Abkhaz-Georgian Peacebuilding

Program Summary

The aim of this program at the University of California, Irvine, is to promote and study problem-solving relations between groups or nations in conflict. The focus is on the conflict between Georgians and Abkhaz in the Southern Caucasus. The participants are Abkhaz and Georgian academics and nongovernmental organizations.  They engage in joint research and action to overcome the obstacles to peace and contribute to theory on conflict transformation. Outside facilitation is necessary because of residual animosity between the ethnic groups, their inability to travel to each other's cities, and lack of basic means of communication, such as phone, fax or e-mail.  The goal of the research is to go beyond assumptions about the impact of citizen peacebuilding by providing solid evidence about what does and does not work, in order to guide more effective initiatives in conflict zones. The research activities involve participant-observation, in-depth and focus group interviewing, and surveys. The project is funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Projects are in the three inter-related areas described on this web site:

1. Evaluation of Citizen Peacebuilding Initiatives
2. Civil Society Development
3. Coordination of Multiple Initiatives
4. Project Publications


The Conflict

Georgia is one of fifteen successor states of the Soviet Union. Now an independent country, it has been struggling to build a democratic society in the face of two civil wars and two ethno-political wars. In 1992-1993, there was armed conflict between the Georgians and the Abkhaz who seek independence from Georgia. This war resulted in thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of refugees, and ruined economies. To date a resolution has not been found. Russian forces guard the border between the two sides while a settlement is negotiated.


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Action Evaluation Methodology

This method has been crucial to our successes.  It has helped us chart our goals and plans as we go along, kept us on track, pushed us to keep our promises to each other, and signaled us to switch gears when necessary.  Action Evaluation is more than an effective process to articulate goals and gather data systematizing what is normally done in the design and implementation of conflict resolution processes.  The methodology enables participants to recognize the motivations, values and interests necessary to negotiate consensus on shared goals so as to promote reflexive evaluation among key stakeholders as they move forward.  For more information about the methodology see Aria Group website

Project Publications
Conference, June 1-4, 2000


Civil Society Development

This project facilitates a constructive dialogue and interaction between Georgian and Abkhaz representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It promotes skills and structures in the nongovernmental sectors, conducive to developing safe, civil and stable society. Our assumption is that NGOs are crucial to an effective process of reconciliation at the community level, and are far more effective in promoting and maintaining genuine peace than reliance on coercive, police-oriented approaches. NGOs can be mini-models of self-governance and peaceful negotiation for common interests. These efforts have been funded by the Winston Foundation for World Peace and the University of California, Irvine.

Bulletin of Abkhaz NGOs (Sukhum(i))

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Promoting Black Sea Environmental Cooperation

A focus on environmental cooperation provides a perspective on the interconnectedness of the parties and can assist in confidence building among these parties, who, in turn, can influence public opinion and decision-makers who are directly involved in the peace process. The environmental issues chosen for this project relate to concerns about the condition of the Black Sea. These activities have been supported by the University of California's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, UC Irvine, and a variety of individual donors, including Sol Price and Harold Price.



February 1998--Black Sea Forum at UC Irvine, with Georgian, Abkhaz and US environmental experts. They planned Abkhaz-Georgian cooperation, with US facilitation, to tackle urgent environmental problems in the Black Sea.

September 1997--The Abkhaz and Georgian leaders of the March forums met in Sochi to discuss next steps with the US Program Director. The meeting led to an agreement to hold a US-Georgian-Abkhaz Black Sea forum at UC Irvine in February 1998.

March 1997--Parallel Abkhaz and Georgian Black Sea forums held in Tbilisi and Sukhum(i). Black Sea scientists and nongovernmental organizations in both cities identified problems that require urgent attention and discussed the feasibility of Georgian- Abkhaz cooperation on these issues, together with US counterparts.

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