Georgia

Georgia Humanitarian Situation and Strategy 2003

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I.INTRODUCTION
Origins and Objectives

This document was prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Office in Tbilisi. It is based on consultations and inputs from donors, UN agencies, NGOs, Government officials, and other international and bilateral organizations. One impetus for this initiative was the widespread perception of reduced funding for humanitarian assistance, while at the same time several assessments and reports indicated increasing vulnerabilities and humanitarian needs throughout the country.

In late 2002, OCHA initiated a review of humanitarian issues and actions to be developed into a strategic document. This document is meant to assist donor agencies and other international organizations in their strategic planning, fundraising, advocacy and other efforts on behalf of the vulnerable population in Georgia in 2003. It is also meant to spur further debate and discussion on the issues and recommendations contained herein.

Conceptual Context

Georgia presents interesting challenges from a humanitarian point of view, especially in describing who is considered vulnerable and why. Some are the more 'traditional' types of 'relief' beneficiaries, such as conflict-affected persons (refugees, IDPs and their host communities) and victims of natural disasters (droughts and earthquakes). However, there are other vulnerable groups that are 'humanitarian-related,' and are the product of Georgia's pain-ful transition and socio-economic collapse. They may suffer from problems such as extreme poverty, food insecurity, chronic health problems or disabilities. These conditions affect a large proportion of the elderly, the half of the population living below the poverty line (including the working poor), many subsistence farmers, institutionalized children, and the disabled, making them more vulnerable than those who have better coped with Georgia's difficult conditions. This vulnerability stems in part from weakened Governmental structures that cannot provide the necessary range and level of social welfare and other protection or assistance. Until such time that Georgia's structures can meet these requirements, or systemic changes alleviate these problems, these cases remain of humanitarian concern to the interna-tional community.

For these broader humanitarian-related groups, as well as more traditional groups, what is needed overall is a mix of targeted relief assistance, self-help schemes to address basic needs and underlying causes and help lift the more viable cases from their desperate situation, and systemic capacity building and reforms. There are efforts from the international community and Government to try to provide longer-term solutions to the root causes for some of these situations and to reduce the likelihood of increased numbers of vulnerable cases in the immediate future. These strategies are important to note - for humanitarian and development practitioners alike - so that efforts to bridge the gap between populations and assistance efforts can have the most impact in these peoples' lives.

This document begins with a summary of overall conclusions, as well as for the four priority areas identified by the participants in the process. These four areas include: IDPs, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Food Security, and Children's Welfare and Protection.

It then reviews the roles and capacities of various actors in Georgia, followed by an overview of 2002. This section highlights some of the significant programmatic and funding trends in the past year, and also discusses some of the operational challenges confronting aid organizations. The rest of the document focuses on highlighted issues and actions for 2003. Cross-cutting themes are first presented, and then each of the four priority areas is detailed containing a contextual analysis and discussion of needs, a summary of current strategies, and recommended priority actions (especially for the Government and the international community) for 2003.

Summary of Recommendations

Some highlighted recommendations cut across sectors, whereas others are more specific to one of the four priority areas. These crosscutting recommendations include to:

1. Mobilize additional funding to ensure well-targeted assistance for extremely vulnerable and marginalized individuals/households throughout Georgia, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia's vulnerable populations continue to face significant challenges in meeting their daily needs. Funding should be mobilized to support well-targeted assistance. Advocacy campaigns to draw attention to the humanitarian situation should be conducted locally and abroad.

2. Refine existing concepts of vulnerability and official criteria related to humanitarian assis-tance or other programming and improve data collection and analysis. Current official 'risk categories' are insufficient for appropriate targeting, thus requiring the development of a needs-based system of targeting. Official data collection and analysis should be strengthened to provide more accurate information and significant trends to assist decision-making.

3. Continue to build capacity for national institutions, especially health and social services, and to strengthen civil society and NGOs to support and protect vulnerable populations. Georgia's state and civil structures remain weak and insufficiently financed to provide the range of services and assistance needed by affected people. However, the protection and care for vulnerable populations is foremost a state responsibility. Thus, efforts to improve Georgia's capacity to respond to such challenges are needed.

4 .Build linkages from humanitarian programming to rehabilitative and developmental pro-gramming to increase self-reliance and sufficiency among vulnerable populations and communities. Georgia's unique humanitarian challenges require innovative ways of mixing relief, recovery and development efforts together to best address specific circumstances. Simultaneous efforts are needed along the relief-development continuum. Linking actors and strategies from both ends is vital to ensure continuity of strategic approaches and effective interventions. Focused efforts to include these groups into broader poverty reduction and social assistance schemes, such as the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), should be made.

5. Support efforts to facilitate and expedite a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to help stabilize the situation in Georgia. Finally, until Georgia and its citizens are able to move forward from the devastating events following independence, its population will continue to be directly or indirectly affected by lingering effects related to the non-resolution of the two territorial conflicts.

Among the recommendations more specific to a priority area are:

Internally Displaced Persons

  • Improve access to affordable healthcare, quality education and other social services for IDPs, including the allotment of state allowances.

  • Identify gaps in rights affecting IDPs, raise awareness of these rights among IDPs, service providers, Government officials and the international and local community, and work towards better elaboration or enforcement of these rights or provisions.

  • Elaborate more targeted and thorough IDP assistance programs and criteria, and study trends in IDPs' vulnerability and humanitarian/other needs.

  • Find more durable solutions to IDPs' shelter conditions and self-reliance needs within the framework of the New Approach to IDP Assistance.

  • Improve participation and coordination between IDPs, the Government and the interna-tional community on issues concerning IDPs, including in all aspects of programming.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia
  • Support rehabilitation of basic infrastructure and private dwellings, including consideration of labor-based infrastructure and community mobilization projects.

  • Increase income generation and employment generating activities.

  • Support psychosocial projects to address long-standing traumas and manifestations.

Food Security
  • Increase funding for current strategies in relief and social welfare protection, and better targeting assistance.

  • Increase funding for recovery/rehabilitative and development programs targeting subsistence farmers.

  • Support the Ministry of Agriculture's 2003 Strategy.

  • Mainstream poverty and food insecurity issues for advocacy purposes, such as inclusion in discussions regarding the EDPRS and integrating approaches among agricultural actors.

Children's Welfare and Protection
  • Develop national plans of action for deinstitutionalization and special needs children.

  • Develop an official strategy for 'inclusive education' for children with disabilities.

  • Develop human resources and increase community-based services for families in need.

  • Steadily increase the number of children discharged from institutions versus the number admitted.

  • Initiate child specific information and budgets.

II. ROLES AND CAPACITIES

Various Government bodies, UN agencies and other international and local organizations are active in Georgia providing a range of services and support. A review of these roles and capacities is discussed below.

