Nick BERESFORD: "We need to keep up momentum to achieve prosperity underpinned by democratic institutions and the rule of law"

13.12.2021 (Caucasian Journal) “This is a critical moment for the world, and for development”, - according to the head of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 
What is happening to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now? What is happening to the development of Georgia, and what place does the country occupy in the bigger picture of global development? 
Today Caucasian Journal is discussing these issues with Mr. Nick BERESFORD, recently appointed Resident Representative of UNDP in Georgia.  Previously he has served for the UN in Bangladesh, Somalia, East Timor, and at headquarters in New York.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Mr. Beresford, welcome to Georgia.  The SDG themes have been always in the focus of Caucasian Journal, as they were essentially our priority topics since launch. So I believe we are now ripe enough for a conversation with UNDP’s country representative, and let me thank you for attention to our readers. Before Georgia, you worked in some of the world’s poorest countries – it must have been a big challenge, but also a great experience for a development professional?

Nick BERESFORD: I have been very lucky to have worked in some amazing countries and with some wonderful people. In Bangladesh for example UNDP has a programme with women led community groups in one of the world’s largest slums. These women activists led their communities in proving a living, putting kids through school, and making political alliances with Mayors and local councilors to get services their families need. In Somalia I worked with coastal communities as they recovered from piracy, setting up local government and creating small businesses. You learn a lot as a development professional in these partnerships and even if progress is often slow or marginal, it’s wonderful to see some positive change where it’s most needed.

AK:  How does it feel to come to a country like Georgia, which is definitely not in the end of the developing countries list, but still not a rich country either? 

Georgia's gross national income per capita is 3 times higher than Bangladesh. But Georgia still has significant poverty at 21.3% - up from the previous year.

NB: Georgia is a beautiful country with very welcoming people and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to come and serve here.  It is of course a lot better off than the countries I just mentioned. Its gross national income per capita is 3 times higher than Bangladesh. But Georgia still has significant poverty at 21.3% - up from the previous year due to Covid. Across the sustainable development goals there is much work to be done and so a clear role exists for a development agency such as UNDP.

AK:  We all care about the development of Georgia, and do our best to contribute to speed up the process. How would you characterize Georgia’s current position? Which problems would you like to point attention to, in the first place? Would that be SDGs?

NB: We see in opinion polls in Georgia that ending poverty and creating jobs are the primary concerns. A lot of our work with EU, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, UK, USA and others are focused on these two key issues. For example, with Ministry of Education we support vocational training programmes to help bring young job seekers into the economy with higher skills. That benefits those households but everyone benefits from a wider and more inclusive economy.

I would also focus on democratic governance and human rights. Georgia has come a long way on both but recent years have been challenging. We need to keep up momentum to achieve a prosperity that is underpinned by strong and democratic institutions and the rule of law.

I would also focus on democratic governance and human rights. Georgia has come a long way on both but recent years have been challenging.

AK:  I know you are an economist by education, so maybe you wish to add professional comments – like a future trend, perhaps? Or a need for reforms which seem evident to you, but not so evident to the decision-makers.

NB: Green growth and in particular green energy are potential areas for longer term growth. With 75% of power coming from hydro that makes good use of the country’s abundant water resources, but leaves higher exposure to climate change risks. A good mitigation strategy would be to invest more in wind and solar. This would also improve energy security leaving less reliance on imported natural gas. A further advantage of green investment as studies from UNDP, IMF and others have shown, is that dollar for dollar, green growth investments have much higher economic multipliers. Those investments create more prosperity, more and better jobs.

AK:  I am sure you are in the process of meetings with the government and non-government actors here in Georgia.  What’s your impression, so far? What can be done to improve our progress? A better legislation perhaps, or a better investment climate?

The courts need to continuously show good progress on their independence and impartiality, to strengthen the rule of law. Investors like to be sure they are on a “level playing field” legally and that their assets are protected.

NB: Support for Georgia joining the EU runs at 77%. Georgia already enjoys the Deep and Comprehensive Trade agreement as part of Association Agreement. Keeping the focus and energy on moving in that policy direction are going to be good for trade and long run economic prosperity. As part of that, the courts need to continuously show good progress on their independence and impartiality, to strengthen the rule of law. Investors like to be sure they are on a “level playing field” legally and that their assets in country are respected and protected.

AK:  Let’s talk about the activities of UNDP Georgia. How would you assess your contribution in general? What are your priority areas? From your website my impression is that your projects are very diverse.

NB: We have 4 priority areas: economic growth that leaves no one behind – with a special emphasis on supporting communities in rural areas. Helping to build confidence and address conflict, and supporting IDPs and communities most effected by conflict. Protecting Georgia’s natural environment and adapting to the climate crisis. The last priority is arguably the most important of all, as it underpins all other development gains. That is supporting democratic governance and protecting human rights. Getting the governance issues right, help ensure not just good progress across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but that we lock these gains in for the long term, and that these are enjoyed by all communities in Georgia.

AK:  Is there any project that you wish to talk about, in particular?

NB: I was very pleased to see Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili lead a large inter-governmental meeting to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This new body is tasked with coordinating work across government to put the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into action. Having the PM lead the meeting sent a strong and effective signal to line ministries on the importance of this work. We were joined by the EU Ambassador and UN Resident Coordinator and on UNDP’s side we have been supported by UK Government. As Covid hits longer and harder than we all expected, it’s people living with disabilities that are often most impacted. At the same time, if we can get beyond our prejudices to see the abilities in people before we see disabilities, we can all benefit as these communities are more fully included in employment, in government and across society. I can see why the PM chose to give this his personal support.

AK:  It seems that everybody’s special concern is Covid, and it will stay so for quite some time. Would you like to comment on this – either from global development perspective, or from the Georgia’s angle?

NB: A few weeks ago an anti-vaccination rally was held outside the UN offices. We at the UN strongly support the right to free expression and free speech. We are impartial - but we’re not neutral. Vaccines save lives. We have lost more than 12,000 lives to Covid in Georgia. That tragic number will keep going up unless we all get vaccinated and take other protective measures – wearing masks, social distancing. That’s why the UN with the National Center for Disease Control, together with the Ambassadors of EU, Sweden, UK, Denmark, Switzerland participated in the “Vaccines for Life” campaign, making short videos and holding events across Georgia to spread the message. We take the vaccine not just to protect ourselves, but to protect those we love and as an act of solidarity with communities here in Georgia.

AK: Thank you very much for answers! Please do count on Caucasian Journal anytime you wish to reach out with your views. 

Nick Beresford is UNDP’s Resident Representative in Georgia. UNDP supports the Government of Georgia and other partners in a wide range of programmes including Democratic Governance, Economic Development, Environment and Energy, and Crisis Prevention and Recovery. Nick has over 20 years’ experience within the UN system and has served in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Somalia and East Timor. He holds a Master of Science in Development Economics from the University of Sussex (UK). He also holds degrees in audit and accountancy and English literature. He can be reached by email at

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