MRA still lacks communication mechanisms for reaching out to local NGOs
At a recent meeting of the NGO IDP network “Synergia”, we learned that local NGOs – especially those based outside Tbilisi – still have very little access to news about government strategies and new policy documents, despite a self-professed demand among the group for better information about these issues and recent efforts by the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation (MRA) to improve its outreach. Local NGOs have been criticized by the government for distributing false information to IDPs, a claim that is frequently cited by officials as a basis for distrust of the civil society sector. As we pointed out last week, false information about IDP policy is prolific, thus further reinforcing the need for better communication policies. Yet access to information is lopsided: while donors, UN agencies and international NGOs have regular and direct access to government policy on IDPs, many local NGOs still say they don’t. Due to their funding influence, international organizations have regular informal communication mechanisms in addition to formal ones, such as the Steering Committee on IDP Issues, its Technical Expert Groups and the NGO Coordination Meetings that are held after each Steering Committee meeting. However all of these channels, including the NGO Coordination meetings, are in English language only. NGOs based outside Tbilisi are not invited, even though many travel frequently to Tbilisi or have representatives in the capital. If they were invited, the language barrier may exclude them anyway. In fact, there is a far greater need for the MRA’s NGO Coordination Meetings to take place in Georgian language, since international NGOs have many other methods to receive this information. There are also significant potential benefits to be realized in communicating more with small local NGOs, who can help the government disseminate information to IDPs and reinforce information on new policies. Distrust of official information among IDPs seems to be high and the more often IDPs hear information reinforced by different actors, the more likely it is to be trusted. Direct access to information from the Ministry would also make the work of local NGOs more effective and would substantially improve the access of IDPs themselves to policy information. As a first step towards improving communication, TI Georgia urges the MRA to hold NGO coordination meetings in Georgian language (or to organize successive sessions in English and Georgian). Furthermore, we emphasize the importance of inviting a broader range of regional and local NGOs to the NGO coordination meetings. Last but not least, we emphasize the responsibility that local NGOs have to seek correct information about IDP policy and to engage whenever possible with the authorities on these issues. TI Georgia is the national NGO representative to the MRA Steering Committee and will share materials with broader civil society through email lists and this blog, To receive information on the MRA’s policy in Georgian language, please send an email to email@example.com.