Goga Aftsiauri, Yerevan
Recognition of independence, abolition of law on occupied territories and conclusion of agreement on non-initiation of force - these requirements were put forward by Abkhazian and Ossetian civil activists before Georgian colleagues, even though no decision-maker was among them. The Georgian journalists and NGO representatives advised the colleagues that living constantly in the past and war memories will not do good and it's time to give more time to life prospects of future relations and their development. Does it make sense to continue the political dialogue at all?
The same question was raised at a public hearing in Yerevan, which was attended by Sukhumi, Tskhinvali and Tbilisi journalists and NGO representatives. “The role of civil society and its impact on the peacemaking process” was the main topic of the meeting. Sukhumi-based newspaper “Nuzhnaya”’s journalist Kadir Argun, Irina Yanovskaya the head of Tskvalihi NGO “Journalists for Human Rights” and the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s journalist Zviad Mchedlishvli made their reports on Civil Society Development in front of society.
As they say in Tskhinvali and Sukhumi, NGO sector cannot develop properly under tight funding conditions thus in these areas creates a critical picture in terms of human rights protection and media development. According to Irina Yanovskaya opinion, the civil society could find areas of common interests on both sides through preparation of humanitarian projects. The speaker said that the civil society today is not that strong enough to influence political decisions. The parties disputed in this respect.
Despite the differences of views, the meeting participants noted that at such meetings it is still possible to find the areas of common interests. The leader of Public-Political Movement Your Choice – Ossetia - Alan Jussoev believes that the passed time is not enough to restore confidence, the public is unable to quickly change opinions, respectively, in South Ossetia people still believe that the problems will be solved by force. He said that such meetings have been held many times for long but no tangible result has ever come yet.
Unlike Alan, more optimistic is the attitude of Sukhumi journalist Roin Agrba. In his view, civil society actors’ relations can be very useful for media, culture, health care and scientific development fields.
Agrba notes that today the Abkhazian language is facing a hard time, whilst at one time in Tbilisi there was a strong Center of Abkhazian language with respective scientific fields. In his opinion, the education system, which has undergone major changes in Georgia, can possibly act as an example for Sukhumi; in addition, the cooperation can be restored with the purpose of archival materials restoration.
Public hearing in Yerevan was held under the COBERM program, which is financed by the European Union within the United Nations Development Program.
The one of the meeting’s organizers Nino Gogolashvili the representative of Caucasian Center for Civil Hearings considers that the parties' representatives at such meetings become better aware of each other's attitudes, they get information from the primary sources, and the dialogue should be continued definitely.
Irina Yanovskaya the head of Tskhinvali NGO ‘Journalists for Human Rights’ believes that such meetings should certainly be continued and the format participants during the following meetings have to identify specific goals.
The Georgian Public Broadcaster’s producer Zurab Dvali believes that the Ossetian and Abkhazian society changed after the 2008 war. It seems as if they are not so concerned about the processes taking place in Georgia, but the humanitarian and human relations must definitely be restored, otherwise the alienation process will continue.
The meeting between Georgians, Ossetians and Abkhazians and besides the dialogue taking place between them aroused concerns among some experts in Moscow. Yana Amelina the employ of Strategic Studies Institute of Russia, called this meeting ‘marasmus’ on her own facebook page post, and used plenty of abusive words against Ossetian and Abkhazian civil society activists. In her point of view, Abkhazians and Ossetians should not meet with a hostile society. Amelina’s supporters appeared, but the meeting participants had indicated that she was not appointed curator of the Abkhazian and Ossetian NGOs; the civic activist from Tskhinvali Timur Tskhurbati posted the following comment - “The only alternative to negotiations is war and 100-year-long negotiations are better than a year-long war”.