The goal is to promote and study problem-solving relations in conflict zones. 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, prevent resumption of military action, and contribute to theory on conflict transformation. Outside facilitation is necessary because of their inability to travel to each other's cities. The project has been funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the US Institute of Peace, the Winston Foundation for World Peace, and the University of California. Work is in the three inter-related areas described on this web site:
About the Conflict and Dialogue
Georgia is one of fifteen successor states of the Soviet Union. In 1992-1993, there was armed conflict between the Georgians and the Abkhaz who sought 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 ceasefire line between the two sides.
The purpose of this project and its multi-year series of conferences and publications since 1998 is to facilitate dialogues to help the sides reach a mutually satisfactory peaceful resolution. The conferences help keep open channels of communication between civil society activists, academics, journalists and policy makers from the two communities, and give them access to their counterparts in Russia and various international organizations. Because of the project's dedication to full transparency, the conferences also involve many more people in the dialogues through these publications and post conference meetings in each community.
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.
Coordination of Multiple Initiatives
A few times a year this project initiates meetings with all other international and indigenous organizations and individuals working on peace initiatives in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. In addition we schedule periodic virtual meetings by phone and through the internet. The purpose of the meetings is to discuss the general context of the conflict and to explore how we can be supportive of each other's work and encourage complementarity of our multiple efforts by establishing shared goals. At these meetings we update each other on project developments and coordinate plans; develop ways to combine our resources to fund indigenous peacebuilding and democracy building acitivities; share analyses of productive and unproductive activities in the peace process; discuss options for how to continue this kind of coordination--whether as simple information sharing, resource sharing, joint strategy development, joint projects, or as a consortium; generate research together on the efficacy of our coordinating actions.
Evaluation of Citizen Peacebuilding Initiatives
The goal of the evaluation 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. We also use Action Evaluation methodology within the project. 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.