On December 9, 2014 the South Caucasus Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted the Forum OUT OF THE CRYSTAL CASTLE – ACADEMIA, SOCIETY AND POLITICS for young academicians and civil society activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Forum was organized in the end of the third working meeting – the Autumn School of the HBF 2014 scholars and it marked the transformation that the HBF Regional Scholarship program will undergo since 2015 for launching the Green Academy program.
The Forum was opened by Ms. Nino Lejava, the director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation SC Office. In her welcoming speech she stressed the importance of the regional educational programs for social development in the South Caucasus region. Ms. Lejava also underlined importance of linkage between research and civil activism that laid basis for the upcoming Green Academy program. She encouraged participants representing academia and civil society milieus to become part of the program and to build a strong network for sharing knowledge and experience for better future of the societies in the region.
The Forum had started with reflection on impact of social sciences on social development. Ms. Tamar Tskhadadze (philosopher from the Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia), Mr. Viktor Voronkov (social scientist from Center for Independent Social Research, Saint-Petersburg, Russia), Ms. Gayane Shagoyan (ethnographer from Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Yerevan, Armenia) and Mr. Giorgi Tskhadaia (PhD student in political science from the Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia) discussed issues related to transformation of social knowledge into political and civic activism and argued how social sciences influence this process through generation and distribution of knowledge among variety of societal groups. One of the major problems outlined by the speakers was of the ethical aspect of application of knowledge and experience accumulated in social sciences to policy-making and government of common goods. Hereby the argument for a need to link civil ethics to the mentioned issues emerged.
Other two sessions of the Forum collected arguments around civil activism in spheres of environmental and urban sustainable development and importance of gender democracy for democracy as such (please see attached agenda of the Forum for more detailed information about the panels). These are the areas of one of the utmost concerns for the HBF SC that is why generation of social knowledge in the South Caucasus region in these directions was outlined as one of the most urgent needs for further democratization and development. Civil society activists from Georgia and Armenia discussed their own experiences and stressed the fact there is lack of academic research that would give more feasibility to civil activism.
The HBF SC presented the Green Academy program in the end of the Forum. Values, principles, approaches and concrete plans presented were widely welcomed by the audience.