signed, which will have huge consequences on the Georgian society and future policies. This makes it into a very important matter to learn about since it will have both pros and cons, dependent on how it will be ratified and implemented.

The Georgia officials has a goal to join the EU and said in 2014 that they could be a full member in 5-10 years. A clear majority in Georgia are pro these ambitions. However, even though the greens are also in favor of these plans, we have to analyze the process and articulate critique where it goes wrong, both to the domestic government and the EU. The domestic government in its lack of effort to implement new regulation and in the harmonization process, and the EU in its unwillingness to support the transition as much as is needed. Since Georgia now are following EU directives in the transition, and especially if Georgia once would become a member, there is a need to give critique. Since this the EU will be a great player in domestic policy in Georgie, we have to use the democratic right and duty to examine its power. Therefore we need to inform ourselves about this new kind of institutional actor, and the consequences it will lead to in Georgia. What has been made wrong in most other EU countries, is the lack of interest in EU policies, even though it stands for a big amount of decisions that in the end become national law and regulations. Also when it comes to future membership, the Georgian Young Greens have to be prepared for new ideas and policies that they want to push for within the EU.

What analysis that can already be done in this process is about the economic capabilities for a stable transition. Some facts are that Georgia already have a high rank on how easy it is to do business, especially when it comes to start-ups, with easy access to property, electricity, protection for investors, favorable taxation, trade and contracts etc. However, indicators such as education, financial market, innovation and sophistication of business, are at a relatively low rate, which shows the importance of education. The association agreement will make it more attractable for investors due to a more stable market. In the short run, it will be costly and hard to adapt, but in the long run it will make the economy more efficient and hopefully more sustainable.

One perspective for us is of course how this could be done in a sustainable way, and if it is sustainable at all to increase the economic integration. When it comes to the plausible increase of foreign direct investment, it would be desirable if it would lead to new techniques that will help a sustainable development. However, then it has to be preceded by an efficient implementation of EU regulations, especially the ones that is connected to environmental protection. One huge difficulty in the struggle towards harmonization is that the regulations that are already into force are not followed when it comes to the practice, especially regulation on environment. Even though the law is relatively easy to adjust, it will be harder to make adjustments in technical standards and patterns of production. This needs added recourses, and since the domestic funds are scarce, the EU have to help if they are serious in their integration goals. People and business also needs education and support to be able to adapt to the emerging market, education to fight ignorance and knowledge about how to adapt. A good thing would be to give wider access to the Erasmus program and exchange for academic staff.

What we as a green movement in Georgia have to show here is that regulations and higher environmental standards are good for the economy and society in the long run, that it will increase innovations and a better way of life. Also push for to not forget democratic values, the protection of human rights and a developed welfare system as one of the tools in this transition. It is an investment, not a cost. The first step is to push the government to adopt sustainable regulations, and the second step in the future is to be a part of the change to even more sustainable regulations in the EU.

Art Festival in Chiatura

In the late 19th century, the Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli found deposits of manganese in the area around Chiatura, which became the main industry for the town during the 20th century. It´s a history about hard work and terrible conditions in the mines, but also a history about the creation of an extensive system of cable cars. In the 50th, due to the hilly landscape with steep slopes, Stain ordered the creation of a cable car system for the workers to efficiently travel from the town to the mines. Today, the town is stuck in the past and small changes has been since the fall of the Soviet Union. Surrounded by beautiful nature, houses are slowly falling apart and emblems of Stalin does still exists in some of the cable car stations. The town is an example of the contrast between the dirty industries with its contribution to an extensive environmental degradation, and the creation of this environmental friendly infrastructure that some cities now are reinventing.

The festival was about a story where the past, the future and the present are put into question, a time machine that bring questions to the past to create another future. This makes me think about the green movement, a movement that also put the history into question and sees the historiography more as a mirror of the present than the past. It has always been necessary to deconstruct the myths of the history that legitimize certain power structures or dominant norms in the present. A great question for the green movement is what kind of examples in the past that can help us to build a more sustainable future, what kind of present power structures and norms that prevent us to start this process, and what new technical and social innovations that can help us. Is it the future that can help us to build a sustainable society, or can we learn more from the past? Why wait for the future when we already have solutions from the past, and why get stuck in the past when we have a future to save and learn from? To be able to spread our ideas, it would be helpful to create a green historiography, a history that can make a sustainable and equal future more familiar. However, the question is also how we can make that without the creation of just another myth? In any case, in this urgent situation, we could in an open-minded way learn to embrace all good examples, methods, stories, norms and ideas, irrespective of time, place or context.

