Damian Green MP meets Georgian MPs to share UK experience of
engaging with constituencies
Trust Deputy Director Damian Green MP traveled to Georgia from the 24th-28th September on a mission
to share his experience as an active constituency MP with Georgian “majoritaire” MPs representing
local districts. The visit was sponsored by the International Association of Business and Parliament
as part of their peer-to-peer support programme. This aims to build professional links between Georgian
and European parliamentary practitioners. Mr. Green was accompanied by one of his constituents -
Trust Director Emma MacLennan – who added her own experience to the discussions on the role of
parliamentary researchers and other support for MPs. The visit was an opportunity to promote the work
of the John Smith Memorial Trust and to encourage applications to the 2007 Fellowship Programme.
L-R Emma MacLennan, Mr. Kote Gabashvili MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and
Damian Green MP at Seminar in Georgian Parliament
The Georgian parliament is currently undergoing constitutional change which will see a drop in the
overall number of Members of Parliament from 235 seats (of which 85 are majoritaire MPs representing
local areas and 150 are party list MPs) to 150 (50 majoritarians and 100 list MPs). The role of
majoritaire MPs is being redefined, moving away from a culture of local patronage to being more directly
accountable to constituents in representing their interests in government. Parliament, too, is gearing up
resources for Members. Support for MPs, such as research back-up, is particularly important to
opposition parties to enable them to perform effectively.
The IABP is playing an important role in Georgia in assisting this process. Much credit for this goes to
Archil Bakuradze, John Smith Fellow 2000, who is Executive Director of the IABP in Georgia and
Special Advisor to the Director of the IABP in London. The IABP have initiated excellent projects in
Georgia including a series of pre-legislative reviews to facilitate open discussion of draft legislation by all
principle stakeholders (Parliament, Government, business and civil society organisations). Their Peer-
to-Peer Support programme brings senior parliamentarians from across the IABP network to Georgia to
exchange experience in practical aspects of law-making, providing concrete examples of good practice.
Damian Green’s visit included a two-hour seminar in the Georgian Parliament aimed at MPs,
researchers and parliamentary staff. The seminar was chaired by Mr. Kote Gabashvili MP, Chairman of
the Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Green made a presentation on the ways in which British MPs relate
to their constituents and represent their interests. He described how they communicate – including via
surgeries, local meetings and through websites (his own was accessed and discussed at the seminar).
He gave examples of how MPs campaign on local issues and represent local interests in their
parliamentary work. He spoke of the role of lobby groups and local campaigns, and described the
casework regularly handled by MPs.
The second half of the meeting was a discussion of parliamentary research resources, parliamentary
oversight and the role of opposition parties in ensuring an effective democracy. Both subjects raised
many questions of interest both to MPs and the parliamentary staff who were present.
The seminar was well attended despite the demands of campaigning for local elections on October 5th.
Among those facing election this October is another John Smith Fellow, Gigi Ugulava, appointed by
President Saakashvili as Mayor of Tbilisi in July 2005. Gigi has introduced a number of ground-breaking
programmes in the Georgian capital, and his portrait was splashed across many of the buses and
buildings of Tbilisi.
Mayor Gigi Ugulava attending launch of rehabilitation works for the Georgian Underground network in
March 2006 – Source Prime News On-Line
The visit included a number of bilateral meetings with some key parliamentarians interested in the
development of local representation, including the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Mrs. Nino
Burjanadze, Mr. Aleko Shalamberidze MP, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for the Regions, Mr.
David Bakradze MP, Chairman of the European Integration Committee, Mr. Gia Khevaiashvili, Minister
for Refugees, Mrs. Maya Nadiradze MP, Leader of the Majority, Mr. Kakha Kukava MP, Leader of the
Conservative Party, Mr. Davit Usupashvili, Leader of the Republican Party and Ms. Tinatin Khidasheli,
Republican candidate for Leadership of Tbilisi City Council. The visitors also met representatives of
Transparency International Georgia, who are implementing a programme to build local resources for
majoritaire MPs and constituents.
Mr. Green and Emma MacLennan also had a roundtable discussion with members of the Budget Office
of the Georgian Parliament. The Director, Mr. Teimuraz Murgulia, and staff of the Budget Office asked
for a meeting with the visitors to discuss the ways in which the UK Government presents the annual
Budget and what information and analyses are available to Members of Parliament and the public as
part of this process. The discussion included the ways in which economic statistics are open to public
scrutiny and can be challenged or used in the UK by opposition parties, think tanks, academics and
The visit was greatly assisted by the support of the British Council Georgia and UK Embassy in
Tbilisi. Maia Kipshidze, acting Deputy Director of the British Council, hosted a very successful dinner for
John Smith Alumni on Sunday evening attended by many Fellows from different years. The dinner
resulted in a new coalition of Fellows who will link forces with George Kacharava (2001 Fellow) and
Gela Kvashilava (2006 Fellow) in their new National Road Safety Campaign which will be launched this
autumn. The dinner was attended by John Smith Fellowship Programme Weekend Retreat speaker
Mike Jempson, who as Director of the MediaWise Trust was invited to Georgia by UNICEF to train
journalists on child rights and the media. The British Council also organized a press conference about
the John Smith Fellowships in the Courtyard Marriott hotel to advertise the call for applications in
The British Ambassador to Georgia, HMA Donald MacLaren of MacLaren, added his active support
for the visit. He hosted a reception in his Residence for John Smith alumni and other UK alumni in
Georgia. Present at the reception were two Georgian Fellows who, until this visit, were included in our
list of “lost” Fellows. Zurab Abashidze (1998 Fellow) currently works as Head of Staff for the Abkhazian
Government (in exile), and Sandro Chelidze (1998) is Chief Advisor to the Department of State
Security in the National Security Council of Georgia. Ambassador MacLaren was very generous in
inviting Damian Green and Emma MacLennan to stay at the Residence during their visit.
Kutaisi - Mr. Giorgi Gegelashvili MP hosting roundtable for local government and civil society
representatives with Damian Green MP, Emma MacLennan and Archil Bakuradze, IABP
The final day of the visit was spent in Georgia’s second largest city, Kutaisi, again exploring the issue
of how MPs can support local economic development and represent the interests of local people and
businesses. The visit was hosted by Mr. Giorgi Gegelashvili MP and by the local office of the Speaker,
Mrs. Burjanadze. Mr. Gegelashvili is a Member of Parliament coming from the area and is Deputy
Chairman of the Committee on Healthcare and Social Issues. He presided over three consultative
meetings with representatives of local government (including the Governor of the Imereti Region and
the Major of Kutaisi), NGOs and local business people. The main topics of concern were the need for
local economic development and support for an active civil society.
Archil Bakuradze and Damian Green MP being interviewed about the John Smith Fellowships by local
media in Kutaisi
The John Smith Memorial Trust is enormously grateful to all the organisations and individuals who helped to
make this visit such a great success. These include the IABP, the British Council in Georgia, HMA Donald
MacLaren of MacLaren and the British Embassy in Tbilisi. Not least we would like to thank our John Smith
Fellows from Georgia who gave so much of their own time to assisting with the visit. Special thanks go to
Giorgi Kvaratskhelia, Programme manager for the International Association of Business and Parliament in
Georgia and to Maka Khurtsidze of the British Council Georgia for their tremendous support.
Further information on the IABP’s projects in Georgia can be obtained from www.iabp.org at the following link: