Bulletin of Georgian NGOs

Tbilisi Publication

At the Sochi meeting in September 1997, Abkhaz and Georgian representatives on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) agreed to publish articles in Russian on the same topics, promoting dialogue on their common problems and controversial issues. The bulletins have been distributed in Sukhum(i) and Tbilisi in Russian and published on this web page in English. The articles are intended to boost NGO development in both communities and help show that it is possible to prevent war and discuss issues calmly, with a willingness to listen to and understand each other. This bulletin was written in Russian, and published in March 1998. It was funded by the Winston Foundation for World Peace. Some of the articles are featured below.

NGOs as Facilitators of Conflict Resolution

By Paata Zakareishvili

The widespread, armed resistance throughout the Southern Caucasus grew out of a long political crisis. No one can say exactly when and how a just peace will be reached in this region. It is also important to consider that the economic, as well as the militarily strategic position of the Caucasus has always tempted influential foreign forces to control the area.

The most reliable way to hasten stabilization is to promote civil society throughout the Southern Caucasus by motivating local independent peace forces. Unless the international community is persistent, it is unlikely that local forces will develop effective independent organizations. Powerful people, inside and outside the region, do not want a civil society, which they consider premature, because it will curtail efforts to control the region.

One effective way to facilitate civil society is to create and develop a network of non-governmental organization (NGO). These organizations, unlike political parties or powers, particularly important because they do not strive to be governmental structures, and accordingly, the interests of those who control the governmental apparatus cannot dominate them.

Non-governmental organizations are also important because they do not represent political leadership. It is easier for those who do not want to or cannot associate directly with governmental structures to relate to such organizations. NGOs have much to do, especially in the Caucasus, where several armed conflicts are unresolved and many more may arise.

NGOs have sufficient moral authority to effectively generate new ideas. They can influence not only governmental, but also international structures. Increasingly, international organizations such as the UN and the OSCE recognize their role.

Among the best examples of this progressive, already almost irreversible process are meetings between Georgian and Abkhaz NGOs. Such meetings have strengthened the belief that dialogue between the sides in conflict is possible and necessary.

International Alert organized one of the very first meetings between Georgian and Abkhaz NGOs took place in Moscow on June 11-12, 1996. The spirit of this meeting was primarily political. The participants recognized that even if there is no political settlement, we are still neighbors. Therefore, we must preserve what trust remains between us. Governmental leaders have not made similar progress in their relations. It is absolutely necessary to hold NGO meetings today, since the conflict will eventually be resolved and we must prepare for reconciliation.

Another NGO meeting was held in Austria from January 25 - February 1, 1997, at the educational Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution (CPCR). The venue was well chosen. This was a site in Europe where, not so long ago, there had been constant military activity. Participants could see for themselves the value of peace. The calm life in eastern Austria was the result of peacemaking activities.

An important achievement of these meetings is that we agreed that conflict resolution is inseparable from human rights issues, and that every NGO connected with conflict resolution should take this approach. Without this understanding, they cannot promote social responsibility, a crucial element in building a civil society. NGOs working in conflict resolution should shift their emphasis from political to legal and moral issues.

The most important result of such meetings is that we break down stereotypes. I remember how the public reacted when we first began to meet with representatives of Abkhaz NGOs. They called us names and wanted charges to be pressed against us. Journalists wrote negative articles. Now, many of them have joined our ranks and want partnerships with us. The number of people who no longer see the Abkhaz as enemies is visibly growing. Regular, positive information about the continuing dialogue between Georgians and Abkhaz will yield its own fruits.

These meetings paved the way for journalists, psychologists, political scientists, and other special interest groups to meet with their counterparts. It eventually became clear that one-time meetings with ambiguous goals had exhausted their possibilities. We needed longer and more transparent projects which would create a closer working relationship between NGOs on both sides. In this context, a new level of cooperation between Georgian and Abkhaz NGOs was reached at a meeting in Sochi from September 3-7, 1997, in the framework of a project called "Practical Peacemaking in the Caucasus through Cross Conflict NGO Interaction and Development" funded by the Winston Foundation for World Peace. At this meeting, we agreed on new forms of cooperation, including projects on public opinion surveys, rehabilitation of the Black Sea coast, and the publication of a cooperative bulletin.

This publication, Dialogue: An NGO Bulletin, that you hold in your hands, is the result of the first, implemented joint project of Abkhaz and Georgian NGOs. In this and in the following issues you can learn about NGOs that work with Abkhaz NGOs, and about organizations that want to do such work. We will also try to acquaint our Abkhaz colleagues with the kinds of problems that Georgian NGOs encounter, and with our experience working with funders. I hope that our first, break through project will be successful.

Future articles:

* A Journalist's View of Non-Governmental Meetings, by Manana Darzhania
We Need a Solution
* Multiple Assistance for Georgia
* The Psychological Rehabilitation of Refugees (IDPS) in Georgia (1995-1997)
* Gaia--Cooperation with Governmental Organizations

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