Green Fest

September 19-20, the Georgian Young Greens (GeYG) held Green Fest for the first time, an event with the aim to take the political discussions to the public space, to reach out to new groups and to give everyone the possibility to express themselves publicly.

The fest was held in the newly created Rikhe Park in central Tbilisi at its amphibian theater in its core. A cool thing was that many people that just passed by stayed to listening and participate. It really felt like people were very eager to chare their opinions, mainly because of the rarity of inclusive public discussion in the Georgian society. That’s why this kind of event is such important to have, to reach out in an inclusive and open way and to make peoples voices heard. Eka from GeYG says:

-Aside from the practical shortcomings that we had in the preparation, the event was successful, and don´t forget that we regularly should continue to include and bring the political discussions into the public space.

A lot of other organizations and individual activists participated in the discussions, and we see this as a good model for future events. Organizations who participated were, among others, the Students self-organizing network, Green Agenda, Green Fists and Radarami. Discussions were held about topics as education, urbanization, food industry, gender, drug policy, the environment and sustainable development. Other activities at the fest were also held, including a sculpturing workshop of waste to art, food served by the vegan coffee shop Kiwi, and in the night, some electronic musicians performed. Below are some extracts from the discussions.

Discussion about the meat industry

Ira representerar Georgian Young Greens i samtal om veganism och djurrätt på Green FestAmong others, Ira silantevam, Oleg Ozorovma and Luke Bagrationi had a discussion about the food industry, its climate impact, veganism, animal’s rights and the media covering about it. Ira, who represent GeYG talked about the meet consumption in Georgia, that Georgians in general consume a lot of imported meat from industrialized production, and that the demand has to decrease to make the destructive production to decrease as well. Ira says:

-It´s only a construction that humans always has eaten a lot of meat, and that focus should be on information about alternatives.

The discussion also revolved around if the fight against the meat industry should be made on the basis of the fight against capitalism, or if the focus should be on social change. One of the speakers argue that there is a lack of knowledge about veganism in the society, that people don´t know about what vegans eats, about alternative protein sources etc. This lack of knowledge was said to be widespread, with prejudices in the media and even among doctors.

Discussion about waste management

Samtal om genus 2Radarami, which is an organization in Georgia that translate politically significant books into Georgian and spread them throughout the regions, translated the book “Gone tomorrow: Hidden life of garbage”, which is a book about waste production in the US and its consequences. The book was presented ad discussed during one of the session and was handed out afterwards to spread the knowledge. One of the main topics in the discussion was about if the capitalistic system is the main problem or if and how sustainable changes could be made within the existing capitalistic model?

Educational System

In the discussion about the educational system, mainly representatives from organizations as Green Fists and Students self-organizing network were discussing the topic about problems in the higher education in Georgia. Some main problems that were stated was the bureaucracy, lack of pedagogic skills and lack of books translated into Georgian.

Urbanization

In the discussion on urbanization, a research on the urbanization movement were presented and a discussion that revolved around centralization and regional activism were held.

Gender issues
In the discussion on gender, Nino Khaindrava and Gvanca Khonelidze, members of the Students self-organizing network, mainly discussed the importance of strengthening of working rights for women

Drug Policy

The main theme in the discussion about drug policies revolved around the drug policy as a way for the government to suppress and control. It was said that the use of narcotics decreased when it started to get banned. However, lately, the consumption has increased again at the same time that the law has become stricter. This shows that the method to keep the drugs away doesn’t work, it´s all about control. If you act anti-social or have the disease of addiction, you will go to jail instead of getting health care. An even more disturbing thing was said that the police generally arrest the buyers but not the sellers, when it should be the opposite. A was said, the result is that 70% of the prisoners in Georgia are drug addicts.

Sustainable Development

A panel discussion on environment and sustainable development were held. The topics were on how the world will change as a result of climate change, instruments of environmental policy, sustainable economic development and the connection to labor rights. The panel members were Merab Sharabidze, Environmental consultant, Revaz Karanadze from the Students self-organizing network and Kazaishvili from the students organization Green Fists.

Evaluation

Overall, we were satisfied about the Green Fest and would want to hold one again next year, to make it bigger and broader. We managed to involve people in a public discussion, which is a good concept that Georgia needs. Some organizational and technical problems that we can learn from until next year are issues as promotion, moderation, coordination and separation of labor.

Camp about LGBT women

A very important event about LGBT issues for women were held during one week in September. Together with participants from Armenia and Azerbaijan, we shared experiences and knowledge about LGBT issues. Many members held their own sessions, including me, about the situation for LGBTQ persons in Sweden. The situation in Sweden is quite different from challenges in the Caucasus area, however, the ground problem looks quite the same.

Everything, everyone and every group in the society is influenced by, and reproduce norms. Norms are a fundamental part of the social unity in a society, but they could also be restrictive especially for those who is placed outside the norm. For example, the heteronormativity which is based on the norm that there are only two genders, and creates a lot of prejudices and discrimination of LGBTQ persons.

However, this norm has lately been questioned more and more, especially in laws that accept the existence of other gender identities and prohibits discrimination based on this fact. On the other hand, the society still holds heterosexuality as the norm, and value other groups as less worth as citizens. Both through discriminatory laws and social structures. A true democratic society should give everyone the positive and negative rights that they need to have to fully take part in the system, feel safe and be themselves.

In many ways, the situation for LGBTQ people in Sweden is relatively good, due to a long democratic tradition, liberal and secular values. However, there are still big problems. When it comes to the physical and mental health, discrimination and hate crimes, LGBTQ persons are still overrepresented as victims. The fight for marginalized groups can never stop if a democratic society is going to be kept, even though some of the goals have already been reached.

The fight should be held everywhere, in everyday social contacts, within the group to strengthen people’s self-esteem, and to hold politicians and other officials accountable, since it´s their responsibility to include and protect all citizens. This camp was about to strengthen the self-esteem and knowledge about these issues, which gives capabilities to face the struggle in society. Georgia still has a long way to climb, and pressure to make change from both bottom up and top down is needed.

Meeting in Kojori for plans how to change the system

Kojori, a village some half an hour outside Tbilisi, surrounded by beautiful mountains and with an old medieval fortress at a mountain top in its outskirt. Here, in a half run down house in a Soviet styled structure, members of Georgian Young Greens were summoned to discuss about the future of the organization.

The discussion was mainly centered on how to become a political actor, and in the end, if the future of the organization is to form a political party or not? On the one hand, it was said, that an organizational form as a NGO has the advantage of possibilities to mass mobilization. On the other hand, a political party would be able to push for a more holistic and systemic change in society.

A problem in Georgia is that people in general sees political parties as corrupt and nonchalant. A change to this conception could be to make more people involved in politics, build trustworthy institutions and political systems. To make this become true, some new actor have to enter the political stage, involve people and build trust. This could be a new green party or someone else.

However, the challenge for the Georgian Young Greens is also to build trust, to get people involved and spread its values to grow as a movement. This would be the first step to become a prominent political actor that in the future can aspire for systemic change. This was also one of the topics brought up for discussion, how to grow as an organization, and especially, how to spread its ideas in Tbilisi and to other parts of Georgia.

This was also decided as the focus in the coming years, to build an organizational capacity for growth, strengthening the brand and get more people involved. After all, grassroots are the most important actors in a functional democracy. And as Alla Parunova, the spokesperson of Georgian Young Greens said, that “we are no normal NGO, but a political actor with a holistic and systemic view on the society and politics in general”.

At last, among others, some promising plans for the organization were articulated: 1) Start the work of spreading the organization into regional branches, and if it´s fortunate, create an umbrella organization for the branches to be covered by. 2) Continue the educational activities to strengthen the members. 3) Research for more knowledge based policy. 4) The creation of a wider and more specific political program. 5) Strengthening of the working groups that are going to build the capacity for better knowledge in each specific topics, development of policies and campaigns. 6) And of course, a lot of campaigning to spread the word!