War in the Shida Kartli region of Georgia, along the boundary line with the disputed territory of South Ossetia, in August 2008 exposed civilians there to the trauma of family members perishing, destruction of livelihoods and displacement. The local population residing in close proximity to the boundary line report feeling abandoned and permanently exposed to security risks.
Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in the South Caucasus, in partnership with local stakeholders, is establishing Community Initiative Teams, which will address locals’ protection needs through the establishment of a mechanism enabling locals to come together and identify and develop strategies to address their security concerns without resorting to violence. The need for such support is evident.
“A group from Tbilisi came to monitor our living conditions. A woman from the delegation asked me – how do you protect yourselves? I pointed to the hammer against the wall”, stated one of the villagers in her discussion with NP.
Jake Good, Acting Representative, NP in the South Caucasus, said, ”Because of the support it could bring in developing confidence in community safety and enable the local communities to develop the ability to address local concerns, the Community Initiative Teams (CIT) project is an effective and relevant Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping practice, which is unique in the context of the South Caucasus’ protracted conflicts, where violent conflict has erupted sporadically during the last twenty years and grassroots-oriented solutions have not yet gained wide recognition among key regional stakeholders.”
Due to its particular exposure to the effects of unresolved conflict, the hub of villages in Shida Kartli was identified as the first location to implement a Community Initiative Team – named as such because it aims to support local initiatives to develop local solutions to local protection concerns.
“There is a need for a mechanism such as Community Initiative Teams in order for the local population to be more actively involved in establishing mechanisms to assure their own security. They are ready and willing to engage…” said a representative from NP’s partner, the Rehabilitation and Development Center Ergneti, a local grassroots NGO, based alongside the contested boundary line and who will manage the CIT on a daily basis.
With the support of local partners active along the boundary line, NP is actively engaging national and local authorities including law enforcement agencies and other international organisations in building synergies and promoting the CIT concept.
After extensive profiling by NP of some 40 villages, 18 residents were chosen by their communities to be dedicated to the introduction of the CIT concept in early September. These men and women, of various age and backgrounds, participated actively in CIT sessions launched on 21 September 2012, the International Day of Peace.
There “was a need to identify community human security needs in communities and to coordinate the NGO and international organizational answers to the human security needs of the population residing close to the administrative boundary line in Shida Kartli,” said Executive Director, The Charity Humanitarian Center Abkhazeti, an NGO working for vulnerable conflict affected populations in Georgia since 1995 and NP’s partner in the project.
NP envisages that the success of the CIT can serve as a model that can be utilized in other conflict-affected communities across the South Caucasus.
“CIT structures can serve a very important role all across the administrative boundary line and in the greater Caucasus region,” echoed Nino Kalandarishvili, member of NP Advisory Council for the South Caucasus, and Program Director of NP’s partner organization, the Institute for the Study of Nationalism and Conflict.
NP’s partners and CIT participants expressed their firm commitment to non-violent resolution of the conflict and expressed their interest in restoring relationships with South Ossetians on the other side of the boundary line.