Is the Georgian government prepared to hold free and fair elections at a time of the pandemic? What’s at stake for the Caucasus Region?
On behalf of the Georgian Association in the US we delighted to invite you for a virtual discussion on “Georgian Parliamentary Elections 2020.” The panel will examine and assess how prepared the Georgian government is to successfully hold the elections at a time of the pandemic. The speakers will highlight the role of the United States in supporting Georgia’s efforts to hold free and fair elections and to combat disinformation efforts on the part of the Russian government and other actors. The panelists will also address the importance of the election from the regional perspective.
Ambassador David Bakradze, Embassy of Georgia to the United States
Alex Sokolowski, The United States Agency for International Development
Cheryl Fernandes, U.S. Department of State
Melissa Muscio, National Democratic Institute
Nino Japaridze, Edison Research
Stephen B. Nix, International Republican Institute
Ia Meurmishvili, Voice of America
Date And Time
Fri, October 16, 2020
10:00 AM ET
PLEASE REGISTER DIRECTLY ON ZOOM:
[pdf-embedder url=”http://www.georgianassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Final-CEEC-Sep-2020-policy-forum-flyer-pdf.pdf” title=”Final CEEC Sep 2020 policy forum flyer pdf”]
August 23, 2020 marks the 31st anniversary of the Baltic Way when over two million people joined hands to form a human chain across 400 miles connecting Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn to protest Soviet rule.
To mark this anniversary, Lithuanians are forming a new human chain from Vilnius to the border with Belarus to show support for Belarus’s struggle against Lukashenka’s dictatorship. The dictator has claimed 80% of the vote in the elections that took place on August 9. The people of Belarus have been peacefully protesting ever since despite the brutal crackdown by the riot police. At least 5 people have died so far, dozens are still missing, several are expected to remain severely physically disabled for life, and hundreds more will endure PTSD.
Since Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have embassies in Washington, DC, and the diaspora populations of all four countries are large, we have decided to replicate the human chain on a smaller scale and connect the four embassies.
People are asked to start at the Embassy of Lithuania, 2622 16th Street NW in DC by noon and take a spot in the human chain down 16th Street NW toward the Embassy of Belarus at 1619 New Hampshire Ave NW, and then possibly on to the embassies of Estonia and Latvia on Massachusetts Ave NW.
We are inviting anyone who cares about free and fair elections, freedom of speech, and separation of powers to join us.
MASKS ARE MANDATORY FOR ALL PARTICIPANTS. GLOVES STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL BE ENFORCED TO COMPLY WITH MPD REGULATIONS.
PLEASE BRING SASHES, LINENS, RIBBONS TO ASSIST WITH DISTANCING.
SIGNS and POSTERS CAN SAY:
BALTIC WAY – 1989 – LITHUANIA – LATVIA – ESTONIA
FREEDOM WAY – 2020 – VILNIUS – BELARUS
Please dress or bring ribbons and/or balloons in these colors:
Belarus – white and red (more white)
Estonia – blue, black, and white
Latvia – red and white (more red)
Lithuania – yellow, green, and red
If you are coming to represent another diaspora, feel free to display your colors, too.
Join world-class founders and funders in an exploration of the frontier markets from Eastern Europe through Central Asia. Hosted at the ancient Silk Road destination Tbilisi, it will showcase Georgia’s legendary hospitality and creativity & will provide a welcoming and exciting environment to mingle with brilliant founders and investors and inspiring visionaries in a variety of fields.
For more information please follow the link.
The inaugural Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program took place from May 11 to 20 in Portland and was organized by Global Youth Entrepreneurs. The goal of the program was to provide a group of enterprising high schoolers from Georgia with the opportunity to participate in a collaborative entrepreneurial project and citywide startup event, experience academic and student life at one of the top grade schools in the country, network with like-minded Oregon students, entrepreneurs, and community leaders, and tour the city and state in the spirit of exchange. The Georgian Association partially funded this initiative as part of its expanding engagement to support connections between US counterparts and Georgian entrepreneurs of all ages!
