Björn Kühne, Head of the Office of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, and part of the official negotiating team.
These informal dialogue processes are essential but are in short supply – there are very few initiatives that bring Georgians and Abkhaz together like this, this is the one long-standing process which exists…I personally very much appreciate the opportunity of taking part in these informal dialogue sessions. This allows for deeper understanding of the positions, obstacles and overall dynamics.
Our work in the Georgian-Abkhaz context creates an environment in which progress can be made and prospects for long-term peace improved. Our Limehouse Discussion Platform (also known as LP dialogue) brings together civil society, officials and experts from both sides of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict divide in informal discussions. This builds on our established track record of over fifteen years facilitating dialogue of this nature. We believe long-term engagement and support is key to building trust and achieving results.
Abkhaz participant in the dialogue process.
Conciliation Resources is a long-term organisation and we need longer-term efforts. It is very difficult for new NGOs to enter the scene in Abkhazia right now… Conciliation Resources is one of the few credible organisations and must build on its acceptance by Abkhaz society.
In order to make progress on the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, it is vital to keep channels for cross-conflict dialogue alive. This platform brings opinion-shapers and practitioners directly together to generate new ideas for peacebuilding, create opportunities for progress on specific areas of common interest and enable more constructive narratives to be built – for example on the root causes of the conflict or on issues of diversity and inclusion.
Margarita Akhvlediani, Georgian dialogue participant.
The dialogue is important because it provides a lot of information about each other, there are a lot of problems because people don't know each other – they don't know the facts and perspectives that are known to the other side. The dialogue creates a platform for honest exchange and only on such a platform can we build stable peace in the future.
Understanding new perspectives and building relationships
Each dialogue meeting within the Limehouse Discussion Platform has a bilateral component, with Georgian and Abkhaz participants only. Participants take part in their personal capacity and the group usually comprises a combination of long-term partners and individuals new to the dialogue. Most meetings also have an international dimension – with invited international experts and diplomats participating directly in the dialogue and working groups or attending roundtable discussions and conferences.
Astamur Tania, Abkhaz dialogue participant from Sukhum/i.
These meetings are an opportunity to explore the positions of the Georgians, Abkhaz and international actors and then identify some areas for collaboration… Each step improves confidence between the sides.
This discussion platform enables information exchange on developments in the conflict context, and improves understanding and builds relationships among key people on both sides of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict divide. These relationships, together with careful preparation and focused facilitation, enable even the hardest issues to be discussed constructively, with practical initiatives and follow up developed and delivered.
Simon Janashia, a Georgian education specialist from Tbilisi.
It’s important that people meet with each other and have a structure to talk about the issues they feel are important, and about cooperation in general…Dialogue such as this gives the possibility to build contacts, share information and plan for the future…It’s talking about the problems and possible shared solutions as a way of people eventually getting to know each other and building trust with one another.
Follow up that leads to tangible progress is a vital element of the dialogue – together participants identify concrete steps that can be taken to address agreed priority issues and positively impact on the lives of people affected by the persisting conflict.
Armin Rieser, Task Force OSCE Chairmanship, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and part of the official negotiating team.
Through such meetings we can raise tangible issues and address specific problems… A process like this outside of the official political sphere has a better chance of addressing issues that are outside of the core conflict ‘status’ question.