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History of ICCN

 

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The project of establishing an independent conflict resolution center in the Caucasus region was first proposed by Dr George Khutsishvili in 1989 but existed only as an informal group of scholars till late 1992, when the Center for Conflict Research opened as part of the newly established State Committee for Human Rights and Ethnic Relations of Georgia. The Center participated in the international project "Ethnicity and European Security" coordinated by the Centre for International Studies at Queen's University, Kingston, Ont. In 1993/94 Dr Khutsishvili was awarded an IREX/Carnegie fellowship in the "International Security Studies Program" at the Center for International Security and Arms Control (now renamed the Center for International Security and Cooperation) at Stanford University. The fellowship at CISAC was extended to a full academic year thanks to a generous private donation from Mr David Packard. In the same period, Dr S. Neil Macfarlane of Queen's University, Dr David Holloway of CISAC, and Dr Raymond Shonholtz of Partners for Democratic Change encouraged Dr Khutsishvili to apply to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for the establishment of an independent NGO in Georgia. In spring 1994 the decision was made by the MacArthur Foundation to support the establishment of the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation in Georgia. The Founding Assembly was held in Tbilisi on August 8, 1994, which unanimously (63 signatures altogether) supported the establishment of ICCN. Dr Khutsishvili was granted the status of ICCN's founder. On November 3, 1994 the Ministry of Justice of Georgia registered ICCN as non-profit NGO (certificate #1755). ICCN was given the status of international organization according to the Georgian legislation because CISAC of Stanford University served in the first year after ICCN's establishment as an implementing partner of the project. Since then ICCN has been an independent contractor. The activities of ICCN extend to the Caucasus region, with special emphasis on the situation in Georgia but participation also in wider networks and international projects. ICCN has been a co-founder of international societies and centers, e.g. International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, based in Tbilisi, Georgia; The Caucasus NGO Forum for Peace and Non-violence in the Caucasus; the Caucasus Women's Research and Consulting Network (CWN) etc. Since 1996 ICCN has been part of the Steering Committee for the CIS Conference on Forced Migration (so-called CISCONF or 'Geneva Process') sponsored by UNHCR, IOM and OSCE. Since 1998 ICCN is member of IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms) and United for Intercultural Action (the Netherlands). Since 2000 the organization is a member of Transcend: A Peace and Development Network (Dr mult Johan Galtung, Director) and of the European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation (the Netherlands). In 2001 ICCN co-founded the Georgian Coalition Against Violence. In February 2003, ICCN's Director initiated the Movement Against Religious Intolerance in Georgia. During the period 2009-2012, the work of ICCN will be geared towards one central aim: to support society in transforming Georgia gradually into a more liberal and non-violent country that respects diversity. Prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts ICCN's first objective is to see that conditions for the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts are improved and non-violent approaches promoted and practiced. A major problem in this regard is the lack of analysis on emerging conflicts. Peaceful and non-violent resolution of conflict is often perceived as weakness and defeat. Just before August 2008, the Georgian government conducted a strongly militaristic campaign. Discourses centred on who was guilty while the roots of conflict were ignored, leaving people without other alternatives to understand, manage and resolve concrete conflict situations in housing, health, schools and discrimination in daily life. In this way, a culture of dialogue and understanding is sorely missing. The role of the media is especially important in this context. Free, professional and ethical media are lacking even though a country at war particularly needs peace-oriented media professionals. Journalists need in-depth information related to concrete events from a human-centered point of view. They also need stronger awareness of standards of professionalism and ethics in conflict situations. Mobilizing resources for conflict prevention is also an important issue. As a result of the Georgian-Russian conflict, new waves of IDPs and returnees form Kartli and South Ossetia emerged. These people went through war and now still experience a difficult and stressful situation. Their needs are not addressed, and they lack appropriate knowledge and skills to better understand ongoing processes and to peacefully defend their cause in a conflict situation. ICCN's strategy is to discuss with journalists about their professionalism and ethics while reporting on conflicts, and to provide IDPs and refugees with appropriate knowledge and skills to understand ongoing processes and to better deal with conflict situations. Respect for an integration of minority groups ICCN's second objective is to support ethnic and religious minority groups so that they can enjoy cooperative relationships within the larger community and can participate as active citizens in civic life. One major problem in this regard is that the political and civic integration of minorities has not yet been