Giorgi Dzneladze Coalition For Independent Living Chairperson

My name is Giorgi Dzneladze and my path through life has been largely determined by an incident, which divided it into two parts: before and after the wheelchair.

About me

Before this particular moment, I was an ordinary youngster who had dreams and followed personal aspirations. At that time, I was unaware that this this occurrence would serve as a catalyst and thrust me into the route full of challenges and opportunities beyond my imagination. I entered into adulthood with an unexpected companion – my wheelchair, which has become an integral part of my life. While adapting to a new condition, my family provided considerable support and I underwent treatment for recovery throughout several years. It was during this period, in a sanatorium for wheelchair-users in Crimea, when I realised that the key to improving the lives of persons with disabilities lies in the unity and collective advocacy for our rights. I ceased the treatment and shifted from being a patient to embracing life as a citizen.

In 1994, there were approximately 20 non-governmental organisations focusing on disability. By 1996, their number had increased to several dozen. In 1997, on the initiative of myself and my associates, the Coordination Council of Persons with Disabilities was established, uniting 21 organisations working on disability topics. The proactive engagement of these organisations with the Government of Georgia (GoG), yielded significant results. Specifically, the GoG implemented a specialised economic mechanism in 1998–1999 that was aligned with the international law. This development demonstrated tangible outcome of cooperative endeavours between the non-governmental organisations and government for supporting the persons with disabilities.

In 2003, the above group of organisations underwent significant transformation, united under one umbrella and adopted the name “Coalition for Independent Living” (CIL). CIL brought together approximately 30 non-governmental organisations dedicated to disability. The story of our organisation exemplifies the unity, perseverance, and positive impact of collective action. We did not just focus on individuals; we worked on building the groups and organisations of persons with disabilities and fostered the mobilisation of the disability community. During this time, numerous initiatives were launched in Georgia aiming at improving the lives of persons with disabilities and promoting their inclusion into the society.

CIL actively cooperated with USAID to strengthen the capacity of the non-governmental organisations and bring about positive change. In early 2010, CIL took the lead and organised the first disability forum in Georgia. CIL had a crucial role in creating disability rights legislative framework and standards in Georgia. It has pioneered innovation, introducing camps for wheelchair users and promoting the philosophy of independent living. Through partnerships and years of dedication, we have successfully established the first three Independent Living Centers (ILC) in Georgia. With our support, three more ILCs were established. Later, we have also led efforts to develop the ILC standards which was approved by the GoG.

In addition to the above efforts, notable accomplishments include the introduction of the personal assistant service, development of standards of home-based care and mobile group services for persons with psychosocial needs, as well as the preparation and submission of alternative reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee). Through our intensive communications with CRPD Committee, we ensured that the voices and perspectives of persons with disabilities of Georgia were heard, which can inform the policy-making process at the global level. By maintaining regular cooperation with countries in central Asia, we exchange experience and best practices, collaborate on policy development, and support each other in addressing the unique challenges faced by disability communities in our countries. We actively take part in the conferences organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Our involvement with the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) of which we are a proud member, and associate membership of the European Disability Forum, showcase our dedication to international partnerships and events. We have played a pivotal role in launching the first advanced physical rehabilitation center in Georgia. Moreover, I regularly observe international exhibitions and fairs to stay up to date on the latest assistive devices and bring new technology to Georgia. I have also led efforts to develop and set standards of assistive technologies and devices.

Originating as a grassroots initiative in the 1990s, our mission has not changed, it is all about supporting independence, fostering inclusivity, and making positive changes for persons with disabilities in Georgia.

The establishment of the CIL in 2003 was a critical moment, giving rise to joint initiatives, legislative advancements and the launch of innovative programmes, such as Independent Living Centers. As we continue to be at the forefront of technology and legislative improvements, we are committed to building a more inclusive and accessible future for persons with disabilities in Georgia and beyond.

Video Message

Girogi Dzneladze's Positions on Three Issues

Respecting the autonomy of the person with disabilities in the family

The family, at its core, is a very sensitive and delicate topic that goes beyond the boundaries of the cultural context. This issue is particularly relevant to the families of persons with disabilities, where maintaining a balance between love, care, and emotional abuse is extremely volatile. This is especially true in my country and other countries with a similar cultural context, where family plays a crucial role in the personal development and daily life of a person with a disability. In such closeness, it is necessary to maintain a healthy dynamic so that the relationship with family members for a person with disabilities does not become a kind of trap where the autonomy of the person is denied and requirements relevant to gender and age are not taken into account. To prevent the above, it is crucial to recognise the innate potential of each individual from an early age and to raise awareness that persons with disabilities deserve autonomy, independence, and personal growth on an equal basis with others from an early age. This cannot be achieved without strong support systems for people with disabilities and their families.

