The current public opinion polls studying values and social cohesion do not include any culture related information. However, there are many works regarding the problems facing internally displaced persons (IDP). Following the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008, voluntary assistance and donations by non-governmental and professionals organisations to support IDP’s increased to help address their material needs and psychological rehabilitation.
The state assistance to IDPs is minimal, which causes social discontent of both IDPs and other residents. The majority of IDPs (300 000) residing in Georgia are ethnical Georgians who were forced to leave their homes in Abkhazia after the ethnical cleansing executed by separatists. Since integration of IDPs in other regions has been difficult due to unemployment and inflation, the idea of the social integrity is unsteady. However, all groups of the population and, especially, the government are proclaiming the adherence of national interests to the idea of national integrity.
We may only assume (as there are no special researches or debates thereof) that the culture is not used as the instrument for reinforcement of social cohesion. At the same time the concept of national integrity has ever been supported with the national culture and the national culture has been the basic parameter of the national identity.
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 effectively is engaged in the planning of such programmes. The working process is implemented in close cooperation with the youth organisations, international organisations and various public institutions.
The priorities of youth programmes for 2011:
- promotion of informal and civil education for young people;
- promotion of participation of youth in civil processes;
- introduction of state planning, respect for civil and democratic values, promotion of active civil position, volunteerism, civil liability protection, legitimacy, healthy mode of life; and
- support for youth initiatives and encouragement of cultural and creative initiatives.
The most noteworthy among the youth programmes is the project of the international youth camp “Patriot”, the entertainment and educational programme of informal education initiated by the President of Georgia.
Supported by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, the Solidarity Fund and different cultural organisations (“Eastern Promotion, Kote Marjanishvili State Drama Theatre”) signed the Memorandum, under which the parties backed the creation of the appropriate alternative resources for socially vulnerable people or persons facing crisis who reside in Georgia.
The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia is also involved in various projects supporting vulnerable or disabled people, or people who need other types of assistance. One example is the project “Come to Know Me”, implemented in Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery, together with adolescents with Down syndrome, and involving professional artists and top officials in Georgia. The project was implemented by the Union “Our Children”, with the partnership of the National Museum of Georgia, the Ministry of Diaspora Issues and the National Centre for Children and Youth. It is aimed at raising awareness of people with Down syndrome and their integration into society.
There are positive examples of international collaboration in the context of socially oriented projects. The project “Discover Eliava” is aimed to reduce the adverse effects on the environment, to draw public attention and to strengthen social cohesion with the help of artists. This idea is implemented by the art organisation “Geoair”, together with the Green Art Lab Alliance (GALA) and the “Culture and Management Lab” under an initiative sponsored in the frames of the cultural programme of the European Commission. http://geoair.blogspot.com/
In the milestone document adopted in 2016 – “Culture Strategy 2025” – an important place was attributed to the equal access of different groups to culture.
Strategic Area 2 “Access to Culture and Cultural Diversity” includes relevant aims and objectives:
“Goal: Culture is accessible to all members of the society and the freedom of cultural expression is safeguarded.
2.1. Objective: Culture is made accessible to all, including the communities in mountainous regions, municipalities adjacent to the state borders, occupied territories and across the dividing lines of occupied territories.
- Support the establishment and development of multifunctional cultural spaces (community centres, cultural centres, social clubs), support the renovation of appropriate buildings across the country, including mountainous settlements, border areas and the areas across dividing lines of occupied territories based on mapping and specific criteria (distance, number of inhabitants, etc.);
- In order to achieve the goal of improving cultural management practices in regions, define the role of municipal civil servants responsible for cultural affairs, ensure their professional development (training, certification, etc.) and mobilise necessary intellectual resources by means of coordinated work carried out by relevant central and municipal public agencies;
- Enforce inter-regional collaboration and support joint initiatives; encourage participation of the inhabitants of the regions in cultural activities of other regions, in order to foster human resources employed in culture and to promote their work (performances, concerts, exhibitions, films, books, etc.) on national level;
- Encourage/support the application of innovative methods (mobile cinemas, concert stages and libraries, live transmission of opera and drama performances in cinemas and etc.) to promote culture in the regions.
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.
