As a participant in the 2011 John Smith Fellowship programme, Ghia Abashidze was in London again last month to attend a follow up event for the 2011 fellows. Nicholas Maltby was on hand to listen to his presentation on how he used his fellowship experience in his country Georgia and later put some questions to him about his career.
In your presentation, you compared the benefits of the John Smith Memorial Fellowship program to those of lighting a candle, which in turn provides potential to light countless other candles. What have you personally achieved during the past year?
The fellowship gave me access to insights of British politics, leadership skills and the ways to achieve those leadership skills; and also I was able to share the media environment that I experienced with my colleagues back in Georgia. My country is slowly building up democratic civil society. Any small light to light the darkness of post-Soviet space is extremely helpful.
I drafted a small handbook on leader’s skills in Georgian, and based on that conducted training for young party activists. Additionally, I, together with other colleagues and friend,s created intensive discussion e-platforms in the social space and it is gradually expanding.
You were formally press officer to the president. Why did you move away from national politics?
Actually, my position was not a political one. I did lots of reporting and acquired enormous experience on the working mechanism of the President’s administration. However, almost any person is career-orientated. Opportunity appeared and I moved to the state gas corporation and worked there as the chief of press & protocol department. That assignment was quite challenging as well. By that time Georgia was negotiating Azeri gas transiting issues in the frame of various international energy projects. However, after exhausting my potential in the corporation I moved to the international organizations’ pitch and built up my career and skills as a media analyst, and then a political analyst.
Your follow-up presentation mentioned the value of persuading ‘elites’ of effective policy, and thereby gaining their support. Who are these elites?
I am basically targeting the emerging young generation that is about to enter, or is in, politics. That generation did not experience Soviet past but sometimes is influenced by elderly colleagues who have mostly limited understanding of Western values. I try my best to work on the hearts and minds of those young people and make them persistently thirsty for acquiring the knowledge of real democracy and genuine civil society values.
What did you learn from the John Smith Memorial Trust fellowship Program?
Everything starts from the social justice…
Photo: Ghia Abashidze, with Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former Director of Communications, in London during the 2011 John Smith Fellowship programme.
Nicholas Maltby interviewed Ghia Abashidze for links-dar.org.
Around three hundred mid-career professionals from the Former Soviet space have over the last fifteen years participated in the annual John Smith Fellowship Programme, established in 1996 to honour the memory of the much respected British statesman. Amongst them are MPs, senior government officials, human rights activists and journalists.
The John Smith Memorial Trust is a cross-party initiative, and the Fellowship Programme is aimed at the next generation of leaders in a number of the independent republics that were previously part of the Soviet Union – young people of proven ability and real attainments, regardless of their political background.
More information on the John Smith Memorial Trust is available at www.johnsmithmemorialtrust.org.