CONFLICT AND MIGRATION: THE GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ CASE IN THE EUROPEAN CONTEXT
15th Conference in the Series
Aspects of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict
The Center for
Citizen Peacebuilding at the
����������� Flight and displacement are among the most lasting consequences of military conflicts.� Apart from the existential hardships for the people directly concerned, they generate long term obstacles to reconciliation and efforts to settle conflicts by political means.
����������� Especially in the case of ethno-political conflicts, such as the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, where direct links are made between the demographics of ethnic groups within a disputed territory and its political status, refugees/IDPs find themselves enduring hostages of political confrontation.� Many years after the end of combat operations, the potential return of refugees threatens the new political order of one party, while their integration seems to undermine political claims of the other.� Furthermore, organized repatriation of diaspora Abkhaz has become an issue widely discussed and promoted in Abkhazia.�
����������� Conflict-related migration does not yield to political principles and concepts.� Integration in a new location; spontaneous, non-sanctioned return; emigration to third countries; immigration from third countries�these and many other phenomena form new realities over time that must be acknowledged and heeded in shaping policies toward peaceful conflict settlement. �Preconditions for sustainable peace are flexible and creative solutions that balance out the interests of people directly affected by the conflict, and that prevent new confrontation.
����������� This conference provided an opportunity for Georgian and Abkhaz participants to discuss openly and constructively the most sensitive and pressing problems of the conflict, and consult a range of international experts about possible progress toward solutions.� It was helpful to examine other European conflict regions and analyze which paths have been forged elsewhere to resolve migration problems caused by conflicts even before final conflict resolution was achieved.
����������� Treating refugee/IDP issues as taboo or instrumentalizing them reinforces fears and illusions on both sides of the Georgian-Abkhaz divide, and holds back progress in the peace process.� Therefore, the organizers of this conference wanted to foster open and solution oriented discussions of this sensitive and complex topic.
����������� Of the 36
participants 9 were Georgians, and 7 were Abkhaz.� None of these participants has direct
political responsibility, but they all have authority in their fields as social
scientists, journalists, policy advisors, NGO and IDP representatives.� The other participants were from European
Union countries, the Western Balkans,
����������� The conference participants support the principle that it is better to talk with each other than past one another.� They all hold the conviction that both sides of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict have earned the right to have their perspectives heard in a respectful manner.� Both sides are legitimate and necessary partners in the search for solutions to this conflict.� They believe that after everything that has happened in the past few decades in the Georgian-Abkhaz relationship the only worthy alternative is a settlement without war.
����������� This was
the fifth conference co-organized by our Georgian and Abkhaz colleagues, the
Heinrich-Boell Foundation, and the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the
����������� All previous 14 conferences have resulted in complete proceedings that are published and distributed throughout the region, and posted online for the regional and international communities.� Today a total of 14 volumes are online.� The proceedings of these conferences are published in Russian, partially in English, and can be downloaded at http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~cpb/progs/projpubs.htm.� We are currently working on a full report of this 15th conference.
dramatic events of August 2008 in South Ossetia, Georgia proper and Abkhazia have
triggered a serious confrontation between the West and
����������� This version of the report proceeds with an outline of the conference agenda, most of the presentations in three panel sessions made by Abkhaz, Georgian and international participants, and a list of all the participants.� Work is underway to finish a complete conference report which will include an executive summary of the conference report, highlights of all the papers presented, summaries of the questions, answers and comments made in the discussions by all participants, and detailed policy recommendations.
Conference Agenda and
Opening Remarks by
Walter Kaufmann, Heinrich
����������� It is my
great pleasure to welcome you all on behalf of the Heinrich Boell Foundation,
Paula Garb from the
����������� This is the
15th conference in a series which began in 1996 by a person whose
name has become the name of the whole project, Paula Garb.� She was among the first foreigners to start
facilitating Georgian-Abkhaz dialogues after the Georgian-Abkhaz war.� The Heinrich Boell Foundation joined her
project in 2004.� This is now the fifth
conference which we are organizing together.�
We had two conferences in
����������� This is the
third conference we are conducting in
����������� I am also
very pleased that for this very difficult challenge our friends and partners from
Conciliation Resources in
����������� As I have said already, this conference takes place in an extremely difficult time and extremely difficult political context.� There is nearly no political dialogue at the moment.� There are no negotiations on any level, and there are practically no dialogue meetings in comparison with previous years.� Three or four years ago we had many more opportunities for discussions, meetings, for exchange of opinions than we have today.� Unfortunately, the conferences that Paula Garb and I are organizing together remain for the time being the only opportunity for political exchange on various aspects of the conflict.� This gives us a big responsibility to make good use of this opportunity.� It is much more than just a gathering, much more than just a conference.� We really face the challenge not only to meet and exchange opinions, but to make further dialogue possible, and further meetings possible in a very tense political situation.�
����������� So, one
challenge for this meeting is the political context.� You all are aware of it, so I will not tell
you about Georgian-Russian tensions, about the problems from the Kodori Gorge
to the Gali region, and everything we face in the current situation, the very
difficult domestic situation, the high polarization in
����������� The second very difficult aspect of the conference is the topic itself.� Conflict and migration as we framed it for the Abkhaz is nearly a taboo subject.� It is a question connected with many fears, the question of the potential return of Georgians to central parts of Abkhazia, something absolutely not discussed in Abkhazia because Abkhaz see this as a threat to be marginalized as a tiny minority on their own territory.� However, we also face the return of up to 50,000 Georgians, or even more, to Gali, to the southern region of Abkhazia where these people live in a very difficult situation, and are now hostages to the conflict by both sides.� We are very happy that we have two representatives from the Gali region here to join our discussions.