- Organise 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, organisations 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 the availability of special services (e.g. lower price tickets, free entrance, informational meetings, etc.) and employment opportunities;
- Support the engagement of the 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 cultural infrastructure, new and existing facilities, comply with accessibility requirements for people with disabilities, adopting them where necessary;
- Train the employees of cultural establishments and organisations to develop their skills necessary for communication with vulnerable groups;
- Support cultural establishments and organisations in providing special programmes and materials (e.g. audio-books, books with Braille font, sign-interpretation, subtitles, on-line and digital applications, etc.) for people with disabilities;
- Support the implementation of legal and regulatory mechanisms, creation of favourable environment and special programmes in order to support the inclusion of people with disabilities in cultural/arts educational processes at all levels of education;
- Ensure that principles of gender equality are taken into account during the planning and implementation of cultural policy, use the potential of culture to foster gender equality.”
Therefore, Georgia for the first time institutionalizes the access to culture and declares social issues in the context of culture policy.
The next step was the preparation of a “Roadmap for Ensuring Equal Participation of People with Disabilities in Georgia’s Cultural and Creative Life for 2017-2018” by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia in 2017. http://mcs.gov.ge/getattachment/Public-Info/saministros-mier-shemushavebuli-strategiebi,-konce/kulturul-da-shemoqmedebit-ckhovrebashi-shshm-pirta.pdf.aspx
‘This document aims to create the conceptual framework and mechanisms that will facilitate the participation of persons with disabilities in the cultural life of society. The Roadmap is focused on the challenges of accessibility to culture and creativity, cultural education and services by persons with disabilities and contains the list of activities to be carried out by the Ministry in cooperation with relevant authorities (Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs of Georgia; Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and others) in 2017-2018. The activities provided by the abovementioned Action Plan were planned by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, involving various agencies, local or international NGOs working on issues of persons with disabilities, the association of persons of children with disabilities and directly persons with disabilities.
The document reflects the legislative framework regulating the sphere, challenges in terms of the access to culture for disabled persons, the problems of infrastructure adaptation, as well as cultural and art events, inclusive cultural tourism, inclusive education and employment issues for people with disabilities.
The Roadmap activities have been planned based on the problems identified by the monitoring of the situational analysis/research, quantitative and qualitative data.”
Consequently, the “Action Plan for Equal Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Cultural and Creative Life, 2017-2018” was created.
In the context of Strategic Area 2 “Access to Culture and Cultural Diversity” (Culture Strategy 2025”), in 2015-2016, budgetary amounts were used to involve people with disabilities in the cultural life: in 2015 (fact) – 212,000 GEL, in 2016 (plan) – 200,000 GEL. 24 activities were carried out, involving 70 people with disabilities; 10,300 visitors attended.
In the years 2015-2016, the activities of the Union for the Blinds of the Georgia Cultural Center and the Deaf Union of Georgia were promoted. In particular, the following was implemented:
- 3 performances
- 3 literature events
- 4 exhibitions
- 12 concerts
- 2 charity concerts
- 15 audio books
Also, the integrated concerts, exhibitions, performances with the participation of people with disabilities of different nosologies were promoted, adapted versions of the films “Jay´s Wedding” and “I See the Sun” were created.
In 2017, within the frames of the strategic aim “Development of Culture Infrastructure and Facilitating Public Access to Culture” and the objective “Integration of Persons with Disabilities” the following was implemented:
- Project “Inclusive Education in Georgian Museums”, 370 participants
- 10 projects, 209 participants with disabilities – exhibitions, performances, concerts and other cultural events.
The issue of internally displaced persons remains an acute problem, as it has been since the very first years of Georgia’s independence. The Culture Strategy 2025, also envisages to ensure access to culture for this extremely vulnerable and large group (approximately 300.000 people, about 8% of the Georgian population), as well as social integration and employment through cultural industries.
In 2016, the promotion of art circles in the areas of compact settlement of IDPs was implemented – the budget amount was 228,000 GEL.
- In 12 areas of compact settlement – Khashuri, Koda, Gori, Tsilkani, Akhalsopeli, Mtsisi, Teliani, Metekhi, Karaleti, Skra, Shavshvebi and Tserovani – there are functioning art circles in 12 different fields: embroidery, drawing, woodcarving, pop and folk songs, folk instruments.
- 700 students were able to get free education in different arts;
- 79 teachers are employed.
In 2016 various measures were carried out in the regions along the separating line of the administrative border (Rukhi, Anaklia, Orsantia, Nikozi, Ditsi).
- Meetings with writers – 9
- Performances – 2
- Film screenings – 5
- Concerts -7