Prohibition of foreign funding of NGOs discussed in Georgian Parliament
A legislative initiative, which prohibits non-governmental organisations from being financed from abroad, was presented at the sitting of the Legal Issues Committee of Parliament.
It stipulates that the court may, upon request by the government, prohibit a public association from being financed by a foreign state, a foreign entrepreneurial/ non-profit organization or a foreign citizen, should catering to the interests of the grantor contravene Georgia’s interests.
Zviad Tomaradze, head of the Georgian Demographic Society 21, initiated the bill in parliament on 23 March.
Tomaradze is known for his anti-liberal attitude and supports the constitutional entry that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He also opposed the “Kazantip” festival, considering the event as promoting depravity. He also supports the banning of abortion.
Tomaradze believes that a number of NGOs operating in Georgia act against the interests of the state. He named several such organizations as an example:
“The Telavi Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) openly bears the following inscription: Do not get married, a husband is an abuser. Would you consider that an anti-state act against the backdrop of a demographic catastrophe existing in the country? I believe it is”- Tomaradze says. He also spoke about Transparency International Georgia winning a dispute in the Constitutional Court in 2013, which lifted the moratorium on selling agricultural land to foreign nationals.
“There are other cases of NGOs accusing the Georgian nation of a lack of tolerance, abuse of religious and sexual minorities and inadequate state protection of their rights, in an effort to attract grants.
“We are fully entitled to regard them as champions, or, formal scouts if you will, on behalf of the interests of foreign states and major organizations,” – Tomaradze told the Legal Issues Committee.
The MPs had different stances, part of them supporting the initiative, part of them contradicting it. An MP, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, said that somebody’s dislike of an NGO’s relation with its sponsors is not a sufficient argument to justify the prohibition.
Discussion of the issue has not been completed and has been postponed. At the 11 May meeting, a staff member of the Legal Issues Committee explained that the initiative of Tomaradze was inadequate, as it contained vague phrases making it impossible to define the content.
In addition, the staff member noted that the relevant entry already exists in the legislation, and if anyone believes that certain rights are violated, they are free to apply to the court.
The court may prohibit a public association that aims to overthrow the constitutional system, inducing forced changes, and infringing upon the independence and the territorial integrity of the country, as well as an organization engaged in war or violence propaganda, provoking national, racial, religious or social hatred; one that creates or has already created an armed formation, and resuming its activities after the suspension imposed by the court.