Oxam’s social protection project began in Georgia in2005. Oxam worked with the Association o YoungEconomists o Georgia (AYEG) to gather inormationabout household poverty levels, and to advocate orchange in the government’s social aid system. Thissystem - income support (cash transers) and reehealth care – was previously ailing to reach some othe country’s poorest people.
Through monitoring, research and advocacy, AYEGand Oxam were able to infuence social policy, andas a result, the poorest and most vulnerable people’saccess to state benets. Adjustments were made tothe scoring methodology, as a consequence o thiswork, which resulted in an additional 34,000 amiliesbeing included in the national social assistance system.
Georgia, a lower middle-income country with apopulation o 4.5 million, gained independence in 1991ater the collapse o the Soviet Union. A period o unrestollowed, including a civil war lasting nearly three years.Disputed parliamentary elections in 2003, internationallyrecognised to be marred by raud, led to massive anti-government protests in most major towns and cities inGeorgia. This peaceul ‘Rose Revolution’ brought aboutthe election o a new government in 2004.Despite steady economic growth since 2004, livingstandards have ailed to improve. Relationships withneighbouring Russia have been tense. In 2008, militaryconict broke out when Russian troops intervened inGeorgia’s ongoing territorial dispute with South Ossetia.The cost o Georgia’s military has been a big drain onthe national budget – the Ministry o Deence is thegovernment’s biggest spender. The conicts o 1992 and2008 led to the introduction o expensive resettlementprogrammes, with the relocation o over 300,000people rom the conict aected areas. The economyalso suered rom the loss o export trade to Russia,previously one o Georgia’s biggest trade partners,mainly in agricultural produce. This has delivered asignifcant blow to the local economy, as 54 percento Georgia’s population depend on agriculture or theirlivelihoods. Ination has reached 15 percent, whichdisproportionately harms those with ewer resources. A large percentage o people remain poor. Ofcially athird o the population live in poverty, with 15 percento these living in ‘extreme poverty’. Civil societyorganisations, however, claim that these numbers area raction o the real picture, and have been slashedto portray government progress. The same is true,these groups claim, with unemployment fgures. Whilethe ofcial unemployment rate stands at 12.6 percent,many experts argue that real fgure is dramaticallyhigher, up to 60 percent in rural areas. Georgia’seconomic liberalisation has deepened inequalities.There is a clear divide between urban and rural dwellersin terms o access to resources, essential services andopportunities. In 2007, an average o 87 percent obenefciaries’ income was spent on ood, medicine andmedical services alone.
Oxam has been working in Georgia since 1993 invarious interventions, initially working with humanitarianprogrammes to assist Internally Displaced People(IDPs), but later ocusing on development programmesin health, livelihoods, Disaster Risk Reduction, andinstitutional accountability. Since 2002, Oxam hasbeen ocusing on a governance programme that workswith communities to develop their understanding odemocratic processes and practices and to build theircapacity to take part in democratic local governance.These initiatives included training communities tounderstand, analyse and monitor budgets and tounderstand their civic rights. As a result o Oxam’swork, public budget monitoring committees wereset up. These committees were designed to bothregularly track local budgets and to present communitypriorities to local government to inuence spending.To complement this work, Oxam worked with localgovernment ofcials, strengthening their understandingo the responsibilities that they hold and the legalenvironment in which they operate.
Rationale for implementing a socialprotection programme
Although market liberalisation and globalisation otrade has boosted economic development in Georgia,it has also widened the gap between the rich and poorand between men and women. Existing protectivemeasures, such as public welare and redistributivemechanisms, have been inadequate in the ace o risingincome inequalities.In the post-soviet era, Georgia inherited a categorybased targeting social aid system.
In this context,people received social aid according to their householdstatus, or example as IDPs, the chronically ill or people
Reversing extreme inequality is a key strategy in overcoming poverty and suering, enablingrights, and achieving social justice.
Well-designed social protection programmes can allow peoplethat are in transitory poverty
to seize opportunities created by economic growth and at the same time,protect such individuals and households rom alling back into poverty. This support is especiallyimportant or enabling poor women to overcome the multiple barriers that they ace in participating andleading in economic and political lie.
Oxam’s Programme Policy Guidelines on Social Protection