The principle role in providing protection and care for the affected populations, and in creating conditions for effective delivery of relief throughout Georgia, belongs to the Georgian Government. Within the Georgian Government, the main Ministries involved in assisting the population are the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Welfare. In addition, several other Ministries such as the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance also have responsibilities that support humanitarian activity in the country, such as the registration of NGOs or decisions on the humanitarian status of imported commodities. In cases of natural disasters or emergencies, such as after the 25 April 2002 earthquake, other Ministries (e.g. the Ministry of Construction and Urbanization and the Ministry of Interior's Department of Extreme Situations and Civil Defense) and other Governmental bodies, such as the district/municipal authorities from the affected area, may become involved. At these levels, authorities are often widely involved in facilitating programming in their areas.

UN agencies, the ICRC, and the NGOs already present in Georgia have the competencies and capacities to complement the Georgian Government in addressing the country's humanitarian and related needs.

Important UN goals include support to Georgia's population in the consolidation of country-wide peace, in advancement of democracy and human rights, and in the reduction of poverty. The principal UN humanitarian actors are UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, UNDP, and OCHA. The UN agencies provide assistance and expertise in the following sectors: human rights, conflict resolution, relief assistance, support to health and education sectors, children's issues, gender, economic development, food security, environmental protection, disaster preparedness and response, capacity building in management and administration, and respect for the rule of law.

The Red Cross movement and the non-governmental community are key actors in assistance throughout the country.1 These organizations represent a professional body of expertise with an invaluable knowledge of issues on the ground and beneficiary needs.

The International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) provides assistance and expertise in the following areas: food, non-food items, medical, water and sanitation, shelter, psychologi-cal and legal counseling, visits to detainees, and promotion of international humanitarian law. ICRC works primarily in Abkhazia and western Georgia with its assistance programs, and throughout the country with its promotion of international humanitarian law and detention visits.

Twenty international NGOs (with specific relief-type mandates) and over 4000 registered local NGOs provide assistance and expertise in the following areas: protection, rule of law and human rights, food, agriculture, shelter and non-food items, health, water and sanitation, education, mine clearance, and economic recovery. Most international NGOs are based in Tbilisi, although their activities cover most of the country and some base their headquarters or maintain field offices in the regions. Some have been operational in Georgia since the early 1990s and have exceptional institutional memories. International NGOs are a vital resource for a country in transition, offering a support base to local NGOs and assisting with capacity building and growth. Grassroots civil society structures such as local NGOs, women's groups, youth clubs and volunteer associations are also part of a social safety net that can offer support to vulnerable people during such transitions.

III. 2002 OVERVIEW

A. Programming and Funding

Reversing the 1990s trend of annual reductions in humanitarian funding, it is generally felt that during 2002 humanitarian funding instead increased. This is said to reflect recognition that the hopeful assumptions of the late 1990s were wrong, and that considerable humanitar-ian needs had not been met.

At the beginning of 2002, some international NGOs were struggling to maintain a presence in Georgia, especially those that had been primarily ECHO-funded2. By year's end, a few major donors had increased their humanitarian funding, while other actors announced expansions of programs targeting food insecure and vulnerable households. At the same time, a non-traditional donor, British Petroleum (BP), entered the humanitarian scene to provide assistance during the 2001-2002 winter to cover emergency electricity needs as part of USAID's Winter Heating Assistance Program.3

Despite closing its office in 2001, ECHO announced in late 2002 $1.3 million in funding for humanitarian assistance in western Georgia and Abkhazia, following assessments indicating considerable unmet needs. This support will primarily target vulnerable elderly and destitute households with food assistance, income generation activities and canteen support.

After a series of assessments in 2001 in western Georgia, ICRC began a large, multi-year assistance program to provide food and health assistance for the 5% most destitute individuals or households. This program began in mid-2002, and represented a 36% budgetary increase from 2001 to 2002 for ICRC. Interestingly, ICRC had stopped such assistance in 1995.

In late 2002, WFP also announced its new three-year protracted relief and recovery program that will be their largest one yet in Georgia.4 Starting in April 2003, it will focus on food assistance for vulnerable individuals and institutions and food-for-work activities in vulnerable communities in six targeted regions.

The Government also increased appropriations in 2002 to humanitarian and reconstruction activities, primarily as a result of the earthquake and ongoing poor harvests.

It should also be noted that the Ministry of Finance decision, during the summer of 2002, to restrict the importation of clothing, food and other items as humanitarian assistance has also reduced the activities of several NGOs, both international and local. Some NGOs imported goods for monetization to generate revenue to support programmatic work, whereas others imported items for direct distribution to individuals and institutions. It has been difficult to compile a dollar amount for this type of assistance but for some larger NGOs, such as ADRA, IOCC, World Vision, and Counterpart International, it is/was a significant part of their activities.5

B. Operational Challenges

In 2002, the Government and aid community faced significant challenges in trying to imple-ment effective programs that directed appropriate assistance to vulnerable groups in Georgia. The issues presented below are those most widely voiced as obstacles warranting further debate and discussion.

Appropriate targeting and the lack of refined vulnerability criteria are widely reported as a frustration among agencies as they try to direct limited resources to the most vulnerable. The official assistance categories often do not reflect reality, causing many agencies to create new criteria that better delineate the level of need among a given population. Inaccurate and unreliable data, corruption, and peoples' general sense of entitlement, also complicate attempts to determine who is most in need of assistance. Needs-based targeting requires extensive monitoring, and thus financial and staff resources, making it difficult to implement. However, as assistance becomes more limited, this approach helps ensure that those most in need are the most likely to be assisted.

The issue of dependency has also been raised, especially as humanitarian programs enter their second decade in Georgia. Yet most organizations felt that beneficiaries have not become dependent on assistance, since the provided amount is often supplemental and not significant enough. Others claim that it is the Government that has developed a dependency, or at least, an over-reliance on the international community to support its extremely needy population, while it focuses on macroeconomic growth strategies.

However, some groups or individuals are truly dependent on assistance, due to their particular situation and vulnerability - the infirm, the single elderly, etc. Well-targeted assistance is and will be required for them. However, efforts to discontinue aid distributions to young, able-bodied men and women after a certain time period should be instigated. These individuals should instead be involved in self-reliance projects that assist them utilize their capacities.

Corruption continues to be a problem at all levels of Georgian life: some elderly pensioners must pay a bribe to receive monthly stipends; authorities and NGOs can face pressure to include not-so-vulnerable names on beneficiary lists; sham organizations pose as NGOs to import goods tax-free; official statistics do not include smuggled commodities; etc. Several donors support various anti-corruption efforts and rule-of-law programs. Some NGOs feel there is an over-focus of these programs at the central level, and that more could be done locally or at a grassroots level to reduce the impact at an individual or local level. Certainly, as the weakest parts of society usually have the least access to justice or recourse, these anti-corruption efforts should consider ways to reduce the negative impacts in the humanitarian context, such as corruption related to stipends and registration.