School XXI Century in Tbilisi, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ educational partner in Georgia, sent tenth-grade students Levan Gvineria and Luka Todua on the exchange, along with English teacher Irma Kalmakhelidze as a chaperone. Eleventh-grade student Mariam Gogidze of the European School in Tbilisi completed the delegation. XXI Century selected Gvineria and Todua based on their demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and diplomacy and excellent performance on a series of English examinations, while Global Youth Entrepreneurs invited Gogidze for her leading role in growing Tbilisi’s community of high school entrepreneurs. The Georgian Association in the USA, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, and Kargi Gogo (the Northwestern United States’ only Georgian restaurant, located in Portland, OR) generously sponsored the students’ travel to Portland, and the United States Embassy in Georgia hosted the students for an orientation prior to their visit to the United States. Seth Talyansky, who accompanied the group throughout the week, Solomon Olshin, Britton Masback, and Li Lambert of Global Youth Entrepreneurs arranged the group’s itinerary in the U.S.
In Portland, the participants were taken aback by the prevalence of homelessness, a rarity in Tbilisi. They found such cases of social isolation and neglect by fellow citizens anathema to Georgian culture. For their entrepreneurial project, the students set about designing ways to diffuse cultural traits like strong family ties and social cohesion into a society that tends to emphasize individual independence and success. The students received continuous mentorship from WorldOregon, which hosted their project work. They also visited Autodesk, eBay, and Intel, where technologists, entrepreneurs, and other company staff applauded their efforts to tackle the problem of their choice and offered feedback on ideas. Ultimately, after several days of work, Gvineria and Todua produced a resolution outlining a multi-pronged approach to combating homelessness for the city government to consider, and Gogidze devised a plan for a compassion-building game app for young children. On the weekend of May 17 to 19, and together with around 30 peers from ten Portland-area high schools, the students took part in Startup Camp Youth Portland 2019, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ third such event around the world. Startup Camp Youth Portland was hosted and sponsored by the Catlin Gabel School. All but a few students pitched business or non-profit ideas on Friday night, and teams coalesced around the five most popular ideas. On Saturday and most of Sunday, teams developed their concepts under the mentorship of about a dozen local business, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education experts before presenting to fellow students and distinguished guest judges on Sunday evening. The two top-performing teams—the first designing motivational programs for youth with speech impediments and the second proposing an app incentivizing carbon consciousness among those who commute by car—came away with prizes from Intel and Nike.
The Georgian Association was pleased to be able to support the Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program 2019 which represents a milestone in a burgeoning creative partnership between the youth and, ultimately, citizenries, of Portland and Tbilisi. This exchange represents Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ next logical effort, after its Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi event last June, to foster the autonomous participation of Georgia’s young people in their country’s economy, which will promote democracy and prosperity in Georgia. Multiple appearances on television have been arranged for Gvineria, Todua, and their teacher to tell the story of their visit to Portland to a national audience. To carry this momentum forward, Global Youth Entrepreneurs plans to hold an event in Batumi next summer in partnership with a local educational institute and School XXI Century that will draw student participants from all across the country together for a weekend of immersion in entrepreneurship and diplomacy. Global Youth Entrepreneurs will also advise Gogidze on the execution of the second iteration of Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi in June (this time not affiliated with Startup Weekend), which she is organizing at the European School together with several classmates. This program holds promise as a model of youth-led cross-cultural engagement and exchange that can be replicated between any pair of cities or countries. The government, commercial, and non-profit actors who interfaced with the students underlined the value of—and their support for—bringing in fresh cultural perspectives on local issues, especially those, like homelessness, to which many Americans have become desensitized. Gogidze, Gvineria, and Todua are eager to continue developing the projects they began in Portland, inspired by the lesson all youth involved in this program took away: organic collaboration between youth across borders is key to strengthening international understanding and ties.