Employment

Work and employment are the basis of personal development and well-being. Therefore, the objective of the states should be to implement policies that support the creation of an inclusive work environment and ensure that all persons with disabilities have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the building and development of society. Despite the fact that countries, using various mechanisms, try to eliminate the work- and employment-related challenges of persons with disabilities, the issue still remains a challenge. In a highly competitive environment, people with disabilities still find it difficult to realise their potential on an open market. In order to overcome this challenge, I believe it is necessary to develop a complex approach. First of all, the states need to create a comprehensive strategy and a clear-cut multidimensional mechanism that can simultaneously remove the employment-related challenges for persons with disabilities, resulting in their economic empowerment and independence.

Political participation

Having a voice and an opportunity to express it is at the core of citizenship. This has a deep symbolic meaning because it recognises the individual as a valuable citizen who can contribute to society and shape its path. Participation in the political process means that our voice is as important as anyone else's. This allows us to feel like a full-fledged member of society. Persons with intellectual disabilities are often deprived of this choice. Their political participation is of great importance for creating an inclusive and fair, democratic society. Promoting the inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities in the political process is not just a civil rights issue. This is a fundamental step towards building the representative democracy towards which our society must strive.

Recommendations

What others say about me

He is one of the best educated persons on the UN treaty I know of. It is this ‘situation sense’ that makes for an outstanding member of the UN committee (any UN Committee) and Mr. Dzeladze has this in abundance as is demonstrated by his record. Mr. Dzeladze has already been active at the international level on the UN disability treaty. He deeply understands the international process and has already interacted intensively with the UN CRPD Committee in Geneva. His ready acquaintance with the international system is a huge asset. He is therefore ready to make a contribution from the outset. The treaty body works best when it works pragmatically and non-ideologically and when it spots opportunities to build on change. This has been Mr. Dzeladze’s strength. If nominated and elected he would join a select group who can best articulate international standards and apply them responsibly to help drive change. He would put Georgia on the map where it truly deserves to be as a model post-Soviet State. In short, I support the application of Mr. Dzeladze for the high honour of nomination because of the level and depth of his understanding of international norms and institutions, because of his outstanding experience in using these norms to help drive the process of change in Georgia, because of his keen understanding of the problematics of post-Soviet States and because of his high standing in European disability policy circles. All of which would be assets on the UN treaty body. All of which would bring great credit to Georgia as acountry looking to the future.

- Gerard Quinn
Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with disabilities

Giorgi Dzneladze takes an active part in the activities of the International Union of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities in the post-Soviet space, cooperates with UN structures in promoting the provisions of the UN Convention at the international level, and has experience working with UN structures. He has participated in many events organised by the UN. He is a highly skilled professional in the field of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, enjoying well-deserved authority among members of the International Union of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities. He possesses character traits such as decency, kindness, and a willingness to always come to the rescue in a difficult moment. I express the collective opinion of the members of the International Union of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities regarding the unequivocal support for the candidature of Giorgi Dzneladze, proposed by the Government of the Republic of Georgia for nomination as a representative to the UN Committee.

- Vasyl Nazarenko
International Union of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities Chairperson

Work experience

Project

Civil Society’s Coordinated Advocacy for Implementing Disability Rights Commitments in Georgia

December 2022 –April 2025

European Union

Strengthen civil society organisations to monitor and contribute to the implementation of the international and national disability rights legislation and policies and promote fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities more effectively

Project

Advocacy for the Implementation of Disability Law

October 2022 - September 2024

To Empower Georgian Organizations of Persons with Disabilities to effectively advocate for equal treatment under the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Georgia and support efforts to discourage discriminatory practices.

Project

Independent Living Program in Georgia

October 2020 – December 2024

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Support independent living of persons with disabilities through evidence-based advocacy and sustainable service provision in accordance with CRPD Article 19. The project envisages supporting the establishment of six Independent Living Centers in six municipalities of Georgia.

Project

Civil Society Action for Promoting Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Georgia

February 2021 – January 2023

European Union

Develop capacity of civil society organizations to enhance access to justice and eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities including women with disabilities and those belonging to ethnic minority groups through effective advocacy and development of the legal services in Tbilisi and the regions of Adjara and Kakheti

Project

Supporting Persons with Disabilities during Covid-19 Crisis

May 2020 – January 2021

European Union

To provide individualized support to persons with disabilities and provide access to disability-specific information to overcome barriers caused by COVID-19.

Project

Physical Rehabilitation Program in Georgia

September 2017 – September 2021

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

To expand access to quality, affordable physical rehabilitation services and assistive technologies in Georgia.

Project

Disability Legal Advocacy Project

July 2015 – December 2016

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

To support implementation of UNCRPD and national laws through capacity building of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and legal services development in Tbilisi and the regions of Imereti, Guria, Samegrelo and Adjara.

Project

Disability Advocacy Project

September 2012 – November 2014

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

To strengthen Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in Tbilisi, Guria, Samegrelo, Imereti and Adjara to effectively include women, men and children with disabilities in development programs in their communities.

Project

Supporting Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

November 2006 – February 2011

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

To foster the conditions for equal opportunities and full participation of persons with disabilities in political, economic and social life of Georgia.;