Excessive Government bureaucracy and lack of commitment at various levels to support humanitarian actors also frustrates some aid practitioners. Issues regarding taxation, importa-tion of goods, excessive auditing and inspections, bank closures, etc., have confronted every international NGO interviewed in the process of developing this document.6 In several cases, bank accounts were frozen for long periods resulting in operational delays and requiring donor and UN intervention. Political obstacles arise for agencies operational in Abkhazia. Local NGOs also suffer from negative publicity and distrust among segments of the general population and from within the Government. A widely publicized campaign in 2002 labeled local NGOs as "grant eaters." The population at large still does not commonly understand the beneficial role that NGOs (local and international) can play in society, and some perceive them as threats instead.

Some in the assistance and donor community feel that some Government officials are not fully informed about the true levels of poverty and needs in Georgia. The poor often have insufficient ways to articulate their needs. Central authorities sometimes discredit informa-tion received from regional authorities as being inflated or incorrect. The unreliability of statistics provides a way to discount other's statements and question needs.

Among Government officials, there also seems to be an internal debate about the need for humanitarian assistance in Georgia. Some have publicly stated that it is not needed, whereas other officials would hold strongly disagree with their colleagues. This range of opinions translates into varying degrees of cooperation and understanding among authorities regarding operational difficulties faced by implementing agencies.

NGOs often voiced the desire to be more engaged with Government and donors regarding strategies and technical assistance objectives. NGOs also felt that donors sometimes focused too overwhelmingly on the same area or sector, rather than spreading assistance throughout the country. Local NGOs, in particular, stressed the need for more integrated pro-gramming in regions. Others stressed the need for stronger linkages between relief and development agencies to ensure that as people or communities move off of humanitarian assistance, they will be eligible for other community projects. Humanitarian practitioners are interested to participate in discussions about inclusion of their beneficiaries into mid/long-term developmental strategies and to find ways to meet immediate needs while the underlying causes of these needs are simultaneously addressed.

Finally, ongoing security concerns remain an important consideration. This is true both for organizations working in dangerous areas like Pankisi and Abkhazia, as well as in cities like Tbilisi and Kutaisi where the international community has been victimized by several crimes (carjackings, office robberies, residence burglaries, kidnappings and brutal attacks).

IV. 2003: ISSUES AND ACTIONS

Through the process of developing this document, the participants identified four areas as needing priority attention in 2003: IDPs, Abkhazia and South Ossetia; Food Security; and Children's Welfare and Protection. Special working groups of organizations concerned with these issues have met since December 2002 to identify the main problems in these areas, analyze their causes, and develop recommendations for addressing them. As noted above, the proposed recommendations reflect the group's opinions and are not necessarily those of the UN. The section below begins by describing several themes and issues that cut across these four areas, before presenting the results of the four working groups.

A. Crosscutting Themes and Issues

In looking at the year ahead, respondents frequently commented that Georgia's limited economic growth has done little to reduce the levels of poverty and need in the country, and raised concerns about where the 'transition' was going. Unemployment/underemployment has increased, especially among older adults who are becoming less productive. Low incomes force many people to take out loans and/or sell their remaining assets, aggravating their situation. Social welfare systems fail to provide adequate support for the most destitute.

Perhaps most worrisome, was the observation that with this growing number of poor people there are not enough assistance programs to stem these numbers from increasing. While limited assistance seems to reach the most vulnerable, there are others who fall through the cracks because they may be in slightly better condition but are still destitute or vulnerable in other ways. NGOs usually do not have resources to expand their beneficiary numbers to in-clude such people and are "forced to forget." Donors require new people be cycled into projects and some beneficiaries do not match criteria. Organizations are trying ways to coor-dinate projects to complement each other and absorb ex-beneficiaries, where possible, into appropriate community mobilization and self-reliance schemes.

Yet some of these poor will never be able to work, and thus are unable to work in food for work or other community self-help schemes. Others will not have enough collateral to obtain a loan, participate in a group credit scheme, replenish their sold assets, etc. Thus, even if they 'graduate' from a relief project, there is often a gap in available assistance that they are qualified to receive or for a project in which they can participate. There are not enough projects that create self-reliance among their beneficiaries, so that unless the project is continued or another project replaces it, these people still remain in need of some form of assistance.

Thus, very well targeted humanitarian assistance is still needed, and probably for many years, since even if there is economic growth in the future, it is unlikely to be large enough to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

B. Four Prioritized Areas

1. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The situation of IDPs in Georgia is one that generates much debate. According to statistics from the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation, over 260,000 IDPs are registered in Georgia as a result of ethnic conflicts in South Ossetia (beginning in November 1989) and Abkhazia (beginning in August 1992). At the onset of both conflicts, neither the Georgian Government nor the donor community could have predicted that people would be displaced for over a decade, and that hopes for a political settlement would be deadlocked.

In 2003, families and individuals remain displaced, often in precarious living conditions and highly dependent on international support. Few opportunities exist for regular employment, so many IDPs engage in petty trade or unskilled manual labor. A majority of IDPs rely heav-ily on the often-delayed IDP allowance, including those who are physically unable to work, or cannot find a job if they are able to work. Most do not have access to decent, accessible land to improve their food security. Over half of the displaced live in crowded collective centers, and the rest rent or share accommodations with host families.

As stated in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,7 the national authorities are primarily responsible for assistance and protection of the displaced. However, the Government's programs for IDPs are limited. They cover state allowances (11 GEL monthly for IDPs in collective centers, 14 GEL for those living in private houses); free transport for the underground and electric transport for Tbilisi-registered IDPs; 100kw/h free electricity per month, and free public utilities in collective centers.

IDPs are not a homogenous group facing the same needs, although universal entitlement to the IDP allowance and category-based relief assistance has reinforced this perception both among IDPs and actors involved with them. The needs and resources of IDPs vary enormously, leading to the need for a complex set of vulnerability criteria requiring a range of targeted responses.

Basic and urgent humanitarian needs still exist among some IDPs for food, health care and shelter. The allowance is sufficient to purchase 500g of bread daily, but it does not cover ex-penses for adequate caloric intake, let alone other household, hygiene and health needs. However, some IDPs with the physical or resource potential to meet their household needs are unable to do so because they cannot utilize this potential. These people require not only a response to their immediate needs, but also assistance to mobilize their own capacities to become self-sufficient. Such IDPs would also benefit from development activities aimed at improving their capacity to withstand risks (such as losing a job or poor harvests), prevent decapitalization, and falling into destitution again, requiring assistance to meet their basic needs.

It is important to note a significant trend regarding earmarked assistance for IDPs. A signifi-cant portion of humanitarian assistance was earmarked for IDPs in the 1990s; however since 2000 most donors began to mainstream IDPs into regular programming through community-based programming and attempts at local integration. The protracted nature of displacement in Georgia obliged national authorities and others to find alternatives to the levels of decreasing humanitarian aid, especially by strengthening the capacity of the displaced to sustain them-selves. However, the depressed economic situation and evolving legal regime limited the chances for IDPs to be fully able to achieve self-reliance. Their ability to temporarily integrate locally has had mixed success.