The program in the participants’ words:
“Luka and I valued the experience: getting to know American teens, looking into homelessness and other traits of the city. From meeting with the companies and leaders, we realized that if you have a goal to achieve and you are doing everything to make it real, nothing is impossible. —Levan Gvineria, 10th Grade, School XXI Century, Tbilisi
“During the startup camp, I worked on problems that I’d never faced before which was a very rewarding experience for me as I had to collaborate with people of diverse cultures and ethnicities to form an understanding of those problems.” —Mariam Gogidze, 11th Grade, European School, Tbilisi
“I’ve never seen students gain so much wisdom in so few days.” —Irma Kalmakhelidze, English Teacher, School XXI Century, Tbilisi
On April 23, 2019, Georgian Association partner StartupGrind Tbilisi hosted an event at Tbilisi State Conservatoire which featured successful Georgian entrepreneur Valeri Chekheria, CEO of the Adjara Group Hospitality. The event attracted 500 attendees in Tbilisi and another 60 “virtually” through live stream in Zugdidi. Mr. Chekheria discussed the growing international recognition of Georgian brands. Many in attendance were Georgian startups as well as Georgian tourism and hospitality community representatives.
Startup Grind Tbilisi is dedicated to growing and fostering the startup community in Georgia. Networking is key to their efforts so the first hour of the event provided time for networking among startups, businesses, investors and ecosystem representatives. The networking session was followed by remarks by high level speakers from the US Embassy, Tbilisi City Hall, Georgian National Tourism Administration and private sector representatives. The key note speaker, Mr. Chehkia, is an author and manager of the successful Georgian hotel brand “Rooms” which has become a landmark in Tbilisi and elsewhere, with outstanding hotel interior design concepts. The key takeaways of his talk were what social responsibilities a business can bear for local community development, how big companies can avoid competing with local SMEs and instead stimulate their growth, and finally what should the management culture be that can lead to building a successful brand.
The next event is planned for May 25th in Tbilisi and will feature Lowell Ricklefs, an American businessman from Seattle, WA who launched his business Traction to help fellow entrepreneurs scale and sell their business. Mr. Ricklefs will conduct private advisory meetings with Georgian startups, and participate in a “fireside chat” with Startup Grind Tbilisi.
The Georgian Association is pleased to be able to partner with Startup Grind Tbilisi to help expand opportunities for the Georgian Startup community by linking them with possible mentors in the United States.
As part of its ongoing advocacy effort to raise the consciousness of issues important to Georgian Americans and their friends, on May 6, 2019, the President of the Georgian Association in the USA (GA), Elisabeth Kvitashvili, along with Board of Directors members, John Tsotne Dadiani, Veronika Metonidze, and Darina Markozashvili, met with Mr. Collin Davenport, Legislative Director, and Ms. Molly Cole, Legislative Assistant, of Representative Gerald Connolly’s office (U.S. House of Representatives, 11th District, Virginia). Rep. Connolly is the co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, along with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (U.S. House of Representatives, 16th District, Illinois). In January 2019, Rep. Connolly and Rep. Kinzinger introduced H.R. 598, also known as “Georgia Support Act,” in support of Georgia’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The Georgian Association thanked Rep. Connolly’s office for his continuing strong support to Georgia. The GA pressed to have the HR passed in 2019 if possible. In addition, we welcomed Congressional support for maintenance of assistance levels to Georgia (both civilian and military) for FYs 2019 and ’20. The discussion primarily focused on the continuing creeping annexation of Georgian territories by Russia and Russia’s violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
We followed the meeting on Capitol Hill with a May 8th meeting at the State Department. President Elisabeth Kvitashvili was joined by Board Member Darina Markozashvili, and together they raised concerns with Ms. Alicia Allison, Director, Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Mr. Aaron Rupert, Senior Georgia Desk Officer, and Mr. Christopher Hallett, Georgia Desk Officer. Although the discussion focused on the strong U.S.- Georgia bilateral relations, the GA expressed dismay that Georgia is yet to have a confirmed US Ambassador at post. The Department is hopeful a name may be forthcoming in the near future. The Department reaffirmed its support for robust levels of U.S. assistance in support of Georgia’s economic and democratic development but noted disappointment with Georgia’s judiciary. The Georgian Association updated State Department colleagues about the cultural and educational projects the Association is currently supporting.