Niels Scott on the Challenges Georgia Faces


GEORGIA TODAY interviewed UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative and UNFPA Representative in Georgia, Niels Scott, on Georgia and the challenges it is facing.

How would you assess Georgia’s contribution to international peacekeeping missions?

Georgia is one of the leading troop contribution countries, with two peacekeeping missions currently in very sensitive areas, including Afghanistan, keeping stability in the region. Considering the fact that the country is facing many challenges of its own, it’s fantastic how Georgians go on peacebuilding missions. I was astounded when I saw the figures and the tremendous effort made by Georgians over more than two decades.

What do you see as Georgia’s main challenge in advancing better living conditions?

We have a number of impressive reforms taking place in Georgia. Public administration is improved and, in fact, it’s a role model for other countries. We have decentralization; government is being pushed towards communities where decisions are being made. You have a lot of people in Georgia living in remote areas, and I think it very important to encourage rural and mountainous areas; to encourage developing and retaining their populations. They have been living for generations and love their places, and the worst scenario would be if they had to leave. There are amazing success stories in every region, with people making small or medium enterprises in rural areas. Economic growth in Georgia has been steady compared with neighboring regions, and Georgia has succeeded in a number of ways, such as ease of making business, and this is not an insignificant achievement. The number of tourists visiting Georgia is also growing rapidly. But there needs to be balance between economic growth and social development, meaning that there might be economical growth, but the entire population should benefit from it.

Education is an investment, particularly preschool education, which of course forms the individual. Primary and Secondary educations are also important: having teachers with appropriate qualifications and retaining and promoting good teachers. Economic growth needs to be supported by education. Vocational education also needs to be promoted to increase the ability to bring relevant skills to the labor market. In various surveys, businesses reply that finding well-trained staff is a challenge. Parents [in Georgia] sometimes think that their children should go to university to study science, law or medicine but the result may be a surplus of doctors and lawyers. There are really good examples of countries worldwide where it is actually very popular to choose vocational education, allowing students to get a job faster than some people in more specialized fields.

How has Georgia met the Sustainable Development Goals?

Georgia is taking the SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] very seriously. These are the 17 goals and 169 targets that all UN countries agreed on. In terms of what we call nationalization, Georgia actually chose to make some of the targets tougher than the global ones. For example, reducing poverty. The level of poverty in Georgia is high, with a lot of people in agriculture where there is not overall high productivity yet. So people are for now trapped in a low-income situation. Agriculture is an important priority for the government: and that’s why the SDGs are so useful in helping to make sure that people working in these lower income areas are not left behind and to create harmony between economic growth and social equity.

What areas in Georgia most need to be improved?

Education is the backbone of economic growth; we have seen numerous examples in other countries, where an investment in education pays off. Education benefits not only economic development, it also has a social impact. Education also means encouraging them to take the initiative and to improve their situation and contribute to their communities. This is an important way in which progress can be achieved.

Based on your experience, what is the solution to the domestic violence issue?

There were some recent surveys conducted and through them, you can see slowly shifting attitudes. Previously, tolerance towards domestic violence was far too high: people would say domestic violence is a private matter and I think this is intrinsically wrong. As Dostoyevsky once said: ‘Everybody is responsible for everything and to everyone.’ But many people are starting to feel that domestic violence is no longer tolerable and would be more likely to report incidents. In addition, police have been trained, and we now have more specialist policewomen which helps with the reporting of incidents. Overall, we can say that there are improvements but the number of incidents of domestic violence and the number of incidents which are not reported are still way too high.


22 February 2018 19:45