Temporary integration is a very political and psychological issue: some believe it could affect the eventual return of IDPs or cause IDPs to lose their status should they attempt to settle temporarily. It has been argued that integration would also lessen pressure on the Government and international community to continue negotiations with separatist leaders to seek resolution to the conflict, or imply tacit acceptance of the current demarcations within the conflict areas.

These concerns are perhaps most felt regarding discussions about durable shelter solutions for IDPs. To rehabilitate existing shelters for more permanent residence implies official accep-tance of the political status quo and that IDPs will continue to be displaced for an indefinite period of time. Yet at the same time, the Government is unable to provide alternative shelters, since more appropriate buildings are not available. The need for an adequate shelter remains one of the basic and urgent humanitarian needs for IDPs.

Human rights awareness and protection are important issues, especially regarding IDPs' rights. IDPs frequently claim that social rights are more significant to them (access to food, employ-ment, health care, shelter, etc.) than political rights (such as participating in elections). While this sentiment reflects their immediate needs, it is important for the Government and the in-ternational community to advocate for the articulation and protection of all rights for IDPs. IDPs consider the foremost rights violation is to be arbitrarily displaced from one's home and not have the right to return in safety and dignity.

Currently, most internationally funded programming does not explicitly target IDPs as a separate group but instead uses community-based approaches to involve both the local popu-lation and IDPs. The range of these activities includes basic recovery (income generation, for example) to full-scale development (community infrastructure and micro finance). There continue to be some programs such as psychosocial rehabilitation, legal services, or small-scale shelter rehabilitation that do involve IDPs as a specific target group, but these are much less common than the community development approaches.

The New Approach to IDP Assistance (NA) was launched in 1999 to advocate for more ap-propriate assistance and governmental policies to support IDP self-reliance during their dis-placement. It also advocated for temporary integration of IDPs until such time that they were able to safely return to their homes. The main partners in the New Approach are the Government of Georgia, the World Bank, UNDP, UNHCR, USAID and SDC. Within the NA framework, a small project fund was also established to test pilot initiatives promoting self-reliance, the Georgian Self Reliance Fund. Seven pilot projects are currently underway that seek to examine possible modalities and approaches to better assist IDPs to maximize their potential and resources. It is argued that building IDP capacities now, during displace-ment, will provide skills and resources that can be utilized upon their return when IDPs will again have specific needs.

The NA is also an initiative for advocacy and will continue to highlight necessary human rights protection issues or policies that adversely affect IDPs or require additional enforce-ment to guarantee IDPs the ability to exercise their rights and capacities. In 2003, joint Government-donor working groups have been established to research the types of vulnerabil-ity present among subgroups of IDP populations; best practice models for IDP economic self-reliance; and identification of important human rights provision and enforcement gaps concerning IDPs.

What follows are nine key recommendations for priority action:

  • Continue efforts to facilitate and expedite a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia: The international community should continue to support the participation and involvement of all sides in confidence building activities and conflict resolution programs to work towards a lasting peaceful settlement in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The continued displacements and related problems will only be fully resolved when people are able to return to their places of origin and lead normal lives again.

  • Improve access to affordable healthcare, quality education and other social services for IDPs: Statistics indicate the greater likelihood of IDPs than the local population to have less access to quality education, health care, and other social services. Further exploration of the types of support available and/or lacking within official structures such as health and education facilities that serve primarily IDPs is needed. Psychosocial counseling for traumatized individuals should also be available.

  • Improve the allotment of state allowances for urban and rural IDPs: IDPs often re-ceive their allowances late or have other problems obtaining them. Improved coordination between the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation and Post Bank (responsible for transferring allowance) would reduce IDP frustration. Improvements in the annual regis-tration process are also needed.

  • Identify gaps in protection or enforcement of rights of IDPs as Georgian citizens, and raise awareness of these rights among IDPs, service providers, Government officials and the international and local community, and work towards better enforcement of these rights and provisions: Confusion reigns regarding IDP benefits and rights. Access to credible, accurate information is especially limited in regions. More efforts are needed to publicize entitlements to providers and to recipients as well as strengthened efforts to guarantee that such rights are not violated. Legal assistance clinics, newsletters, broad-casts, trainings and other types of communication and support should continue.

  • Elaborate more targeted and thorough IDP assistance programs and criteria, and study trends in IDPs' vulnerability and humanitarian/other needs: In order to better cover needs based on vulnerability, poverty, physical and mental disabilities, family status, etc., the relevant Government agencies and assistance organizations should elabo-rate more targeted and thorough assistance programs for IDPs. They should also recognize that there are varying degrees of vulnerability and resources among the IDP population. Continued tracking and analysis of trends related to IDP needs vis-à-vis the general population is also needed to ensure that appropriate strategies are devised for both groups. Continued analysis also allows for programmatic adjustments to more effectively serve the IDP population.

  • Find more durable solutions to IDPs' shelter conditions: Adequate accommodation is one of the most basic human needs which must be covered, and is a prerequisite for meaningful utilization of additional humanitarian or development assistance. It has been years since some collective centers have been rehabilitated, and most of these buildings were never meant to house people for considerable periods of time. Most of these build-ings are former hotels, resorts, and public buildings that should be restored to their original usage, especially resorts to help improve regional economies. Besides the health and social risks involved from living in cramped quarters, oftentimes these centers are isolated, and thus limit an IDP's employment possibilities or access to decent land for cultivation. Still another large group of IDPs continue to live with host families or rela-tives after almost a decade. Coping mechanisms have been stretched to the limit in some cases. Unemployed IDPs can no longer afford rents and move back to crowded collective centers because they have no other option. Donors have resisted requests for third and fourth rehabilitations as unsustainable, and the Government does not want to convert tem-porary shelters into permanent housing. If funding for improvement of current living conditions is not possible, then financial support must be made available for alternate ac-commodation schemes. After a decade of temporary arrangements, it is time to identify more durable housing solutions.

  • Identify and support self-reliance, income generation and job creation schemes for IDPs: IDPs, especially those in collective centers, are more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population. Thus, their vulnerability is increased. Income generation ac-tivities, job creation schemes, business incubators, improved access to credit and more efforts to support IDP self-reliance are needed to break the cycle of despair and hopeless-ness found among idle IDPs. Building IDP capacities to become self-sufficient will also provide skills that can be utilized when they return to their homes. New skills and train-ings are necessary for IDPs who want to remain viable candidates for working in a market economy. These skills will be vital to rebuilding Abkhazia and South Ossetia upon their return.

