In response to the petition initiated by a group of active citizens supported by EWMI ACCESS Citizen Outreach Grant (COG) recipient Civil Society Insisitute (CSI), Batumi now has one more recreational area, where local residents can spend their free time. On February 15, 2018, the members of the Batumi Municipality Council (i.e. Sakrebulo) endorsed the petition granting recreational status to three non-agricultural land plots on Javakhishvili Street.
The Batumi branch of CSI began working with civic-minded citizens, including youth, last year. After initial trainings and other capacity-building in civic engagement and advocacy techniques, CSI assisted the group of local activists in organizing open meetings with the residents of all 13 districts of Batumi to identify their most pressing problems. These meetings, held under the slogan Your Voice in the City Council, revealed numerous problems, including a lack of green public spaces and recreational zones in the city.
In response, the civic initiative group developed a petition to the Batumi Sakrebulo requesting granting of the recreational status to the non-agricultural land plots on Javakhishvili Street, so that locals could use this space for recreational purposes.
The group mobilized the local citizens from round the plot-land area, secured the legally mandated number of signatures, and submitted the petition to the Batumi Sakrebulo in February 2017.
The Batumi Sakrebulo took over one year to review the petition. Throughout this period, the Batumi branch of CSI, along with the active citizens’ group, persistently advocated for the positive resolution of the issue through attending all Sakrebulo hearings, working closely with the Civil Advisory Council attached to the Sakrebulo, and using every other opportunity to voice citizens’ strong support.
Thanks to these efforts, in February 2018, the Batumi Saktrebulo approved the petition request and officially upheld the recreational function of the square, thus protecting it from external interventions, including but not limited to an apartment block construction.
The CSI project has thus set an important precedent of a successful citizen engagement in the local decision-making process and additionally, encouraged some of the involved activists to join the Civil Advisory Cuncil at the Batumi Sakrebulo.