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Concept on National Minorities Finalized

Georgian Parliament will launch consideration of draft of Concept on Protection of National Minorities and Integration Policy, which, as the document says, aims at encouraging national minorities’ integration into the Georgian society.

The draft concept is basically based on international conventions on national minorities. Georgia has yet to ratify Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Ratification of these conventions is a commitment undertaken by Georgia while joining Council of Europe in 1999.

The document outlines those principles on which the state commits itself to implement protection of national minorities’ rights, as well as deals with the following issues: language; religion; education; media sources; engagement of national minorities in country’s social-political life and judiciary and prison systems. The document also deals with the right of minorities to self-identification and says that each person has the right to himself decide to which national minority group he, or she belongs.

The draft concept says that the representatives of the national minorities living in Georgia are “obliged to respect Georgian and Abkhaz nations, their history and traditions, as well as [to respect] representatives of other national minorities.”


Principles of Policy for Protection National Minorities’ Rights


The draft concept says that the protection of national minorities’ rights should be based on following principles: territorial integrity of Georgia; freedom of religion; participation in the integration process on the voluntary basis; guarantees of national minorities’ rights; strengthening of tolerance; leading role of the Georgian language and culture; cooperation with the international community in an attempt to avoid conflicts; observance of law by national minorities; banning activities triggering ethnic and religious hatred.


Language


According to the concept, each person has right to speak on its native minority language in both private and public life, but “good knowledge” of the Georgian language represents “a precondition for integration of the national minority representatives into the Georgian society.”


National minorities have right to erect banners, signs and other private inscriptions in both the minority and Georgian languages. On the territory of Abkhazia, along with Georgian and minority languages, Abkhaz languages should also be used in these occasions. According to the Georgian Constitution, together with the Georgian, Abkhazian is also the state language on the territory of Abkhazia.


In the regions, predominately populated by the ethnic minorities, traditional local names, names of the towns, streets and other public topographic signs can be located in the language of a minority and Georgian as well.


Education


In the regions, predominately populated by the ethnic minorities, the state guarantees to include the local minority language in the curriculum, according to the draft concept.


Representatives of respective national minorities should be engaged in the process of development of this curriculum.


National minority groups have right to establish private schools, which can apply for receiving grants from the state.


Mass Media


The draft concept says that the national minorities have right to establish private media sources. The state provides funding for those programs which are broadcasted on the national minority languages and are aired by the state-funded media sources.


Engagement of National Minority Groups in Social-Political Life


In an attempt to foster national minority groups’ integration and engagement in the social-political life, the draft concept says, that in the regions, predominately populated by the ethnic minorities, local languages can be used in the local self-governance bodies.


Judiciary, Prison Systems


In the event of arrest of representative of the national minority, the person should be notified about the reasons of detentions and his rights in a language which the person understands. National minority representatives have also the right to make their testimonies at court in their native language.


The draft concept also says that, “if possible” those inmates, who belong to the national minorities, should be placed in the same cells.


The document also outlines those measures which need to be implemented in order to meet the provisions of the concept.


• Georgian language learning programs;
• Employment program for those currently working for the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, which is pre-dominantly populated by ethnic Armenians;
• Creation of network of those organizations focusing on national minorities;
• Setting up of centers which will be in charge of publicizing Georgian and national minorities’ culture.

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