  • Improve participation and coordination between IDPs, the Government and the inter-national community on issues concerning IDPs: Too often, new projects (espe-cially in the regions) are designed and/or launched without the full involvement of the local authorities and, more importantly, the targeted beneficiaries. The participation of local leaders and IDPs who are often better aware of the existing needs and problems will better meet the requirements of the IDP community. It is also important to build relation-ships between authorities and their constituents. Full community participation is a key to sustainable interventions that are demand driven. Improved coordination will assist in avoiding duplication by different actors and covering more of the beneficiary population.

  • Continue and expand capacity building programs for newly established IDP-oriented NGOs: Several IDP-oriented NGOs have been formed in the past few years, but have not benefited by the range of capacity building projects designed in the 1990s. A strengthened civil society will enable the Georgian Government, and international community, to serve populations in need and meet existing gaps. As international NGOs consider exit strategies, it is important that there be viable local partners to assume their service delivery roles. Special emphasis should be given to IDP staffed NGOs in order to provide transportable skills and experiences that they will be able to use in Abkhazia and South Ossetia upon their return.

2. South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Similar to the rest of Georgia, international support until the mid-1990s was relief-oriented in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Since then, relief assistance has been reduced while modest transitional and development projects have been introduced. The lack of progress, and by 2002 the deadlock, in the political process has resulted in limited and inadequate support for the populations in the two separatist areas. The international community continues to exert efforts for a peaceful conflict resolution, which also requires simultaneous efforts to address the basic needs of the impoverished population.

The socio-economic situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is by all accounts dismal. Previously, both areas used to be agriculturally rich, while their resorts attracted many tourists and the population enjoyed relatively prosperous lives. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its centrally-planned economy, destructions during the ensuing civil wars, a natural disaster in South Ossetia, as well as the lack of maintenance and general scarcity of funding, have devastated local industry and infrastructure and brought the population to socio-economic and psychological misery. Despite modest support from the international community and some small, private investments, the situation remains precarious, while poverty and despair grow.

Most official salaries are meager (US$ 5 -15), while local monthly pensions can be as low as US$ 1-2. These figures are lower than in the rest of Georgia. Unemployment rates are very high, and survival mechanisms are typically subsistence agriculture and petty trade. A large part of the economy is in the shadow sector, often dangerously criminalized. Poverty and lack of legal income and employment opportunities result in emigration of the educated, working-age people. Both areas face post-war depopulation and an aging non-productive population. The local de facto authorities have no external donor support to their respective budgets so they cannot financially encourage economic activities or provide much social welfare support. Much of the population thus remains doomed to poverty, while some segments of the popula-tion remain highly dependent on international support.

The assistance situation in both regions area is not the critical emergency that it was following the two conflicts; however, the scale of unmet basic needs is of humanitarian concern. Current medical and food assistance programs are essential and cover the basic needs of the most vulnerable populations, but are insufficient to meet all needs fully.

Beyond humanitarian aid, there is concern, especially among some in the international com-munity active in these areas, that rehabilitation and development activities in these areas should be promoted. However, donors are reluctant to invest in development programs in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Some of these considerations may be political, but there is also genuine concern that such programs may be unwise or counterproductive when the situation remains unpredictable and volatile. The violence in Gali in 1998 stands out as a reminder. In spite of these rational and practical concerns, donors should be aware that the needs in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are probably greater than in the rest of Georgia with much less local capacity to address them, according to organizations working throughout the country.

Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain territorially part of Georgia according to both the international community and the Government of Georgia. The central Georgian authorities have supported relief and humanitarian assistance to these two regions in accordance with humanitarian standards. However, rehabilitation programs, and especially those that verge on development, raise concerns with some Georgian authorities, as well as among some donors, as perhaps constituting de facto strengthening, or recognition, of the separatist regimes. Some rehabilitation and development projects have been supported, usually through confidence building measures as part of peace negotiations.

Acute rehabilitation needs to benefit society at large and contribute to dignified living condi-tions for the domicile and returnee population exist. De facto authorities have little funding to invest in basic infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, social welfare institutions, and water and sanitation systems. There is also a great need to rehabilitate private dwellings, especially in Abkhazia. Such devastation is not conducive to potential returnees nor, ultimately, to the peace process itself.

Carefully targeted small-scale income and employment generation activities are probably the most effective way of addressing some underlying causes of basic needs. Local-level, partici-patory community projects aimed at increasing opportunities for self-help and community building, while preventing further de-capitalization and destitution, should be promoted. A need to introduce targeted psychosocial programs has been repeatedly highlighted by interna-tional and local interlocutors. Finally, proactive efforts should continue in confidence building and civil society development in the conflict areas.

Specific to Abkhazia, there are additional concerns of the international community such as the high-level of criminality and insecurity, especially in Gali Region. Moreover, an estimated 15,000 landmines are spread throughout Gali, Ochamchira and other parts of Abkhazia.8 The mines endanger humans and livestock, and restrict access to peoples' land that is critical to individual self-reliance. The most complex security situation is in Gali District where an esti-mated 40,000-60,000 IDPs have spontaneously returned, but where the implementation of relief assistance or rehabilitative programming is limited by these security concerns.

The conflict in South Ossetia has received much less exposure internationally and even within Georgia. There is relatively free movement enjoyed by both the Ossetian and Georgian populations in and out of South Ossetia, as well as relative freedom of (if unregulated) trade. Nonetheless, this region has become more isolated lately. By mid-2002, most international organizations had left the area, and only OSCE and ADRA kept offices there. New political leadership began in early 2002, and there have been some misunderstandings between the de facto authorities and the international community, subsequently resulting in programmatic delays.

Limited international assistance and less interest in the area have only further degraded the humanitarian situation for the most vulnerable. Firewood distributions are badly needed in winter for extremely vulnerable cases. The humanitarian situation requires urgent review by the international community. The state of civil society and local NGO development in South Ossetia, compared even to Abkhazia, is much weaker than elsewhere in Georgia.

The prioritized recommendations for addressing the current situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are the following:

  • Continue to facilitate international and local efforts to bring a peaceful settlement in South Ossetia and Abkhazia: The deadlock in both separatist negotiations has only resulted in continued misery for the affected civilian populations. The longer these politi-cal standoffs remain, the greater the likelihood for continued humanitarian aid and needs of affected vulnerable groups on all sides of ceasefire lines. Continued efforts to bridge the widening gap between opposing sides, such as confidence building measures, are necessary to keep negotiations open. Proactive conflict resolution efforts should focus more on socio-economic issues and promote contacts at all levels of the populations.

  • Review the humanitarian situation and address the existing gaps, with priority given to the health sector: Current food and medical programs are considered absolutely es-sential, and the situation requires constant monitoring. Attention is needed to reduce gaps in the medical sector, especially the lack of outreach services and the unavailability of particular drugs. Health professionals' training is often outdated. Disease has significant effect on households, especially vulnerable ones.

