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27 Sep 2012 by Ludwig Boltzmann

Seminar on Georgia and Peaceful Conflict Resolution

The Seminar on Georgia and Peaceful Conflict Resolution, organised by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation in cooperation with BIM, held in Vienna on September 25, 2012 has brought together representatives from all three regions – Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia, as well as experts – scholars and practitioners working on conflict resolution in Georgia. During the Seminar, Sabine Mandl and Christine Sommer, researchers from BIM, discussed  “The role of women and civil society in peacebuilding”.

Since its independence in the early 90s, Georgia, like many other countries and regions of the former Soviet Union, has experienced multiple internal as well as external economic and political crises and conflicts, of which many remain unresolved today. One of the conflicts is the consequence of wars in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and their efforts to become independent states, which have come to their peak in the 2008 South Ossetia War with Russia. Since then, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized as independent countries by Russia. In the eyes of Georgia however, these territories remain a part of Georgia’s state and are occupied by Russia. The resolution of this so-called frozen conflict is not only in the interest of the involved countries but especially of the affected citizens. Due to its exposed geographical position, Georgia is interesting to international economical and political organizations and alliances, e.g. UN, EU, WTO, OSCE and NATO.

Throughout the Seminar, it has been highlighted that the above-described conflict affects many different levels, which must be addressed in the process of conflict resolution. One of these levels is civil society, which, in other countries could be a driving and controlling force in political changes, but  in Georgia as well as in Abkhazia and South Ossetia it remains weak. A few NGOs and civil society organisations which have been able to establish themselves contribute meaningfully to conflict resolution. Women’s initiatives which have been developed in recent years, especially meet the concerns of vulnerable groups. Furthermore there are international organisations, such as UN Women, conducting projects to strengthen these initiatives as well as the capacities of women’s organisations and women who are directly affected by conflict (like IDPs or refugee women). The role of women in peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes must be seen with regard to their experiences of  war, not only being victims of war, but very often active agents of survival.

During the Seminar, accomplishments and experiences with peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia were discussed and future areas for action envisaged. Strengthening of trust in NGOs as political actors is crucial in creating platforms that can hold the government accountable. Within this process, it would be an asset to install so-called “intermediaries”, who function between the levels and can accompany the political dialogue in an effective manner. Experience shows that initiatives on the mid- and grassroot-levels as well as people-to-people approaches focused on the process rather than the outcome are successful. Finally, when we speak and act on the common goal of conflict resolution in this region, it is important to bear in mind that politicization of the problem stands in the way of a sustainable conflict resolution. Initiatives that support the exchange between people  contribute essentially to the dismantling of prejudices and enmities. Finally, when conflict resolution in this region is the common goal, there is a need for reorientation and depoliticization of the discourse and participation of all who are involved in the conflict, including the affected people.