achieved. Acceptance and recognition of minorities in Georgian society is still not fully developed. Patriotism is propagated as contradictory to diversity. In some cases ethnicity also coincides with a religious group. Thus, the role of the Georgian Orthodox Church is especially important. It is very influential, and propagates a nationalistic, faith-based ideology. Women’s joint inter-ethnic effort to achieve more influence in political and social life on the local level can be an important factor for transformation. But in a number of communities settled by ethnic minorities – such as the Azeri community in Kvemo Kartli and the Armenian community in Javakheti – women’s role is restricted to reproduction and domestic tasks with no opportunity to participate in community and larger social life. ICCN sees the need for perseverance in working, both on the central and community levels, towards national integration as a value. Tolerant attitudes and concrete peaceful and fruitful coexistence experiences are to be disseminated. ICCN's strategy is to address both minority and majority groups and involve both sides in changing attitudes towards more tolerance and openess to diversity. Information about different ethnic and religious groups (cultural and social aspects) are thus shared, in turn ensuring and promoting participation of minorities in political, social and cultural life. Special emphasis will be put on incorporating and empowering women of minority groups in such activities. Open space for civil society ICCN's third objective is to see that civil society in Georgia maintains an open space for social and political debates, promoting democratic values, checks-and-balances on power, gender equity and sustainable use of the environment. One major problem in this regard is that the principles of democratic governance are still poorly shared and practiced in society. Concepts such as human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the rule of law are not yet clearly understood, institutionalized and implemented. The role of civil society actors (ICCN included) is important in this regard. They need to reinforce processes of democratic development, implying a transformation of our traditional mindset and way of life. ICCN's strategy is to raise civic consciousness about liberal values through active discussions in society, and to involve the stakeholders of those values in discussions of their concrete problems and needs. Organisational development ICCN's forth objective is to see ICCN transformed into a strong organization with a programmatic approach, good management, clear procedures, and financial sustainability. In the first 10 years of its existence, ICCN functioned as a pioneer organisation in Georgian society. A coalition of NGOs was formed, a research bureau was maintained, and the message of peace and reconciliation was spread throughout the country. This has contributed to the Rose Revolution, which was a step forward in fighting corruption and bad governance. During this intense period, the organization’s human reserves were heavily drawn upon and no time or money was available to strengthen the organization through learning and development processes necessary for its consolidation. The evaluation process in 2006 showed the relevance and strategic value of ICCN, but at the same time revealed organizational weaknesses: “The evaluation team is of the opinion that it would be advisable to strengthen the organisational- and institutional capacity of ICCN. Also in terms of stages of organisational evolution, it would be advisa­ble if (…) the institutional capacity of ICCN as such would receive proper attention and be defined by both the organisation and its funding partners as a priority in order to enhance the organisa­tional sus­ta­inability.” “There is scope for improvement with regard to the overall strategy of ICCN as a non-state actor, the internal governance of the organisation, the internal structure, clarity on the leadership of the organisa­tion, human resources development in general and competencies with regard to project cycle manage­ment in particular, organisational learning and some practical issues such as office space and technical support systems.” During the strategy-definition process of October 2008, main issues to be dealt with on short notice were identified. Referring to leadership, internal governance and internal structure, it was agreed that the management structure of the organisation is currently too fluid. This fluidity has been instrumental in adapting to difficult circumstances in the beginning, but its current disadvantage is that a clear division of responsibilities is not in place, leaving room for a lack of accountability and indecision in job descriptions and remuneration. Regarding project cycle management, it was agreed that procedures for reporting, planning and monitoring are too weak to guarantee the continuity of complex working processes and result-oriented cooperation between staff. This is visible also in the lack of a reliable documentation system. A third weakness to be addressed is human resources development. ICCN cannot reach a higher level of organisational learning, knowledge sharing and methodological development if there are no resources and opportunities for learning and systematic reflection for the staff. Finally, as a result of these failures, the provision of financial resources is more unstable than would be desirable or necessary. The strategy of ICCN is to give priority to these four issues in the coming year, integrating them into the annual planning, and assigning responsible staff for progress monitoring. The improvements will be gradually developed and implemented with the assistance of external consultants.