  • Support, to a much larger extent, rehabilitation of basic infrastructure and private dwellings: Acute rehabilitation needs exist, especially in Abkhazia. Public infrastructure benefiting society at large, such as hospitals, schools, social welfare institutions, water and sanitation systems, and roads, suffer from war damage and years of poor maintenance. The regime has insufficient financial resources to maintain these vital services causing the population dependent on such public services to rely on external support. Many homes have also been destroyed or damaged from war or neglect, so that returnees live in partial structures. Other vulnerable households cannot make basic, much less larger repairs to their homes because they do not have such resources. Security and political considera-tions are important to review, yet concerted efforts to help rehabilitate basic infrastructure and homes will improve the depressed living atmosphere as well as create conditions more conducive to eventual return.

  • Increase income and employment generating activities: In both areas, lack of income and employment opportunities is a central issue. The poor economic condition has caused an increase in poverty, which then is more threatening to already vulnerable groups since they do not have recourse to self-help schemes or other activities to help generate subsis-tence incomes. Populations are also becoming more inactive and less productive while forgetting their technical skills or educational experience from lack of utilization. Small-scale income generation and employment schemes are an effective way of addressing some of the underlying causes. The priority for such activities should be in the agricul-tural sector. Agricultural outputs are important means of survival in these areas.

  • Consider labor-based infrastructure and community mobilization projects: As noted above, much public infrastructure is damaged and people have no real opportunities for income. Projects such as community-based infrastructure rehabilitation or Food-For-Work schemes would reduce some potential vulnerability and prevent further destitution while also repairing needed services or infrastructure.

  • Encourage support to psychosocially oriented projects to address a various long-standing post-war period traumas and related manifestations: Psychosocial rehabili-tation projects are virtually non-existent in Abkhazia and South Ossetia whereas the populations (as well as with the displaced populations elsewhere in Georgia) still suffer from post-traumatic stress and other manifestations related to the conflict. The dismal socio-economic situation and present deadlock regarding a political settlement also compound these psychosocial stresses and traumas. Failure to assist some people now may result in longer-term familial and societal problems requiring additional support. Other programs are needed to address at-risk groups such as young unemployed males who can easily fall victim of societal vices like crime, drugs, alcohol and suicide.

  • Further support to civil society and local NGO development: Local civil society in Abkhazia and especially South Ossetia is much weaker than in other parts of Georgia because NGOs and other civil society actors have not had the training opportunities or programming experience that other NGOs have had. The role of civil society actors in environments transitioning from relief to rehabilitation helps meet individual or commu-nity needs that go unfulfilled by authorities. These resources should be developed further to also support the democratization process in both areas.

3. Children's Welfare and Protection

Georgia's social transition has affected children due to severe reductions in the social services that would normally support their growth and development. For children from vulnerable or dysfunctional households or for those suffering from physical or mental disabilities, these effects have been felt most acutely. This section highlights three prioritized categories of children that are of humanitarian concern to the international community: institutionalized children, street children and children with disabilities.

Children in Institutions

During the twelve years since the independence of Georgia, systems of care inherited from the Soviet era have persisted. Thus, the response of the Georgian government to vulnerable children today relies almost exclusively on large residential institutions. Children in Georgia face an elevated risk of being placed in an institution if they have a disability, or come from poor or dysfunctional families. Around 5000 children in Georgian institutions form a segre-gated underclass. They are at a significant disadvantage in adapting to mainstream society once they "age out" of institutions. Lacking the assistance and skills needed to obtain viable employment, many resort to street crime, drug dealing and prostitution. Institutionalized children are stigmatized by virtue of their lack of parental protection and behavior. Their up-bringing in an institution determines their future and unquestionably limits their potential.

In discussing children in institutions, emphasis on the need for child protection and welfare reform that feeds into the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) is important. The basic premise being that alternatives that support at risk families must replace institutional care.

There is some momentum toward social policies and systems to implement relevant macro legislative frameworks, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In particular, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs have both taken initiatives to pilot new family and community-based systems of care. The goal of these pilot efforts is to deinstitutionalize the system of child welfare by creating community-based, family-focused models, and entrusting greater responsibility to local bodies. National policies that support this goal need to be put in place so that new systems of care can be established while the old system is dismantled.

There are compelling humanitarian, legal, and fiscal reasons to deinstitutionalize the child welfare system.

  • Humanitarian: Decades of research have shown that the human cost of institutionalization of children is significant, resulting in mental, emotional, and sometimes physical prob-lems. This is true even when the institutions are well funded and provide an adequate environ-ment and nutritious diet.

  • Legal: A child's right to a family upbringing is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Georgia is a signatory. Placement in a residential care facility is recognized by the CRC as the "choice of last resort" (Article 20).

  • Fiscal: The financial costs of institutionalizing children, or any population, are signifi-cantly higher than community-based, family-focused care. Also, the human and social costs of continuing to rely on institutions as a response to vulnerable children increases exponentially as dysfunctional children grow into dysfunctional adults with dysfunctional families.

Street Children

In the past ten years, the issue of street children has grown more acute. What was once the symptom of a dysfunctional family is now becoming more prevalent due to the increased number of poor and vulnerable families who cannot afford to raise their children. Street children in the larger cities have also become more common as poor families have moved to cities in search of income. This issue has wide support of the local NGO community and local authorities. However there are important gaps and constraints:

  • Protective legislation for children lacking parental care is needed.
  • There is not a common governmental strategy regarding the issue of street children.
  • Coordination is weak among the agencies and organizations working on this issue.
  • Funding is inadequate, from both the Government and from donors, to tackle this issue.
  • The potential role of civil society is underutilized, especially at a time when the state is unable to fully address the problem.

Children with Disabilities

Approximately 50% of Georgia's disabled children come from poor families, which are often large families. For vulnerable families, care and rehabilitation for children with disabilities are a considerable financial burden so that often times these children do not receive the care, treatment and appropriate education that they need. Due to the social stigma still associated with certain disabilities, especially mental disabilities, families often choose to institutionalize their children rather than suffer public scorn and embarrassment.

In addition to the issues highlighted above, these children also suffer from the lack of appro-priate programs, curricula, and teaching methodologies appropriate for their level of disability. More importantly, persistent Soviet thinking inhibits the 'mainstreaming' of these children into regular classes and deinstitutionalization. An inclusive education approach supports mainstreaming some children with disabilities into 'regular' schools, making certain changes with infrastructure, technical aids, etc. It has been internationally affirmed that mainstream schools provide the best educations for mentally challenged children. In 2002, the Committee on the CRC expressed its concern about the poor implementation of inclusive education in Georgia and called for increased efforts to design special programs for inclusive education, further deinstitutionalization, and support for societal integration for these children.

Seven priority actions are required to support systemic change in the child welfare system in Georgia:

  • Develop human resources: Child welfare reform is dependent upon the availability of human resources to implement the shift to family and community-based services. The immediate focus should be on retraining the unemployed university-educated workforce as social work professionals to counsel families. Qualified staff of institutions should be retrained to acquire new skills and increase their employability. Teachers in mainstream schools should be equipped with skills and technical aids to work with children with dis-abilities. Rigid teaching methods of the past need to be revised to be more child-focused and differentiated for children with specific needs or at-risk youth.

