FEF Founder on Course ‘Leadership for Peace’ & Future Plans

Peaceful resolution of conflicts is one of the most important issues modern Georgia is facing. In this process, the role of organizations contributing to this goal through their activities is crucial. One of the most distinguished examples of an organization caring for the better future and development of the country is the Foundation for a European Future (FEF), a non-governmental international organization established in 2019 in Switzerland, which aims to promote and consolidate democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, primarily, in Georgia and in other countries in the Caucasus.

Apart from other important activities, FEF actively cares about the education and professional development of young leaders, who are the main creators of the brighter future of our country. Recently, the Foundation, in collaboration with the Geneva Center for Security Policy, organized a seminar entitled ‘Leadership for Peace’ for young leaders, which generated positive feedback among the audience.

Speakers of the course included highly experienced experts in the field, who shared their expertise with the participants, including Deputy Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Dr. Ketevan Dumbadze, Director of the Geneva Center for Security Policy Ambassador Christian Dussey, Head of Arms Proliferation, Geneva Center for Security Policy Mr. Marc Finaud, Ambassador, Embassy of Switzerland to Georgia Patric Franzen, Founder of Foundation for European Future Ms. Teona Telia, Head of the National Security Council’s Office of Georgia Kakhaber Kemoklidze and others. 

Georgia Today spoke to Teona Telia, the Founder and Chairman of the Foundation for a European Future, who elaborated on the importance and purposes of the above-mentioned seminar, the activities and future plans of FEF, the role of Switzerland in Georgian diplomacy and other important issues.

Please introduce yourself and your foundation to our readers.

I am Teona Telia, a Swiss citizen with Georgian origins. I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1989. I am the Founder and Chairman of the Foundation for a European Future (FEF). I studied Economics, Social Sciences and International Relations and I hold a Master's degree in European Studies from the Global Studies Institute of the University of Geneva. I previously worked for the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations Office in Geneva as a representative and spokesperson for international organizations, and then several years as an asset manager for a private bank in Geneva. Last year I left that job, to dedicate most of my time to my beloved husband, my amazing daughter and my lifelong purpose; an organization that I created in order to establish solid, long-term links between my two countries, Georgia and Switzerland. I feel blessed to have this opportunity thanks to my husband, who generously supports me and my project.

As for the project, FEF is a non-governmental international organization established in 2019 in Switzerland. We aim to promote and consolidate democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, primarily, in Georgia and in other countries in the Caucasus. The Foundation is focused on encouraging and supporting reconciliation and conflict resolution in Georgia and other Caucasus states. FEF also strives to achieve an international role for Georgia as a prominent and very experienced state in the human rights policy reform agenda. I believe Georgia can be a good role model for other countries to create effective policies for implementing a human rights-based approach, which is essential in the long-term process of democratization. Obviously, capacity building is key to reaching these goals. FEF works together with international-governmental organizations, UN institutions, academia and civil society, as well as official authorities in Switzerland, Georgia and other Caucasus states to build a value-based network of professionals.

Tell us about the Seminar ‘Leadership for Peace,’ held on August 23-27 in collaboration with the Geneva Center for Security Policy. Why is it important for young leaders to gain knowledge in this field, from Switzerland in particular?

I strongly believe that reconciliation and peacebuilding can be achieved predominantly through thorough analysis of the problem, effective dialogue, diplomacy and prosperity in Georgia. It can only be done by devoted professionals who have a good understanding of the peacebuilding process and its techniques, know how to set targets and methodology to achieve specific peacebuilding targets, also those who are aware of the similar experiences of other countries. We do have a young, passionate generation which is the future of the country and who will have to take over the peacebuilding process. Their enthusiasm, energy and knowledge is what is needed for sustainable peace in our country and that is why we decided to dedicate our work primarily to capacity building of the younger generation.

When we were discussing who to partner with in implementing our activities for Georgian youth, the Geneva Center for Security Policy was our first choice. We wanted to bring their prominent speakers and 25 years of experience to Georgia to offer to young Georgian professionals the highest standard of education. It was a long path of negotiations, agreements, and persuading partners why they need to work in Georgia. We were ambitious, passionate and dedicated to having this course in Georgia as it was our first event. I believe we were successful. Even though we had to organize the course virtually, the post-evaluation feedback from the students was very positive. We are now trying to allocate funds to continue the course and bring our contribution to the peacebuilding process in Georgia.

How would you describe Switzerland’s involvement and contribution in resolving conflicts in Georgia, including the activities of the Embassy of Switzerland?

Switzerland is a natural partner for every peacebuilding initiative worldwide, especially for us – Georgia and naturally for a Geneva-based foundation working on peace in the Caucasus.  Switzerland with its 200-year peace and experience in mediating and facilitating peace processes, has vast experience in the field. It is interesting that after WWII Switzerland had to go through the process of dealing with the past itself. So it can share its own experience of how to evaluate its past, which is sometimes painful, and transform into a democratic and prosperous country. I believe there is so much to share and learn from each other, we are basically creating a comfortable platform for such sharing, it will lead to truly notable results.

Is your Foundation planning on organizing similar important seminars for young leaders in the future? What are your future plans in general?

Absolutely, yes! In fact, we have already started preparations for February. Initially, we planned to hold one course per year, but as the first one generated more interest than we anticipated, we are happy to work more and provide Georgian professionals with more opportunities to be equipped with the best expertise and professional network possible.  Together with GCSP we are immensely grateful for the feedback that we received from the participants. I am very happy to realize what a broad spectrum of interest there is in the topic of the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

As for future plans, I am working very closely with our foundation’s very inspiring board members in several directions. We want to create a space dedicated to Georgian culture and hospitality in Geneva and, of course, our delicious cuisine. I am very excited about this idea and hope with the help of my Georgian and Swiss friends and, of course, my family, that we will be able to make it happen and have a first space dedicated to all kinds of things that I love about Georgia. I want it to be a center of gravity for everybody who visits or lives in Geneva and is interested in Georgia and the Caucasus. 

Based on the example of Switzerland, as one of the most ‘peaceful’ countries, how can Georgia achieve a more peaceful future and solve frozen conflicts?

Through prosperity, a democratic process, education, open minds, good friends and superb professionals working on the peace process. The latter can be learned and mastered. All the rest comes with purpose, strong will, and the right attitude.

By Ana Dumbadze 

25 September 2020 19:46