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South Caucasus


Final synthesis
October 24-28, 2006

35 participants from 5 countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Georgia, Russia) were gathered from October 24th to 28th in Tbilissi (Georgia) for an international conference on peace building and conflict prevention in the Caucasus region.

The participants were coming from all the regions of the Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Federation of Russia (Daghestan, Chechnia…). They are members of various NGOs active in fields as diverse as education, women’s issues, conflict resolution, Human Rights, assistance to IDPs or refugees and people in need, etc.

The participants achieved to arrive to Tbilissi, despite the fact of the closing of boarders between Russia and Georgia. We believe strongly that members of civil societies should not be prevented to communicate, including in situations where politicians are not willing to solve tensions between countries.
Participants are members of civil societies, because we believe strongly that peace has to be built up from below, that everywhere one could meet local peace actors, that all these individual persons should be integrated in peace building and that a comprehensive peace should be promoted with them and through them. We believe strongly that peace issues in the region are global, so the solutions for implementing and building peace should also be global, tackling issues of the north as well as the south Caucasus. We believe that a comprehensive peace requires also respect for Human Rights, freedom of expression, freedom and protection for journalists, etc…

The methodologies used during the conference were the following: visit of projects implemented in Georgia, exchange of good practices, getting acquainted with resources and tool books, and common reflection.

The conference was inaugurated by the president of Caritas Georgia, Bishop Pasetto, and M. JP Richer, president of Caritas France, the two NGOs conveners of the conference.

This conference on peace was the second of a series. The first one was held in November 2004 in Kislavodsk (Russia). The participants are hoping to strengthen their mutual links, to help each other in advocating for conflict resolution and peace building. They have stressed the importance of having the freedom in each country to establish NGOs and to implement their actions. The participants stressed the importance of being sensitive to conflicts, it means the capacity of our organisations to understand the context in which they operate, to understand and foresee the interaction between the intervention of our NGOs and this context, and to act upon this understanding in order to avoid negative impact and maximise positive impact of the actions on the context.

In whatever activities our NGOs are implementing, we should introduce a dimension of peace, according to this conflict sensitivity we have to increase, besides the fact that some NGOs are developing specific peace building projects and/or conflict prevention actions.

The participants stressed the importance for NGOs to work together in networks because they are experimenting that networking and working in coalition bring an added value: knowledge and expertise can be transferred, resources can be put together, creativity can be fostered, mutual support can be given… It is also time to reactivate the already existing pan Caucasus networks. In current situation of many of the involved countries, these mutual support and regional cooperation are heavily required.

The participants stressed the importance of advocating and lobbying for their concerns and field of activities. Advocating means speaking to defend those who deserved to be, those who, whatever the reason, have difficulties to raise their own voice, in particular women, IDPs, refugees, children, trafficked human beings, families of victims and missing persons, ex combatants, etc. The efficiency of advocating and lobbying is reinforced by implementing these activities through coalition of NGOs, and much more through international coalitions. Advocacy should be developed at the same time at all levels, local, national, regional and international. In particular, when it comes to try to advocate and lobby national governments and international institutions like Council of Europe, OSCE, UN Council of Human Rights, etc, it is extremely important to coordinate the actions of local NGOs, rooted in small local communities, with international NGOs which have an easier access to international bodies.

The participants agreed to reinforce their mutual links, through communication, sharing information and resources, and cooperation. Some common projects could be developed in future, for instance:

■ In the field of NGOs dealing with missing persons:

- Preparing a report on the situation of missing persons, with the results of previous actions, monitoring the current status of affairs, stressing the role of NGOs
- Envisaging cooperation with others bodies, others NGOs, specially ICRC and special rapporteur of the UN Council of Human Rights
- Organising public actions in all parts of the region to let know the situation of missing persons, so to collect histories of concerned persons, engaging well know people and medias for public relations.

■ In the field of IDPs, with a focus on women:

- Establish a center around the issue of psychological rehabilitation of women, with branches in all sub regions;
- Joining an already existing network of anti trafficking NGOs; stressing the specific situation of elderly women.

■ In the field of bettering the neighbourhood relationships in the region:

- А first series of actions could be developed in the field of culture (a meeting of teachers to envisage how they teach national history).
- Joint production by journalists from various countries, joint media production shown in various countries.
- Mutual visit to see how to better relationship between neighbours.
- Rehabilitation at the psychological level after wars, exploring the history of war crimes, collecting testimonies of suffering of people, etc.

The participants decided to keep contact, reinforce common cooperation, and meet again in a foreseeable future in a relevant venue in the region. Virtual communication is an asset of current times, but physical meeting and personal mutual knowledge and sharing are necessary to give a human face to our virtual globalised world.