Working for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia: First impressions

Francesca Gottardi started working at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia on May 28. Photo: Francesca Gottardi., Jul 03, 2018, Tbilisi, Georgia

It is always interesting to get an inside look from foreigners in Georgia - especially if they should be working in an organisation such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Francesca Gottardi is a law graduate from the University of Trento, Italy, with a master's degree in European and International Law. She recently graduated from the LL.M. Program in American and International Law at the University of Cincinnati. 

Francesca is working at the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs over the summer, through a fellowship of the University of Cincinnati Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

Life at the ministry is hectic, there is always something going on. The feeling is one of being someplace where things happen, among highly qualified people whose decisions will have a direct impact on the lives of many.

I started working at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Georgia on May 28. Here at the ministry I work for Deputy Minister Natia Mezvrishvili, in close connection with the Human Rights Protection Department.

The latter is in charge of domestic violence, violence against women, hate crime, crimes based on discrimination, human trafficking and juvenile crime. My first assignment was to conduct research on cybercrime, specifically on the issue of cyberbullying and cyberstalking. I am now researching the role of police officers in international legislation, particularly related to juveniles and protected groups.

Francesca Gottardi (left) with the Deputy Minister Natia Mezvrishvili (right). Photo: Francesca Gottardi. 

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, among other things, oversees the police force. From what I have witnessed so far, the functions of the police in Georgia are similar to Europe and the United States: safeguarding public safety and maintaining civil order. I particularly appreciate how the MIA is actively working to adopt a new approach, one that is more proactive rather than reactive. According to the latest reforms, an intelligence-led policing model will be implemented, shifting the focus to crime prevention. To do so, the ministry is in the process of executing community-oriented policing as a pilot project in Tbilisi.

A difference between the U.S. and Georgia is that the police here in Georgia is centralized under the MIA, while in the U.S. there is no centralized police force. Nonetheless, many federal entities have law enforcement arms, the most well-known of which are under the Department of Justice (i.e. FBI).

Francesca Gottardi enjoying the view of Tbilisi from ancient Narikala fortress. Photo: Francesca Gottardi.

The effort that the government is making to conform with European guidelines and legislation is noticeable. This speaks to the values and principles that Georgians and Europeans share, even at the institutional level. A tangible example of this is the 2017 successful implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan between the EU and Georgia that brought these two realities even closer.

The atmosphere at work is very positive, and one of cooperation. Something that positively caught my attention is the high number of young women in high-level positions. Natia is one of them, and she is of great inspiration for me. I share the office with Natia’s secretary, who is also a lawyer. Through her, I rapidly got to know other young women in the government, and this adds to my feeling very comfortable at work.

Francesca Gottardi with the co-workers at the celebration of the Police Day in Georgia. Photo: Francesca Gottardi.

I work Monday through Friday, full-time. This leaves me with the evenings and weekends free to explore the city and its surroundings. I do so with Natia, her sister and my new friends. I feel very lucky to have people who were born and raised in Georgia as my guides, in that they show me incredible places. So far, I particularly enjoyed the view from Narikala Fortress, the magnificent Holy Trinity Cathedral and Old Tbilisi. I have also enjoyed the culinary experience, as the cuisine here is truly amazing! So far, my favorite food is khachapuri.

Sharing some khachapuri with Georgian friends. Photo: Francesca Gottardi.

I did not know much about Georgia – or Sakartvelo – before I came here. This makes my experience even more interesting, as I feel I am learning so much every day! I was a bit concerned about the language barrier prior to my departure, as I do not speak Georgian. Turns out, language has never been a problem in my interactions. Most Georgians have at least a basic knowledge of English, and in the workplace everybody has a good command of English.

Surprisingly enough, I use German pretty often as well, I found that some Georgians feel more comfortable with it. My experiences with communicating with others here in Georgia has, in my view, proven the proverb "Where there is a will, there is a way” especially true.

Despite my pre-departure concerns, in Tbilisi I feel very safe. Getting around the city is pretty easy, I can walk everywhere, or take the metro. Deputy Minister Natia has a personal driver, who helps me get round the city in a safe fashion for work-related purposes.

I could not be happier for having had the honor of being a part of this experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share it with you!