International Conference of Lawyers - Business and Human Rights
On November 10, 2023, the Georgian Bar Association (GBA), in collaboration with the European Bar Association, hosted an international conference for lawyers in Tbilisi focused on the theme of Business and Human Rights.
The conference received support from the USAID Rule of Law Program, UN Global Compact Georgia Network, the Office of the Council of Europe (CoE) in Georgia, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR).
Representatives from the bar associations of ten countries, along with the heads of the European Council of Bar Associations and Law Society (CCBE), the European Association of Lawyers (AEA-EAL) and International Bar Association (IBA), actively participated in the conference.
This initiative provided a unique platform, bringing together legal professionals from Eastern, Central, and Western Europe, as well as from countries in Central Asia and beyond. The primary goals were to foster knowledge development, exchange experiences, and establish a professional network to promote European values, the rule of law, and human rights.
Minister of Justice of Georgia, Rati Bregadze, opened the Conference and emphasized the state's positive obligation to protect the rights of both individuals and legal entities, citing improvements in labor legislation as an example. He affirmed the state's full support for businesses in terms of basic rights and the Ministry of Justice's commitment to align Georgian law with European legislation.
The opening remarks were also delivered by notable figures such as David Asatiani, Chairman of the GBA; Maria Ślązak, President of the European Association of Lawyers (AEA-EAL); Tinatin Genebashvili, Program Development Officer the Embassy of Sweden in Georgia; Natalia Voutova, Head of the CoE in Georgia; Lisa Kovack, Acting Director of the Office of Democracy, Rights, and Governance, USAID/Georgia; Vladimir Shkolnikov, Senior Human Rights Advisor for the OHCHR's South Caucasus Office; and Stanislaw Cieniuch, Solidarity Center Georgia Country Program Director.
"USAID is committed to supporting Georgia's path towards the EU, aiming to strengthen the country's economy, prosperity, and democracy. We endeavor to build a robust, independent, and transparent judicial system that ensures equal access for all. USAID stands firm in supporting societies grounded in the Rule of Law, recognizing the pivotal role of professional lawyers as crucial drivers for democratic development," stated USAID Georgia representative Lisa Kovak.
Davit Asatiani, GBA Chairman, remarked, "Over the past decade, we can confidently assert that Georgian advocacy has made significant strides. It has evolved into an independent, unified, and quality-oriented institution. Businesses require reliable and secure legal support, while simultaneously safeguarding human rights is imperative. Georgian lawyers exemplify high competence, respect, and a commitment to ethical principles in their representation."
Over 147 lawyers actively engaged in discussions covering a range of topics, including international and regional frameworks related to business and human rights, sustainable development, environmental trends, social issues, with a specific focus on labor rights. Furthermore, the USAID Rule of Law Program invited expert Jean-Marc Gollier made a presentation on climate and environment challenges intertwined with human rights. Mr. Gollier is a chair of Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) Environment and Climate Change Committee and a member of the Belgian Bar. The conference also featured an overview of the Council of Europe HELP Platform and an introduction to the HELP Business and Human Rights course.