Ambassador Kelly C. Degnan gave opening remarks at the launch of “Impartial Polling for Developing Citizen-Responsive Democratic Governance in Georgia,” a forum for promoting non-partisan public opinion polling as a key component of Georgia’s democratic development. A partnership between USAID and Ilia State University, the multi-week forum will build the capacity of Georgian polling organizations, establish a code of conduct to guide public opinion research, and raise awareness among the media, academic community, and political stakeholders about polling. In her opening remarks, Ambassador Degnan stressed the importance of independent, non-partisan public opinion polling for ensuring that political processes respond to the needs of citizens.
Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at USAID Organized Polling Forum
Q-n about the event
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I am very pleased to be here today for the first session of the public opinion Polling Forum which is partnership between Ilia State University and USAID. The forum is designed to build the capacity of non-partisan polling organizations to establish a code of conduct that will guide their work, and to help Georgian citizens better understand the important role that polling — non-partisan polling –plays in helping their views, their priorities be heard. The United States government views non-partisan independent polling as a critical part of building a democracy that better represents citizens’ priorities. And this is because polling is a way to get citizens views heard and it is a critical link to the communication between political leaders and citizens that they are designed to represent. So, we are very very pleased that this has been launched and we appreciate the partnership with Ilia State University on this important initiative. Thank you.
Q-n about the recent absurd statements regarding the bats and the Lugar Center, what would be your comment on this?
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I agree, it is clear that this is just another feeble attempt to try and create confusion and undermine the confidence that Georgians have in the work that is being done by Georgians at the Lugar Center and by the NCDC. I was just there this morning, the work is really inspiring. I was there for the graduation of two young very impressive Georgian scientists who’ve just completed an internship there, but having a tour of the center as a whole, it’s clear that this is something Georgians should be and can be very proud of. The way Dr. Gamkrelidze, Dr. Paata and their teams have handled this unexpected and unprecedented emergency is truly something that Georgians can be proud of.
Q-n about former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement that Georgia has a pro-Russian government, what would be your comment on this?
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: The United States has been working very closely with Georgia for the past almost thirty years in a wide variety of areas, as you know, and certainly in that time what we have seen in Georgia is a growing understanding and appreciation by Georgia and Georgian citizens of the destabilizing role that Russia wants to play in this country. The success story that is Georgian democracy seems to be very difficult for Russia to have right next door and I think that’s one of the main reasons why we see this kind of attempt to undermine the progress that Georgia has made. Certainly, in the time I’ve been here, we have worked very constructively with this government, as we have with previous governments, and the progress is clear. Georgia has made a remarkable progress: public health, education, security, economics, democratic development across the board. This is a true success story.
Q-n about Russian MFA’s recent statement accusing Georgia of provocative actions and the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi of provocative statements, what would be your comment on this?
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: The United States will continue to speak out, we will speak the truth and we will speak in support of Georgia’s right to defend its sovereignty, right to protect its territorial integrity, right to protect its citizens, and I don’t think there needs to be more to say about that. I find it ironic that Russia is criticizing Georgia regarding the IPRM mechanism that is in place to resolve disputes in the field, when in fact it has been Russia that has been the obstacle to activating the IPRM for quite some time. I think Georgia has made every effort to address these incidents immediately and safely and quickly and to protect its citizens as it has a right to do. Thank you very much.