Nearly a quarter of a million Georgians were displaced from Abkhazia during the 1992–93 war. Their lives are directly affected by the conflict yet they have had little opportunity to influence the peace process.
Politically, they are marginalised. They also face challenges such as unemployment and a lack of access to housing, health, education and social services. Many live in isolated settlements with other internally displaced persons (IDPs), exacerbating their sense of separation from the rest of society.
Increased impact through working together
To help displaced people get their voices heard at national and local levels, Conciliation Resources works with a network of around 20 organisations to address issues affecting IDPs. The network has been in existence for almost a decade.
Synergy acts as a forum for information exchange and, increasingly, for joint analysis and action. It advocates at local, regional and national levels for greater inclusion and integration of the displaced, and for the protection of their rights.
It is active in issuing appeals and statements on issues affecting people’s lives, for example condemning forced evictions from properties sold to private investors for development. A monthly supplement in the national newspaper Rezonansi has since October 2010 enabled the network to have a platform to influence mainstream understanding of IDP issues.
Sharing problems to find solutions
By working together as a network, the constituent members have more impact and authority. In 2006 network members were invited to advise the Georgian government on its first state strategy on internal displacement, and have since been consulted on subsequent revisions and developing a national action plan.
It’s one thing for a single organisation to lobby the authorities, but quite another for a network of 20 to do so. They are much more likely to take our concerns into account when we have a unified position.
Manana Darjania, Synergy member
Network members also work with a range of political parties, informing them about specific concerns and encouraging them to generate more coherent policies on IDP issues and conflict resolution.
They facilitate public discussions and cooperation between IDP communities and local authorities in order to create mechanisms that ensure that the displaced can make their voice heard on decision-making processes that affect them and their lives.
Drawing lessons from the past to shape a peaceful future
As part of a European Union-funded project on political participation from 2007 to 2009, Conciliation Resources produced a report on the work of the network; Out of the margins. Securing a voice for internally displaced people: lessons from Georgia is available in English, Georgian and Russian.
Since September 2008 the network has been part of an initiative that spans much of Conciliation Resources’ programme work and is funded by DFID to “increase governance accountability in zones of conflict through public participation in policy making”.
The network is a source of encouragement to others, showing that IDPs themselves have the power to change things.
Nino Kalandarishvili, Synergy network
A recent product of the network’s activity is an opinion survey among Georgians displaced from Abkhazia, conducted in 2010 by the Caucasus Regional Research Centers (CRRC), together with Conciliation Resources. This survey sheds much-needed light on IDP attitudes to key issues including how to resolve the conflict, the possibility of returning home, and how to address the injustices of the past.
A Displacement in Georgia resource pack, including full survey findings, supporting video materials, an analytical report and policy brief are available online and in printed format in English, Georgian and Russian.
Displacement in Georgia materials
The survey’s findings are very important, because they […] challenge the widespread stereotype that [IDPs] want to use any means to go back to Abkhazia. Sixty per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t support the resolution of the conflict by using military force.
Nino Kalandarishvili, Synergy network