Georgia to host its 1st opinion festival, inspired by Estonia's model

  • 2023-09-08
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Organized in cooperation with Estonian non-profit organization Mondo, an opinion festival to be held in Tbilisi will bring together hundreds of people from Georgia's civil society, government agencies and private companies this Saturday to discuss important social issues.

"The future of Georgia is uncertain today. On the one hand, a large majority of the population desires further integration with Europe, and the country has also submitted an official application to join the European Union. On the other hand, there is a worrying neutral position in the current Georgian government towards Russia in the ongoing full-scale war against Ukraine, as well as domestic developments restricting freedom of speech and civil society. There is immense value in the freedom of speech and action that we experience in Estonia while working in a non-governmental organization. The journey here has been long and included the democratic development of the state, the tolerance of differing opinions, the ability to listen to each other, and the peaceful discussion of complex topics as a society. The opinion festival format supports all of this, and we see the need for it also in Georgian society," Triinu Ossinovski, a board member of Mondo, said.

The festival in Tbilisi this Saturday will be opened by Estonia's Ambassador to Georgia Riina Kaljurand. During the festival, discussions will be held on five stages on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to democracy. For example, current challenges facing Georgian youth, the role of bicycles in Tbilisi's urban culture, the limits of the rights of law enforcement agencies, and international responsibility in the light of Russian aggression will be discussed.

"It's no secret that Georgia is becoming increasingly polarized politically. It is a great danger to our country, as it creates misunderstandings and tensions within society. The opinion festival is an important step in alleviating these tensions. We have many topics to discuss together, regardless of each person's political views. The opinion festival, as a unique platform, is suitable for such mutual dialogue," said Mikheil Lazginiani from the organization World of Tolerance, which is organizing the Tbilisi opinion festival.

In cooperation with Mondo, two opinion festivals will be held in Georgia this fall, one in Tbilisi and another on Oct. 20 in Zugdidi, organized by Mondo's long-term partner Association Merkuri. The opinion festivals in Georgia are part of a Mondo project funded by the Estonian Center for International Development (ESTDEV).