From Summery Report of the Meeting of potential partners of the Local Democracy Agency in Kutaisi, Georgia, Strasbourg, France, 21 February 2006 (Edoted by Florent Barel, intern ALDA and Dorothe Fisher, Press Officer and Project Manager, ALDA)
Welcoming words by Per Vinther, Voce-President ALDA
Mr. Vinther welcomed the participants and emphasized that the Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA) is an independent NGO and not a body of the Council of Europe or the Congress, and that this will also be the case of the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) which will be opened in Kutaisi,
He stressed that ALDA organized two fact-finding missions to Georgia in 2004 and had been impressed by the beauty of the country and the hospitality of its inhabitants. In line with other observers the missions had found that local government in Georgia is very much in need of improvement but that there is a considerable NGO sector. It had been concluded that ALDA's accumulated experience since 1993 could be adapted to the Georgian context and the opening of an LDA in Kutaisi was recommended by the ALDA Governing Board.
LDA methodology seeks to establish sustainable active citizenship and therefore does not content itself with assistantship. It is thus necessary to use local resources and to have the LDA become a local ownership. An LDA acts on multiple levels, depending on its programmes, but its aims are always based on social and humanitarian actions, cooperation with local authorities, and programmes for local economic development. Their support for community based activities, are not just carried out by Partners.
Mvlr. Vinther explained that the Principality of Liechtenstein supported the process of opening an LDA in Georgia from the beginning by financing the two fact-finding missions to Tbilisi and Kutaisi together with other NGOs and partners. The aim was to define the needs and projects of the future LDA. They returned with a high interest in the project.
In the end, ALDA's Governing Board decided to recommend the establishment of the LDA in Kutaisi, because of its Strategic geographical location between the Black Sea and the mountains. The LDA will nevertheless have the ability to operate in the whole country and even internationally during trans-boarder projects.
He quoted Winston Churchill by expressing the hope that today we shall maybe arrive at "the end of the beginning".
The city of Tbilisi could unfortunately not be represented in this meeting, but has expressed its support and has shown positive reactions to the initiative, Mr. Vinther highlighted. The future LDA in Georgia needs financial support from the partners to finance the daily operational costs. Once the LDA has been established, ALDA/the LDA can apply for project funding, too.
Antonella Valmorbida, Director ALDA, added that her experience taught her that even if not everything is planned yet, there comes a time when one has to Start. In her opinion, the momentum when to work and Start in Georgia has finally come. Questions will certainly arise, but ALDA will endeavour to have a positive answer to them. The Situation is comparable to cycling: you can explain it a million times, but to really understand it, you simply have to try yourself.
Asked what the role of the Kutaisian civil society is in the creation of the future LDA, Ms. Valmorbida answered that the support of the local partners is essential for the setting up of the Agency. They provide the Agency with premises and contacts. Often they help to analyze the local needs and then they participate in the activities.