Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict-and war-affected areas
1.Over four years after the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, the humanitarian consequences of the conflict remain a major concern.
2.While the emergency needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees have been largely taken care of, there is a slow but sure freezing of the conflict where people’s lives are becoming trumped by politics.
This makes progress on the humanitarian front difficult.
3.The preoccupation on all sides, about status issues, access across the administrative boundary line (ABL) and terminology issues poisons the possibility of progress on the humanitarian front. These issues are political in nature and should be secondary and not primary in any humanitarian discussion. Recent political changes in Georgia following the elections on 1 October 2012 provide an opportunity for a continued commitment to dialogue respecting the relevant resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly.
4.One of the most important humanitarian issues is the right to voluntary return in safety and dignity for internally displaced persons and refugees. In reality, this right is largely ignored for most IDPs, although there are exceptions, to a certain extent, for IDPs in the areas of Gali and Akhalgori. It is important that avenues for return of all IDPs remain open, even if this needs to be on a step-by-step basis, and that the right of all displaced persons to voluntary return in safety and in dignity is respected in accordance with international law.
5.In terms of security, the situation remains tense, particularly for those close to the ABL, but not at the level which led to the 2008 war. A large Russian military presence, both in Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia, is seen in contradictory ways. On the one side, it is seen by Georgia and most of the international community as an occupation of part of the country by the troops of a neighbour, and on the other, it is seen by the Russian Federation and the de facto authorities as a guarantee against renewal of the conflict.
What is needed to restore security and long-term trust is not armies facing each other along the ABL, but a strong non-partisan international peacekeeping and monitoring presence both sides of the line.