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Meetings Rally Support for Georgian Refugees

Discussion events prompt Tbilisi officials to cooperate with Georgian NGOs on refugee issues.
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A group of Georgian NGOs are to set up a regional network which will work with officials to address refugee concerns, following a series of IWPR-organised meetings on the problems facing Georgia’s displaced population.


“This is a very interesting initiative,” said Eka Gabodze of the Georgian ministry for refugees and settlement. “If it works, many of our problems, as well as those of NGOs dealing with refugee issues and of the refugees themselves, will be solved.”


“The creation of a network of non-governmental organisations is a serious initiative, and we are ready to actively cooperate with it,” said Koba Chopliani from the Georgian ombudsman’s office.


“NGOs operating in the regions possess abundant information and experience, their coming together, I think, will yield important results.”


The idea to create a network of NGOs gelled at an IWPR-organised meeting on refugee issues in Tbilisi on November 10-11. The discussion involved 20 leaders of 15 NGOs from the regions of Imereti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Shida Kartli, as well as eight high-ranking officials from four Georgian ministries. It lasted ten hours, instead of the planned three.


The majority of the NGOs complained that officials tended to avoid communicating with “the third sector”.


“Knowing this, IWPR helped us begin a dialogue, which, if continued, will contribute to the effort to solve refugees’ problems that have remained intractable for years now,” said Khatuna Bechvaia from the organisation Tanaziari.


Participants agreed that similar meetings should be conducted on a bimonthly basis.


The Tbilisi event came on the back of a series of round tables and conferences conducted in the regions by the IWPR Georgia office to allow local NGOs to register their views.


Nino Gerzmava, IWPR’s projects manager in Georgia, said of the events, “Honestly speaking, when we decided to muster NGOs working on refugees issues, none of us thought all this would make such a stir.


“The dozens of round tables and conferences we’ve carried out in the regions have revealed one thing: there are organisations there, each of which has found it difficult to address whatever issues come within its target area on its own, but together they can cope with many problems. So, why miss this opportunity?”


At the Tbilisi event, members of Georgia’s provincial NGO community spoke about the prospects and problems faced by their respective organisations.


“The meeting proved doubly useful to my organisation,” said Manana Managadze, the leader of the group Argusi. “One the one hand, we’ve got in touch with central government structures and started to work on the creation of a regional NGO network, on the other. The latter, I am sure, will be a great help to each of us.”


The NGOs identified the most urgent problems facing refugees in the three Georgian regions, exchanged views on how to address them and agreed a set of recommendations for officials dealing with refugees.


“At the IWPR-staged event, we obtained important information on the problems of refugees, who live in the private sector,” said Gabodze.


“So far, our attention has been directed mainly to the refugees living compactly in state facilities or the new purpose-built settlements, since we possess comprehensive information about them. As for those taking shelter in the private sector, we’ve found it difficult to keep tabs on their problems, as there is no way for us to find out about the needs of refugees, if they have not officially applied to us.


“Regional NGOs, on the contrary, have for years worked with the refugees living in the private sector and possess a lot of important information. This is a resource that enables the ministry to try to make life easier for many more refugees.”


For more information, please contact IWPR Managing Editor Yigal Chazan, yigal@iwpr.net


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IWPR undertakes capacity-building programmes in more than two dozen areas of crisis and conflict around the world. Established in 1993, its work focuses on training, reporting and institution-building. This includes establishing independent local media; training local reporters, editors and producers in basic and specialist skills; supporting extensive in-depth reporting on human rights, good governance and related issues; disseminating fact-based reporting in developing countries and internationally; and strengthening communications capacity of local human rights, women’s and grassroots organisations.