����������� If we look
at Georgia, the issue of IDPs, refugees, their situation, is also not being
discussed in a frank and honest manner.�
It mainly serves as a political instrument, as a political tool for
political speculation and manipulation.�
The illusion is being kept alive among many IDPs that we are still
talking about the prospects of their immediate and full return, which I think
doesn�t help a lot to improve their situation.�
Many thousands of them are still living in unbearable conditions in
so-called compact centers in
����������� Why did we decide to face this challenge in these very difficult conditions?� And, What do we want to achieve?� What can be achieved is an honest and sober assessment of the situation, a reality check about what we face regarding IDPs, and, more importantly, the political positions of each side:� How is this problem being treated?� What is behind the repatriation project which is also a very important part of the whole context of conflict and migration? We should try to understand the positions on these different issues on both sides.�
����������� We have identified three key issues.� One is return, one is integration, and one is the linkage between these questions and the whole peace process.� Of course all these questions are closely connected.� We do not expect that you will separate them very clearly in your presentations, or in your statements.� But I think it makes sense to discuss them separately as a way to structure the discussions.�
objective we can reach is to place the Georgian-Abkhaz case into the European
context.� Everybody understands that each
case is unique, situations are very different in
����������� Everything said here is being taped, transcribed, translated and published.� It is our objective to make these meetings as transparent as possible.� You all may know that there is considerable mistrust toward this kind of dialogue.� Many people in Georgia and Abkhazia do not always understand why we meet, why you meet with each other, and what you can talk about at all with the other side.� People ask why this is being organized at all.� The only strategy to counter these fears is to make these meetings transparent.� The main object of this conference series is to provide material for discussion, for domestic discussion in Abkhazia and Georgia, because the participation of a wider audience is crucial for any improvement in the relationship.� So, feel free to say everything you want.� All texts will be returned to you before publishing so you will all have the opportunity to go over your presentations or your own comments.� I wish us all an intensive and fruitful discussion during the next two days.
����������� Now, I will
turn to our first panel.� We will begin
with our colleagues from Abkhazia and Georgia.�
The first panel will deal with the question of return, what is the
general concept of the question on return in Abkhazia and in
����������� The second
part will compare the question of return in Georgia and Abkhazia with the
question of return in
����������� I am
pleased that, thanks to my colleagues in the Boell office in
PANEL ONE.� RETURN AND REPATRIATION�THE POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES, THEIR HOPES AND FEARS
Archil Gegeshidze, Georgian Foundation for Strategic and
Batal Kobakhia, Member of the Abkhaz Parliament. Paper not yet available.�
Emil Hersak and Boris Niksic, Institute for Migration and
PANEL TWO.� INTEGRATION�STRATEGIES, POLITICAL POSITIONS, EXPERIENCE
Julia Kharashvili, IDP Women�s Association,
Manana Gurgulia, Media Club, Sukhum/i.� �Lessons Learned in Integrating Repatriates in Abkhazia� Click here to read her paper in Russian.
Peter Loizos, Intercollege
Oliver Wolleh, Berghof Cetner for Peace Research,
PANEL THREE.� MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO VERSUS THE RIGHT TO RETURN?� MOVING BEYOND THE DEADLOCK
Erin Mooney, UNHCR
Sabine Freizer, International Crisis Group,
Paata Zakareishvili, Georgian Coordinator of Georgian-Abkhaz
Irakli Khintba, political scientist, Sukhum/i.� �Options for Resolving the Refugee Issue in the Absence of Linking Settlement of the Conflict with the Full Scale Return of Refugees� Click here to read his paper.
List of Participants