Representatives of some Georgian local authorities, those who wish to prolong their influence and keep offices, practice the creation of youth GONGOs with the aim to get more votes among young people. GONGOs are NGOs created by the government. They participate in domestic and international events and call for proposals claiming to be democratic representatives of Georgian youth. These GONGOs take the space of youth NGOs (especially the ones that impact through bringing youth work) and create artificial competition in the field. This type of policy narrows the space for regional small NGOs and contributes to the disappearance of them as they are unable to cope with the pressure and restrictions coming to them with limited access to funds and human resources.
GONGOs VS youth work organizations։ who wins?
In my country (Georgia) the government is shrinking youth organisations’ and young people’s spaces by trying to invade as many sectors as possible. In case of youth spaces, I see the government’s interference in the youth sector by creating youth proxy organizations, or directly doing youth work via their youth departments and thus competing with existing youth structures by shrinking the independent (politically free, not affiliated to the parties) spaces for young people.
Georgia is a post-soviet country and till now most of the political parties do not share the democratic values - the tradition of the communist party still exists, it is the same as 30 years ago, where the ruling party tries to establish proxy or associated youth organizations funded by the state budget and thus increase the voters during the elections.
As a youth worker and member of a youth organization, I consider it a shrinking space when the government is competing with your organization; you are automatically in a poor position as the resources of the government seem unlimited in comparison with any youth organization.
Each municipality has its youth department. Whenever we go to the regions for implementing youth work activities or opening a youth club/centre, the competition is starting. It also goes along with the process of discrediting the youth work NGOs. When you start as a youth organisation to grow, your opportunities are getting limited, the authorities start to challenge your work. We have recently experienced the situation, where they scared the young people through their parents and their party members not to attend our youth clubs, not to join our educational activities, etc. Apart from this, they use youth to join their parties’ youth wings but as decoration without any real participation in the decision making. They not only make trouble for us as real youth-oriented organizations that have no political affiliation but also use those regional youth and make them not take part in our activities.
In many cases, young people either are very politicised in Georgia or are making money through the youth field. Cooperation with Municipalities for local NGOs is getting more and more difficult and challenging, which leads to the consequence where the smallest local NGOs disappear as they are unable to cope with the pressure and restrictions.