  • Increase community-based services: Reform demands a greater emphasis on the participation of local entities in providing solutions and support to families and children in their locality. These include mother and infant shelters, day care and teen centers, inclu-sive education (especially in kindergartens), employment counseling, programs for at-risk youth, job training/placement, services for children with disabilities, and crisis interven-tion services. Delivery of community-based services will result in fewer institutions and more tolerant community attitudes towards children with special needs. Community-based services will also provide opportunities for dysfunctional families and other families in need with necessary support services and assistance for their particular situation.

  • Develop an official strategy for inclusive education for special needs children. Focus-ing on developing teachers specially equipped with skills for working with disabled children, and on changing societal attitudes toward such children, the authorities and assistance providers should develop a comprehensive approach for mainstreaming disabled children into 'regular' schools rather than institutions. Ordinary children's services and programs, such as summer camps, after-school programs, etc., should also be available for children with disabilities. These children should not have to wait to be 'rehabilitated' before getting on with their lives.

  • Develop national plans of action for deinstitutionalization and inclusive education: A comprehensive plan of action that identifies institutions for closure and a schedule for closure needs to be developed. The plan would need to take account of all 52 children's institutions including those under the authority of the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Patriarchy, and private institutions. The plan would identify the number of children who would continue to require residential services and based on this, the number and types of residential care facilities required. The remaining few institutions should be made developmentally stimulating and child friendly, and staffed by qualified staff with relevant skills.

  • Focus on 'gate keeping' and deinstitutionalization: Interventions that discourage the influx of children into institutions should focus on gate keeping functions while simulta-neously reintegrating children into families and communities. Although building a system of care capable of reducing the number of children in institutions is a complex operational undertaking, success can be achieved through a simple formula: 'discharges from institu-tions must exceed admissions over an extended period of time.' The primary focus of interventions should be on strategies that offer the greatest opportunity to influence entries and exits to the system. At the "back door" social workers are placed at exit points where they can target candidates for reintegration, adoption, or placement in alternative family settings. At the "front door," social workers located in the community must be equipped with resources that address the underlying risk of placement in an institution. Social workers located at high-risk entry points offer prevention services or a menu of alterna-tives to institutionalization. Thus, the function of gate keeping is fundamentally changed from referral to institutions to case management that aims at finding the optimal care situation for the child.

  • Transfer funds from institutions to community-based services. Existing government financial policy covers expenses only for children in state care. This system creates possi-bilities for corruption, by falsifying the number of children living in institutions, number of staff members, expenditures for food, etc. To achieve the objective of providing an effective childcare service, it is crucial to make structural changes to the present financial system to discourage maintenance of the status quo.

  • Initiate child specific information and budgets. The absence of child-specific informa-tion, budgets and policy planning poses major problems for the planning and implementa-tion of social policy for children's rights. Children's budgets must be part of any national action plan on these issues. Such a plan must devote more resources to children and families and demand effective use of funds allocated to the remaining few institutions.

Donors should actively finance pilot projects and training programs that emphasize systemic reform. Improved socio-economic conditions together with the seven priority action priorities will render large institutions for children a thing of the past.

4. Food Security

According to the definition adopted at the 1996 World Food Summit, food security exists when "all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life." Food security, generally, has four aspects: availability (domestic production and imports), stability of supplies (prices and quantities in markets, stocks and transport system), access for all to these supplies (poverty, vulnerability, coping strategies), and biological utili-zation (caloric and micronutrient intake, nutritional status).

In Georgia the problem is one of access to food security. For people in rural areas, this problem is linked to agriculture, Georgia's main source of livelihood. In urban areas, increased food insecurity is the result of insufficient revenue to purchase food and other basic items. The socio-economic circumstances that result in increased poverty, vulnerability and unemployment also restrict the poor and vulnerable populations' access to sufficient food.

A sizeable portion of the Georgian population is food insecure and will remain food insecure for the foreseeable future. Factors involved include a traditionally imbalanced agricultural sector with low levels of domestic food production and high levels of dependence on imports, the absence of employment opportunities resulting in widespread unemployment and under-employment, weak markets and export links, conflict legacies and the collapse of former income earning export market in neighboring countries, as well as a wide variety of problems stemming from the ongoing economic transition.

Classified by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a low-income, food-deficit country (LIFDC), Georgia imports nearly 50 percent of its cereal requirements. As a result of low incomes and high market prices for food, an overwhelmingly majority of the population - urban and rural alike - faces enormous difficulties in achieving household food security. Market prices for staple foods are in line with or above world market prices, while wages (e.g. $24 a month for a teacher) are at the level of the world's poorest developing countries.

Agriculture is the main source of employment in Georgia and accounts for 21% of GDP. The output for this sector is only about 70% of its 1990 level although agricultural employment has doubled and now accounts for over 56% of employment in the country. The data on the area of croplands and orchards, number of livestock, and production intensity per household indicate that much of this 'employment' is seasonal and masks a very high level of general unemployment or underemployment.

In Georgia, employment does not necessarily mean an escape from poverty. The average salary amounts to 93GEL (74% of the official subsistence minimum) and the minimum salary equals only 40% of the extreme subsistence minimum.9 Over half (51%) of the population lives below the poverty line of 117 GEL monthly.

Many people in Georgia, even those currently living above the poverty line, recognize their vulnerability since external factors could easily push them into destitution - illness or death of a family member, a bad harvest, a lost job, a delay in pension or salary. Consequently, around 39% of the population experience transient poverty at one point during the year and almost 70% of households considers themselves to be food insecure.10

Recurrent natural disasters such as hail, heavy rains, flooding and landslides have negatively affected agricultural production. Infrastructure such as drainage and irrigation systems, that would otherwise minimize or safeguard against the effects of erratic weather conditions are no longer functioning. In the areas affected by the 2000 drought, there was a 40% reduction in agricultural production.11

Georgians have developed several coping mechanisms to help them face these difficult times, such as petty trading, labor migration within the CIS, economic diversification, etc. Many, however, have been forced to turn to harmful, depletive strategies such as liquidating their productive assets, accruing debts or cultivating their smallholdings in an unsustainable way so as to maximize production. In extreme cases poor families, in an attempt to ensure their children are fed, send them to orphanages and state-run boarding schools in an effort that ultimately proves damaging to their psychological and emotional development.

There is an increasing tendency for poor people to eat less nutritious foods, forming an un-balanced diet. Anthropometrical surveys conducted in 2000-2001 show that acute malnutrition (wasting) in children is not a widespread problem.12 It does, however, indicate that while chronic malnutrition (stunting) has not yet reached alarming rates, is it on the rise. In traditional households, mothers normally, are the household members who reduce intake first to assure adequate nutrition for children. While maternal nutritional status is probably one of the most sensitive indicators of household food security and is remarked upon with concern by surveyors collecting data on children, there has been no systematic collection or analysis of it to verify those concerns.

