Joint Statement of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Working Group on People-to-People and Cultural Exchange (March 13)

The U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s Working Group on People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges met January 24 in Washington, DC to coordinate approaches on a range of critical bilateral issues.

The United States welcomed the Georgian government’s commitment to reforming and improving the education sector, including ongoing investments to sustain and build on the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  The Georgian side highlighted efforts to provide high-quality educational opportunities for Georgian youth, including minority populations, non-native Georgian speakers, and populations living in remote areas.  The sides agreed on the importance of robust civic education and critical thinking skills in fostering a vibrant democracy.  Both sides praised a new USAID education activity that will work with the Government of Georgia to promote student-centered instruction in primary education.  The sides welcomed an increase in the number of U.S. and other international students studying in Georgia and of plans to work towards international accreditation of higher education degree programs.

The United States reaffirmed its commitment to programs that support Georgia’s education sector and the preservation of Georgian religious and cultural heritage.  Both sides praised the unique and valuable role people-to-people exchange programs such as the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX), the Fulbright program, and others play in providing educational and professional development opportunities for Georgia’s youth.

The United States reaffirmed its strong commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.  The two sides shared concern about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the occupied territories of Georgia and violation of human rights and ethnic discrimination on the ground.  They stressed the negative humanitarian effects on the local population of Russian-backed restriction of freedom of movement, particularly in the case of long-term “crossing point” closures that have deprived the population of Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia of access to critical supplies and medical care. The sides stressed the urgent necessity of reopening the so-called crossing points without further delay, as well as making progress within the Geneva International Discussions on security, human rights, and humanitarian challenges stemming from the Russian occupation.  The United States applauded and pledged support for the Georgian government’s “A Step to a Better Future” peace initiative, which aims to facilitate people-to-people contacts and improve the lives of people residing in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.

The Working Group pledged to continue cooperation on strategic communications strategies, media literacy, and critical thinking programs that defend against aggressive Russian disinformation and propaganda and prevent polarization of Georgian society.  Both sides welcomed the decision of the U.S. Global Engagement Center (G.E.C.) to invite Georgia to join the GEC-IQ platform, which will enhance cooperation and strengthen Georgia’s resilience against Russian propaganda.  The Georgian government noted a whole-of-society approach to strategic communications would be adopted and executed in the near future.  The United States welcomed Georgian efforts to train strategic communications specialists and institute best practices across the Georgian government.

The Georgian government noted its 2020-2025 Civic Integration Strategy would be finalized soon.  The United States confirmed its support for Georgian government efforts to ensure all citizens enjoy the same rights and access to social, economic, and political systems.  The Georgian government praised and requested continuation of USAID programs in this area.