During the past 30 years, as a result of conflicts with the separatist authorities of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic and former South-Ossetian Autonomous District (the Inner Kartli), a new group has been formed in the population – IDP (internally displaced persons). Currently, there are 286 643 IDPs officially registered, of which 275 096 (95.97%) are from Abkhazia and 11 546 (4.0%) from the former South Ossetian Autonomous District (the Inner Kartli). Following the Russian – Georgian conflict in August, 2008, a new stream of IDP has emerged from so-called South Ossetia, the historical Shida (Internal) Kartli, the region Samachablo and from Kodori (a mountain part of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic) and from other Georgian cities and villages. This raised the number of IDP’s by an additional 192 000 persons. The total number of IDP’s is now estimated at almost 500 000.
The state assistance to IDPs is minimal, which causes social discontent of both IDPs and other residents. Since the integration of IDPs in other regions has been difficult due to unemployment and inflation, the idea of social integrity is unsteady. Against this background, the focus of government and public attention is directed to the territorial integrity of the country, the protection of constitutional laws, of IDP’s and of minorities.
Following the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008, voluntary assistance and donations by nongovernmental and trade organizations to support IDP’s increased to help address their material needs and psychological rehabilitation.
We may only assume (as there is no special research or debates thereof) that culture is (not) used as an instrument for reinforcement of social cohesion. At the same time the concept of national integrity has ever been supported by the national culture and the national culture has been the basic parameter of the national identity.
Therefore, Georgia for the first time institutionalizes access to culture and declares social issues in the context of cultural policy.
The Culture Strategy 2025 also envisages ensuring access to culture for IDPs as well as social integration and employment through the cultural industries:
“2.2. Objective: All members of the society, including vulnerable groups, youth and minorities are actively engaged in cultural life and have access to cultural infrastructure and resources.
- Organize cultural and creative projects, initiatives, events and campaigns and support access to appropriate spaces/facilities in order to reinvigorate the contribution of vulnerable groups, youth and minorities to cultural life;
- Support the development of specially adopted media programmes in order to contribute to the integration of vulnerable and minority groups into the general public;
- Elaborate incentive measures for students representing disability groups, refugees, IDP’s, residents of occupied territories, repatriates and socially vulnerable citizens, in order to ensure their access to cultural studies;
- Support and encourage cultural institutions, organizations and the businesses, including on the legislative level, in order to provide people with disabilities, socially vulnerable groups, refugees, IDPs, residents of occupied territories with special services (e.g. lower price tickets, free entrance, informational meetings, etc.) and employment opportunities;
- Support the engagement of children and youth groups representing refugees and IDPs, repatriates and Georgian citizens residing in occupied territories and abroad in different cultural projects in order to ensure their integration with local coevals;
- Support cultural initiatives of minorities and enhance their knowledge of the Georgian language in order to ensure they have a fair part in the country’s cultural life;
- Ensure that principles of gender equality are taken into account during the planning and implementation of cultural policy, and use the potential of culture to foster gender equality.”
Recently, the issues of social cohesion are considered by the government in the context of integration of all layers of youth – representatives of national minorities, urban and rural residents. The main participants of the process are governmental structures. For example, the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs of Georgia (operated in this format until 2016) effectively is engaged in the planning of such programmes. The working process is implemented in close cooperation with youth organizations, international organizations and various public institutions. Many human rights NGOs use creative projects and art forms for social advertising and promotion of anti-discrimination policies, and educational activities to raise awareness and promote tolerance, etc.