Caucasus: Sept ‘09

IWPR events help activist groups in Armenia and Georgia communicate refugee concerns to government officials.

Caucasus: Sept ‘09

IWPR events help activist groups in Armenia and Georgia communicate refugee concerns to government officials.

Friday, 30 October, 2009


Institute for War & Peace Reporting

NGOs in the region have spoken of the important role played by IWPR in trying to get the authorities in the region to tackle the problems faced by internally displaced persons, IDPs.

Over the last few months, IWPR has organised a series of conferences and round tables in Yerevan, Tbilisi and three Georgian regions (Shida Kartli, Imerti and Samegrela-Zemo) aimed at raising awareness of IDP living conditions.

The Georgian events were organised with the aim of drafting recommendations for the Tbilisi authorities and international organisations. At the end of the year, a conference in the capital is envisaged where representatives of different NGOs introduce their recommendations to high-ranking Georgian officials.

In the Yerevan event, more than 45 people took part in a discussion on the problems and future of refugees in Armenia. The issue is a highly emotive one as it has a bearing on efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict.

Before the event, IWPR’s Caucasus Reporting Service published a series of articles by journalists from Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh about the fate of people displaced by the war.

Davit Hakobian, deputy head of the migration agency at the ministry of territorial administration, presented his government’s programme on refugee provision.

“These round tables are very useful. That we are free to ask the officials questions is a great advantage,” said Veronika Melikian, representative of the Against Lawlessness NGO.

A member of parliament for the Heritage party, Stepan Safarian, said such discussions are very important because they allow for a frank exchange of views. “I was mostly interested in the clash between the refugees and the state representative,” he said, referring to the event in Yerevan.

One of the key problems outlined during the discussions was the lack of information and communication between government officials and NGOs dealing with refugees.

“Government officials underline in their public speeches that they are ready to cooperate with non-governmental organisations and are ready to share our recommendations and advice, however no one takes into consideration recommendations of separate NGOs,” said Keti Bebiashvili, representing the Young Lawyers Association of Georgia, Gori branch.

“I don’t know why, but we never thought about organising this kind of conference before, even so I don’t think we could accomplish it alone. That’s why we happily accepted the IWPR initiative to work out the recommendations for the government regarding the issues of refugees’ assistance.”

Rights activists in the Samegrelo-Zemosvaneti region noted that the communication between NGOs and local government agencies is completely absent. As the NGOs are perceived by local authorities as political opposition, the former rarely cooperate with the latter.

“We have valuable experience gained from practical work. The government can use it for free from us and resolve existing problems more efficiently,” said David Chanturia, a representative from Human Rights Protection Centre in Samegrelo-Zemosvaneti region.

“We often need help from the local government, mainly in overcoming the bureaucratic difficulties. The good will of the local government is very much needed. We are always open for cooperation. That is why I think that this initiative of IWPR to link us and the local government and establish a dialogue is very much welcome.”

The vice-governor of the Imereti region Lasha Kiladze said the series of IWPR-organised meetings with NGOs was very important and he looked forward to hearing their proposals to for resolving refugee problems.

“I will participate in every meeting with non-governmental organisations and listen to their recommendations. I am sure we will find the common language and options to improve the living conditions of refugees,” he said.

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