Joint Statement of the 2016 U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Working Group on People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges (January 9)
The U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s Working Group on People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges met December 19 in Tbilisi to advance cooperation in the areas of public outreach, education, health, confidence building and cultural and sports exchanges. Both sides affirmed the strong people-to-people ties between the United States and Georgia, and agreed to continue working together to strengthen strategic communications within the Georgian government, and to showcase the benefits of Georgia’s choice to join European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.
The United States reaffirmed its strong commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence within its internationally recognized borders. The United States also expressed support for the reconciliation and confidence building policy of the Georgian government and its work to expand outreach and services to the residents of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia as well as to the regions of Georgia densely populated by ethnic minorities. Both sides agreed on the value and importance of people-to-people engagement to build relationships and advance reconciliation.
The Working Group agreed to further enhance cooperation in the area of strategic communications, in particular, through capacity building, planning and implementing joint projects as well as via providing technical and expert assistance with respect to strategic partnership priorities.
Both delegations affirmed the importance of cooperation across all levels of education and access to quality education for all Georgians, especially those living in remote areas. With that goal in mind, the parties agreed to enhance support to develop entrepreneurial learning as well as to implement ongoing general and vocational education reforms.
The parties also agreed to provide technical assistance to develop the “Study in Georgia” program, aimed at attracting foreign students and improving the quality of higher education in Georgia for both Georgian and foreign students. With that goal in mind, the parties agreed to support the process of internationalization of the quality assurance mechanisms in Georgia with the involvement of U.S. experts from accreditation boards, further develop distance learning opportunities, and to strengthen university-to-university linkages to enable faculty exchanges and dual, double, or joint degree programs.
To further enhance people-to-people contacts, the sides agreed to strengthen U.S. sponsored student and professional exchange programs (including from vocational institutions) through diverse grant programs supported by United States, and to enhance cooperation between U.S. and Georgian universities, vocational institutions, and scientific foundations. Highlighting the importance of the memorandum of understanding signed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in July 2016, the parties agreed to increase scholarships for Fulbright students. Additional support will be provided to encourage consortium programs and training for the top management level of the civil services sector.
The United States will continue to assist Georgian workforce development through strategic investments in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The parties also agreed to promote scientific cooperation between scientific foundations, institutions and with the private sector to facilitate joint research and activities.
The parties agreed to strengthen the relationship between the film industries of both countries through education and knowledge based approaches and promotional activities. The sides highlighted the importance of the film industry in inclusive economic growth, especially in youth employment and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector development in the high mountain regions of Georgia.
The sides agreed that the development of municipal youth work is an important tool for promotion of participation of youth in the local decision making process. The parties also stressed attention to the development of a sports culture in Georgia, to include sports education and management.
The United States thanked Georgia side for its early and continued involvement with the Global Health Security Agenda and for its longstanding partnership with the United States on health security issues.
First Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia David Zalkaliani, First Deputy State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Petre Kankava, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Benjamin Ziff and USAID Assistant Administrator Thomas O. Melia co-chaired the Working Group, which also included the participation of a broad group of interagency partners of both countries.
The U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission is the primary mechanism for organizing and prioritizing the broad and deepening cooperation between the United States and Georgia. The Commission includes four bilateral working groups on priority areas identified in the Charter on Strategic Partnership: democracy and governance; defense and security; economy, trade, and energy; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges.