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GPPAC South Caucasus Regional Process

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Since 2003 ICCN acts the Regional Secretariat for the Caucasus for the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), a world-wide civil society-led network aiming to build a new international consensus on peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflict. GPPAC works on strengthening civil society networks for peace and security by linking local, national, regional, and global levels of action and effective engagement with governments, the UN system and regional organizations (www.gppac.net). It is structured into fifteen regional networks and governed by an International Steering Group.

Since 2003 ICCN acts the Regional Secretariat for the Caucasus for the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), a world-wide civil society-led network aiming to build a new international consensus on peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflict. GPPAC works on strengthening civil society networks for peace and security by linking local, national, regional, and global levels of action and effective engagement with governments, the UN system and regional organizations (www.gppac.net). It is structured into fifteen regional networks and governed by an International Steering Group.

GPPAC’s Global Secretariat is hosted by the European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP), based in the Netherlands (www.conflict-prevention.net). As a key partner in the South Caucasus process, ICCN is supported by GPPAC’s five programmes (Network Building; Awareness Raising; Interaction & Advocacy; Knowledge Generation & Sharing; Early Warning/Early Response), and in operational matters by the designated Caucasus Regional Coordinator. ECCP brings specific expertise in managing and harnessing the added value of networks, and the GPPAC network brings a range of combined knowledge, experience and capacity of its membership, which ICCN will be able to tap into for the benefit of this processt.

Since the early 1990s, ethno-political conflicts have seriously afflicted the Caucasus region. In spite of cease-fire agreements concluded, these conflicts remain in a protracted stage, never far from new eruptions of hostilities. The August 2008 Georgian-Russian war over South Ossetia brought relations between the two countries to their lowest point since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian military intervention and political recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia blocked any progress in the resolution process, and hindered dialogue between the parties involved at all levels. Russia’s role in conflict resolution efforts in the region is openly destructive; the current political inertia now contributes to further deterioration in Russian-Georgian relations, maintaining tensions between the two sides, and blocking any chance for renewed negotiations or reconciliation. Given this stalemate, international efforts for reconciliation are in dire need to be supported and complemented by local actors.

The need for more active and co-operational participation of the civil society sector in conflict management and security sector governance is obvious. There are already a number of organizations in the country whose work includes advising on and monitoring the development of peace-building and security. In the last fifteen years, a core of skilled intellectuals and professionals has developed in Georgia that has had some success in building understanding on the nature of the conflict resolution sectorand in highlighting certain problems stemming from this. They are an important resource for establishing effective early warning, crisis prevention and crisis management structures capable of cooperating with international institutions on the improvement of the security system in the country and region-wide. It will be, however, important to ensure that civil society organizations are able to play the bridging and monitoring role that has strengthened security sector governance in most Western countries. From the side of the government, this will require acknowledgement that NGO participation in peace-building and security matters ultimately strengthens the security of the state, and a commitment to continue this co-operation. Realistically, however, much of the responsibility for supporting and developing civil society in Georgia will continue to fall on international institutions. A key issue therefore is support of western experts through recommendations on peace-building, crisis prevention and management issues based on information and analytical sources provided by local research institutions and expert community.

In the current political context, with relations between two countries interrupted, the track-two diplomacy may serve as an extremely important link. The dialogue between the experts from both sides will help to analyze and assess the genuine roots of current crisis and estrangement. For this, the discussions on finding mutual interests and areas of possible cooperation remain significant. The possible solutions and recommendations elaborated by the expert community should be submitted to appropriate state agencies and international organizations. This forum of experts may provide decision makers with their interesting findings and solutions on the one hand, and on the other one may highly contribute to establishing an atmosphere of trust and interaction between the societies.

The Georgian-Russian experts dialogue will have two dimensions: first, it should assist to the overcoming current crisis and decrease the tension between the two countries, and secondly, it is an important player in Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian conflicts since it acts in tandem with de facto Abkhaz and South Ossetian political elite and has a leverage of influence on their societies.

In November 2008, following the crisis in the region, ICCN decided to push the project aimed at establishing dialogue of prominent independent political experts and opinion leaders from Georgia and Russia. The first meeting between the sides was organized in Istanbul, Turkey, entitled: Georgia –Russia Relations: Ways Out of Crisis”. Participants analyzed the fundamental causes of the conflict and the key factors which triggered the eruption of violence and discussed the mechanisms to support the strategies to stabilize relations. This was the first direct cross-border exchange of positions and opinions regarding the August 2008 crisis. Despite differences in positions and perceptions, the participants identified and agreed on a basic set of common goals:

The Medvedev-Sarkozy plan of 12 August 2008 must be fulfilled fully;
Measures aimed at building confidence and trust between Russian and Georgian societies should be supported;
Dialogue should be stimulated with the aim of overcoming existing crises in Russian-Georgian relations;
It is important to support development of measures aimed at the prevention of further escalation of the crisis; &
It is important to create mechanisms for ongoing dialogue between the civil societies of Russia and Georgia.

A second round of dialogue meetings was organized in November 2009 with participation of the enlarged groups on both sides. Participants in the process assessed the current state of relations between Georgia and Russia, presented very detailed analyses of the root causes and possible scenarios of further geopolitical development in the region and have identified future steps that should be taken in order to overcome the crisis. One of the key messages that clearly came out of the meeting was that the dialogue process between Russia and Georgia has to be continued on different levels, and that civil society should play a more active role in this process.

Following the two day discussion on a broad range of issues the participants have come to the following conclusions:

Russia-Georgia relations have been experiencing a deep crisis, which was further heavily complicated by the August war in 2008, and which negatively affects a broad range of regional issues;
There is no alternative to the development of Russia-Georgia dialogue if we desire to overcome the crisis;
The dialogue on a broad range of issues related to Russia-Georgia relations should continue to be developed without any preconditions, and no topics should be excluded from the discussions;
In order to achieve an impact on a broader public level, the dialogue needs to be continued on different levels and in different formats, with civil society playing a key role in this process;
The dialogue needs to be developed based on a “step-by-step” principle in order to promote movement towards the main goal – stage-by-stage normalisation of Georgia-Russia relations;
There is a prospect of a mutually acceptable resolution of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia issues, which should take place through peaceful means only and in accordance with the acknowledged principles of international law;
All sides engaged should promote and encourage the return of Internally Displaced Persons to their respective areas of origin;
The continued militarization of the South Caucasus as a result of regional conflicts remains one of the principal threats; the public opinion should be mobilized in order to address this threat and in order to advocate for political decisions in this regard;
It is extremely important to create an adequate informational space, resources and tools to further develop a public discourse on the above mentioned issues and directions.