On Human Rights Day, the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the South Caucasus Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Public Defender’s Office invited decision-makers and civil society leaders to discuss persisting inequalities that jeopardise democracy and hamper Georgia’s progress towards a fair and just society.
The Human Rights Forum created a discussion space for the authorities and human rights activists to talk about challenges Georgia faced in 2021 and agree on concrete steps to achieve greater equality and better human rights protection.
In the spirit of the Human Rights Day message – All Human, All Equal, it addressed three areas where disparities have been particularly deepened by social and economic challenges brought on by the pandemic – gender equality, the legal and social protection of the LGBTQI+ community, and the inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities.
Parliament Chairperson Kakha Kuchava set a tone for a discussion and highlighted that Georgia made strong legal commitments to safeguarding human rights for all citizens.
Other speakers included Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues Niko Tatulashvili, Deputy Head of Political Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia Evija Kotan, UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia Sabine Machl, UNDP Head in Georgia Nick Beresford, Senior Adviser for the South Caucasus of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Vladimir Shkolnikov, Members of Parliament and representatives of public agencies and leading civil society organizations.
“In 2021, the state of equality continued to be challenging. The protection of the rights of women, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQI+ community and representatives of religious and ethnic minorities have not improved significantly. Violent events surrounding Tbilisi Pride Week in July were especially alarming. Persons inciting and organizing violent acts against the LGBTQI+ community and journalists have not been brought to justice,“ said Public Defender Nino Lomjaria.
“The EU remains Georgia’s strong supporter in enhancing human rights protection and building an equal and just society. Human rights are at the heart of our relations with Georgia, and a key focus of our cooperation assistance. Today, on Human Rights Day, we have discussed many pertinent issues and the outstanding work needed to enhance the protection and promotion of equality, including gender equality, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities and the rights of the LGBTQ in Georgia,“ said Deputy Head of Political Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia Evija Kotan.
“The pandemic has deepened social disparities. As Georgia strives to emerge from the crisis, human rights must be at the core of the pandemic response and recovery,” said UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia Sabine Machl.
“Georgia has come a long way in enacting the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That journey needs to continue towards an equal, just and fair society – especially for minorities and marginalized communities. We urge Georgian state, political and civic leaders to give high priority to fighting discrimination, ensuring legal response to human rights violations and protecting the rights of all citizens with no exception,” said UNDP Head in Georgia Nick Beresford.
“Principles of equality and non-discrimination lie at the heart of human rights. The adoption of significant legislative and policy documents in Georgia is very welcome. However, there is still a need to practically protect the principle of equality, respect tolerance and diversity and thereby defend the cornerstone of human rights in Georgia,“ said OHCHR Senior Advisor for the South Caucasus Vladimir Shkolnikov.
The Human Rights Forum is part of Human Rights Week 2021 that brought together a wide range of local and international supporters. The European Union, the United Nations and the Public Defender’s Office reaffirmed their commitments to promoting human rights and freedoms that are safeguarded by the Georgian Constitution and major policy documents. These strong commitments align with Georgia’s national priorities and international obligations under the EU Association Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.