The idea to create IDFI was born during an international conference that was periodically hosted by Levan Avalishvili and Giorgi Kldiashvili in Georgia since 2005. The conference was supported by the American non-governmental research organization National Security Archive, George Washington University. The conference involved participants, which included local and foreign historians, archive researchers, and specialists and lawyers in the fields of public access to information and open governance, discussing issues related to openness of archives and access to archival documents in various countries. During the 2009 conference, an idea was born to set up an organization in Georgia that would advocate archive transparency by working on openness, transparency and improvement of access to public information. Eventually, with the support of American partners, Levan Avalishvili and Giorgi Kldiashvili established such an organization.
Initially, IDFI focused on watchdog activities. It monitored government activities, disclosed violations and informed the public.
The first grant IDFI ever won was titled Auditing of Official Websites of Executive Authorities of Georgia. The project was funded by the National Security Archive, George Washington University, with a total budget of USD 10,000. IDFI team prepared a comprehensive study on changes in e-governance systems throughout the world, including Georgia. IDFI conducted a detailed analysis and assessment of the level of transparency of government body websites and compiled a ranking of Ministries based on their level of transparency.
Having successfully implemented its first project, IDFI launched an initiative titled “Public Information Database www.opendata.ge” with financial support from Open Society Georgina Foundation. The project played a significant role in providing the public with access to a wide range of public information, granting them easier access to public information and promoting the existence of an informed society in Georgia.
In 2014, the website was included in the international impact assessment of FOI platforms, conducted by a British organization mySociety.
Ensuring openness of state archives and access to archival materials was another area IDFI started with. Levan Avalishvili and Giorgi Kldiashvili actively advocated openness and accessibility of 20th Century Soviet Archives in Georgia. As a result of this advocacy work, the former archive of the Georgian Communist Party was saved from destruction and the former archive of the Committee of State Security (KGB) of Georgia was opened to the public (both these archives are united now under the Archive Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia). IDFI uses such archival documents to study the Soviet totalitarian regime in cooperation with Archive of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, International Society Memorial and other local and international partners.
Institute for Development of Freedom of Information’s first joint project was with the Archive Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and was titled Publishing the Archival Documents Reflecting the Events Developed in Georgia from the 5th to the 9th of March 1956. The project was funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation South Caucasus Regional Office through Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia (total budget EUR 4,950). It involved inviting scholars and guiding them to search for and study the archival documents. These documents were then published in collection periodicals accompanied by explanations of our scholars. Electronic versions of these publications were uploaded to IDFI website and are accessible for everyone.
One of the most interesting projects in the area of Soviet history research was titled Stalin Lists on Georgia, through which IDFI collected and analyzed information about the victims of the Great Terror 1937-1938 in Georgia. The database is available in both Georgian and Russian and includes information about 3,600 victims, who were repressed through direct orders from Stalin. The database can be found on the website of the National Library of the Georgian Parliament.
Starting in 2012, IDFI gradually started to shift its focus from watchdog to think tank activities. Currently IDFI is as a hybrid watchdog/think-tank organization, combining monitoring and analytical skills with evidence based advocacy, strategic litigation, awareness raising and consulting activities as well as growing international impact. IDFI conducts high-quality, independent research and, based on this research, provides innovative, practical recommendations that strengthen democracy in Georgia and neighboring countries and foster economy and social welfare.
Currently, IDFI is known internationally as an organization specialized in promoting open and democratic governance.
Accountability, integrity, and reliability were always reflected in all of our work and will continue to do so. We operate under strict professional standards of review and referencing; all facts and analyses in our work are thoroughly checked for accuracy.
Also see detailed information on IDFI's areas of operation here