GEO

Georgian Government must establish mechanism for online petitions

10 October, 2013

Creating, signing, and disseminating petitions is one of the instruments that citizens can use to present their views on any given issue to the authorities and demand change. People worldwide increasingly use the Internet for creating and spreading petitions because it is a rather effective means of mobilizing support (through social media, among other things).

For example, over the last few months, groups of Georgian citizens have created several petitions in the Internet, calling for the investigation of the 17 May events in Tbilisi, protection of cultural heritage and environment, boycott of the Winter Olympic Games, etc.

While the Internet is a very convenient means for creating and disseminating petitions, the question of validity of signatures arises. For example, during the discussion of the 17 May events in the Georgian Parliament Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration a few months ago, suspicions were voiced that some of the signatures on the relevant petition were false.

The best way of addressing this problem is for the Georgian Government to create a dedicated website that would allow citizens to submit petitions to the authorities. This system would, on the one hand, promote more active participation of citizens in the policymaking process, while also largely resolving the problem of trustworthiness of signatures (through an appropriate mechanism for signature verification).

Moreover, the Georgian Government has already committed to creating such a system. According to the action plan that the Georgian Government has submitted under the Open Government Partnership initiative, the Ministry of Justice is to establish (in 2013) the ichange.ge website that will allow citizens, among other things, to create e-petitions. The action plan says that the authorities will be required to react to a petition once the number of signatures reaches a certain threshold.

The Georgian Government must therefore establish an official mechanism for online petitions as soon as possible, creating broader opportunities for active citizens willing to  participate in policy formulation.

Author: TI Georgia