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Full text of Presentation by Catherine Philpott, Chair of the Newport Kutaisi Association to the 19th Annual Georgian Studies Day, London 4 December 2006






It is with great pleasure that I have this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Newport Twinning Association at this conference today. To be able to tell you what we do in Newport in South Wales regarding raising awareness and strengthening links with our twinned sister city of Kutaisi – Georgia’s second city in size after Tbilisi.

We have now a legacy of 17 years of close cooperation with that city, strong friendships ties have been formed, exchange visits and expertise in a wide variety of skills in many fields have been undertaken over these years and considerable progress has been made.

Activities of Newport Kutaisi Association 2006


COMMUNICATION is our buzz word for this year. To speak to people, to write, to interact is the key to greater understanding and herein lies our success. Compared to our early years the method of communicating, has improved as indeed it has world wide, quite beyond belief - such is the wonder of the web, the internet – e-mailing across borders, across nations has made it easier by far to make things happen. Results can be instant – no waiting weeks for the mail. There is immediacy now despite the distance that divides Georgia & Wales.

The one great leap forward for us, therefore, was the setting up of a brand new website.

Here can be found all our past history the how, the when & the why. What our aims & objectives are and I urge you all to log on and catch us. Thanks to an imaginative web designer, Dave Mayer, we have, I think, one of the most dramatic and interesting sites that is devoted to the link the Association & the City of Newport has with the City of Kutaisi.

In order to promote this site, to promote NKA & its current activities we have also produced a simple newsletter Arielonline – here today so no going home without one!.

So what have we been doing & what we are planning to do? There are two major areas.

EveryChild Project

A visit was made to Kutaisi by us in early 2005 under the auspices of EveryChild. The purpose was to see at first hand a pilot project that is supporting the government’s deinstitutionalisation programme of children placed in orphanages. We were told that there was a real need for formal Social Work training with recognised accreditation & that training in this field in Georgia is in its infancy.

This was something, together with Newport City Council, we felt was an area we could give support. The Training Team of Newport’s Social Services Dept agreed to organise a nine day intensive training programme in Newport in June of this year.

With sponsorship and practical support from members & friends we were able to bring over a team of five key social workers who underwent an intensive few days of training in Child Welfare. They learnt of the new legislations that are being brought in by the Welsh Assembly and the provision for children in care – a wide ranging course.

They met with the Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales together with Welsh Assembly members in Cardiff, representatives of the National Occupational Standards for Social Workers, the Assistant Children’s Commissioner and they reviewed the Social Work Degree programme at University of Wales, Newport

We are grateful to both Newport City Council and the University for their cooperation and support.

It proved highly successful and we are looking forward now to maintaining the momentum.

To do this we plan in January to send a documentary photographer out to Kutaisi to cover the progress being made with the new governmental Child Welfare reforms that are being put in place – to cover the work of the Education & Social Services Dept of Kutaisi, to depict a positive & respectful picture of daily life of social workers who work with children who are being returned to their birth homes, or being placed into foster care or adoption. Their placement in orphanages was often due to poverty - the inability of families to feed their children.

Following on from this we plan in early summer to have an exhibition in Newport of the photographs taken. This will not only raise awareness of the people of Newport as to what is being done but will, more importantly form a bridge or a link to the proposed return visit to Kutaisi, hopefully in September 2007 by senior social service officers from Newport. These to deliver a follow-up training programme.

Local Democracy Agency in Georgia

For several years we have been in support of the establishment of a Local Democracy Agency (LDA) in Georgia. The Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA) arranged a meeting in Strasbourg in February to finalise details of the establishment in Kutaisi of the first LDA office in Georgia. Over the past 10 years ALDA has had much experience in Europe establishing LDA offices in the newly formed states of former Yugoslavia. It is intentional that all these offices are based outside capitals cities so that to promote regional rather than central government.

ALDA opened its first office in the Caucasus, in Kutaisi, on 8 September 2006.

We were represented both by Newport City Cllr. David Mayer, Clare Evans, NCC Officer for European Affairs and our Vice Chair Bernard Tyson. This Kutaisi LDA office with a newly democratically appointed delegate/manager will focus its work on the participation of citizens in the decision-making process, the strengthening of local democracy and the promotion of human and minority rights.

It will have, like the other eleven LDA offices in South East Europe, a solid European and local partnership support. The cities involved in the activities for the next three years are: Newport City Council which is named as the lead partner, Monfalcone in Italy and Nantes in France.

At a local level, both the cities of Kutaisi and Tbilisi, the National Association of Local Authorities, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and our sister Twinning Association in Kutaisi all support the LDA. It is very likely that other international and national partners will join the network of the Agency in the months to come.

It is very early days and we wish them well in what lies ahead.

Social calendar

We are now putting in place a good social calendar for 2007 – again information to be found on the web & newsletter –everyone is most welcome to cross the bridge & join us. You will be warmly received.

Powerpoint: Examples of various NKA web pages
Arielonline - 2 page spread
Social programme 2006-2007