Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report


Memorandum submitted by Bristol City Council



  1.  Bristol City Council has been twinned with Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, CIS since 1988 when an agreement, written in Russian, was signed by the Mayor of Tbilisi and the Lord Mayor of Bristol. In the late 1980's and early 1990's because of the difficulties created by the break up of the former Soviet Union, the relationship did not develop as originally envisaged. After Georgia became an independent country, however, Bristol explored ways to re-establish its links with Tbilisi, who were keen to sign up to a new agreement—this time written in Georgian. An opportunity for Bristol to help Tbilisi came in 1996 with the development of an economic and environmental project funded by the "Know How" Fund Technical Links Scheme for Local Authorities. This scheme is administered by the Department for Overseas Development and managed by the Local Government International Bureau. The initiative was developed and delivered from the Health and Environmental Services and Planning, Transport and Development Services Directorates of Bristol City Council in partnership with a wide range of other organisations. These included Bristol-Tbilisi Association (BTA), the University of the West of England, Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative, the Local Government International Bureau and Bristol Twinning Association.


  2.  At the outset, the Bristol-Tbilisi project was primarily concerned with economic development. However, during a preliminary fact-finding visit to Tbilisi, Bristol Economic Development officers and representatives from its partner organisations were struck by the environmental problems faced by Tbilisi. As a result, a separate but linked project was formed to include the development of environmental legislation and waste management.

  3.  In June 1996, an agreement was made between Bristol City Council and the Department for International Development for two projects to be undertaken part funded under the Know How Fund Local Authority Technical Links Scheme. Following visits to Tbilisi by Bristol City Council representatives in November 1996 and March/June 1998 together with a return visit of colleagues from Tbilisi in March 1997, the Economy 2000 project and the Environmental Legislation and Waste Management Project were successfully completed by 31 October 1998. The successful outcomes of both these projects include:

Economy 2000

    —  assisting in the development of a local economic development strategy for Tbilisi;

    —  assisting with the development of a small business loan fund based on experience in Bristol with the Bristol Enterprise Development Fund and the Avon and Bristol Co-operative Loan Fund;

    —  exploring the possibility of business links between the two cities including wine, milk production, passenger transport and tourism.

Environmental Legislation and Waste Management

    —  provision of detailed information and first hand advice on European and UK environmental legislation;

    —  assisting in the preparation of a Solid Waste Master Plan for Tbilisi;

    —  sharing information and expertise on the "Waste Management Hierarchy" particularly with regard to waste minimisation and recycling;

    —  encouraging "low tech" solutions to waste management problems;

    —  demonstrating how non-governmental organisations (NGO's) can assist local authorities in achieving their objectives;

    —  providing air pollution monitoring equipment and training in its operation.

  The success of the projects and the exchange visits, on which the project was based, was in no small part due to the co-operation of Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff based both here in the UK and, more particularly in the British Embassy in Tbilisi. They have always been extremely helpful, courteous and understanding in their dealings with both members and officers of Bristol City Council and have a firm grasp of the developing nature of the relationship between the two cities.


  3.  Bristol City Council works in partnership with the Bristol-Tbilisi Association on a range of projects in the community including:

    —  the Youth for Europe Action D project which is bringing 17 youth workers from Tbilisi, Armenia, Azerbijan, Ireland, Newport and Bristol together for a ten day period of training. seminars, placements and social events. The aim of the project is to exchange experience, build bridges in a metaphorical sense, and learn the skills necessary for international youth exchanges.

    —  The BTA received a Charity Know How grant to bring three members of the Tbilisi based NGO Gaia to Bristol for 10 days. While in Bristol their programme covered a range of ways we teach environmental and human rights issues in schools, colleges and university teacher training. On their return Gaia used the information in seminars, conferences and to produce new materials for use nationally in Georgian schools.

    —  The BTA helps to organise cultural events such as hosting visiting polyphonic choirs and always offers workshops alongside the popular concerts.

    —  The BTA has helped set up two school to school links with Tbilisi which has already seen some curriculum development, a pupil exchange and a planned Education delegation from Tbilisi City Council. This is arranged with the LEA.


  4.  The Know How Fund projects have now been completed. No further projects are currently on stream to further the valuable work that has been undertaken in recent years in partnership with colleagues in Tbilisi. The value of this work to the City Council and Bristol as a whole should not be underestimated. "Added Value" benefits which has been gained from the work so far includes:

    —  working with multi-sectoral partners in exploiting a wide range of economic, cultural, social, environmental and educational exchanges and developments.

    —  enhancing of Bristol`s position as an action centred participant in a strategically positioned eastern European country in the view of government departments and the European Union;

    —  assisting in the training and development of council members and officers and members of partnership organisations;

    —  accessing hitherto untapped new funds for Bristol; and

    —  developing unique partnership projects for the benefit of Bristol eg the "Bridges of Light" project.

  5.  It is recognised that future work on this partnership should be focussed and deliverable. Two projects have been suggested to build on earlier work, one on economic development and transport and the other on "low tech" Waste Management, which could include the identification of sustainable development indicators to monitor progress. These indicators might then be used to compare and contrast with similar indicators in Bristol. Health and Environmental Services have developed a project along these lines and this has formed the basis of an application for under the EU Tacis City Twinning Programme. This application was submitted to meet the 1 February 1999 deadline. Both members and officers of Bristol City Council are looking forward to success with this application and their continued work with colleagues in Tbilisi.

March 1999.

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