Current relief, rehabilitative and developmental strategies (Governmental and assistance agencies) to reduce food insecurity in Georgia include:

  • The Social Assistance Program for Vulnerable Families under the Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare that targets food insecure vulnerable groups through provision of pension and allowances.

  • Provision of food aid assistance to food insecure and vulnerable groups (orphans, street children, elderly pensioners without support, invalids, disabled, etc.) through a variety of food aid projects, for example soup kitchens or take-home rations.

  • School feeding programs which target school children in poor region and provide them with a daily meal.

  • Rehabilitation of social and agricultural infrastructure in rural areas (roads, bridges, irriga-tion/drainage channels), either though provision of cash or Food For Work.

  • Provision of micro credit through agricultural cooperatives or community groups/banks.

  • Food Security Bulletin issued by the Food Security Observatory of the State Department of Statistics that summarizes and analyses relevant data.

  • Training and capacity building for communities in different issues related to agriculture and food security.

  • Ministry provision of technical extension services to farmers at district levels such as veterinary services, pest control, plant protection, and infrastructure rehabilitation.

  • Regulatory activities such as supervision and checks on quality of agricultural products, food imports and creation of quality standards.

  • Long term strategy and policy formulation by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Among the unmet needs and gaps, the lack of Government funds to finance the existing social welfare system, as well as the lack of donor funds to complement the Government's efforts to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, warrant significant concern. Similarly, the inability of the state to maintain and rehabilitate current infrastructure, provide additional extension services and improved access to rural credit, coupled with low community involvement, deepens the inefficiencies and inabilities to better address needs. There is also a need for an effective early warning monitoring and forecast system to reduce the impact of slow onset natural disasters, such as a drought.

Current official vulnerability criteria are based on social risk status (e.g. pregnant women) without taking into account individual circumstances and economic status. There is a great demand among assistance providers to identify vulnerable groups based on needs. Field monitoring, such as in ICRC's program, reveal that some of the most vulnerable people do not meet the existing social welfare criteria and are often excluded from official lists. The lack of key data, or the reliability of such data, related to poverty, food security, nutritional intake, import data and overall vulnerability complicates decision-making.

The recommended priority actions for 2003 to improve food security in Georgia include:

  • Increase funding for current strategies in relief and social welfare protection: In place of a functioning social welfare system, many vulnerable groups rely heavily on the food assistance provided by aid agencies either in direct distributions or at communal soup kitchens. Other institutions rely on the budgetary support that such provision provides at a time when official budgets are only partially fulfilled. Until such time when provisions of pensions and allowances are paid regularly and timely, people reliant on these payments will also require assistance in meeting their daily food consumption needs. Other public works schemes can serve as a means of income transfer.

  • Re-examine current vulnerability/social risk criteria to better target humanitarian assistance: As noted, current criteria are based on social status and not on actual needs. A redefinition of criteria to be needs based would result in more effective and efficiently targeted programs to direct assistance to the worst cases, rather than providing assistance to people who require aid much less than needy people who are currently ineligible.

  • Increase funding for recovery/rehabilitative and development programs targeting subsistence farmers: Projects that aim to raise incomes of subsistence farmers through access to rural credit, infrastructure rehabilitation, provision of agricultural inputs (such as fertilizer), and increased extension services are invaluable for ensuring a secure livelihood for small scale farmers.

  • Support for the Ministry of Agriculture's 2003 Strategy: Given the budgetary con-straints that the Ministry faces each year, priority is usually given to financing core functions at the expense of implementing programs that improve food security for subsis-tence farmers. Thus, activities such as extension services, promotion of cooperatives, increased availability of rural credit, enabling environments for marketing of food pro-duction, use of environmental and sustainable farming methods, review of the tax system, harmonization of food safety standards, and protection of domestic markets are unable to be implemented by the Ministry for lack of funds. With such a large proportion of Georgia's population somewhat involved in agricultural activity - often at subsistence levels - such support would improve food security and increase self-reliance.

  • Mainstream poverty and food insecurity issues for advocacy purposes, such as inclusion in discussions regarding the EDPRS and integrating approaches among agricultural actors: The needs of food insecure individuals have both relief needs in the near term and longer-term causes to be addressed. Advocating for programs that link re-lief interventions with longer-term activities will simultaneously reduce the needs of the most vulnerable as the situation improves. Discussions are currently underway regarding the Government's poverty reduction strategy and many of the lessons and observations from this sector and its beneficiaries are important issues to be considered in this strategy.

  • Improved data collection for reliability and analysis: There is a dearth of reliable data in Georgia, especially related to food security indicators. The State Department of Statistics' Food Security Observatory has made attempts to improve its data collection ability and level of quality of trend observation but it suffers from similar financial constraints as the Ministry. Improved data and trend analysis would also facilitate the creation of functional early warning and forecasting systems within the Government to better predict slow onset disasters such as droughts or likely crop failures.

V. CONCLUDING REMARKS

The Georgia Humanitarian Situation and Strategy for 2003 represents a step forward related to strategic discussions between the international community and the Georgian Government regarding the evolving humanitarian situation in Georgia. It is meant to be use-ful to all those interested in humanitarian and related issues and needs in Georgia.

The process itself has involved a wide range of stakeholders, and the conclusions and recommendations reflect this range of views. The production of the document has been a challenging under-taking, involving considerable time from many organizations and entities. OCHA would like to thank all those who participated in this process, and in particular the members of the working groups for their intense involvement.

Footnotes:

1 The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) suspended its operations in Georgia in late 2001 due to continuing problems with the Georgian Red Cross Society.

2 ECHO closed its office in Georgia in 2001, impacting European relief-oriented NGOs, especially those working in Abkhazia who were forced to suspend operations until alternate funding could be located.

3 Although not relief-oriented, in 2002 BP also announced a $5 million call for proposals for community development activities for the populations situated along the route of the proposed pipeline.

4 In the mid-1990s, WFP expected to cease its operations in Georgia by the end of the decade. However, a series of assessments in 1999 and 2000 confirmed continued food security gaps requiring assistance.

5 As a result, some NGOs have reduced or closed their monetization departments. Several others have faced large demurrage costs while awaiting eligibility decisions from the Ministry.

6 Due to the large number of issues facing NGOs, in 2002 several NGOs formed a consortium and hired a lawyer to research actual tax liabilities and advocate collectively on their behalf. To date, over 24 international NGOs have joined this consortium.

7 Principle 3, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

8 Approximately 300 people have been seriously injured or fatally wounded from mines or UXO in Abkhazia according to The HALO Trust.

9 Food Security Situation, Issue 8, State Department of Statistics, November 2002

10 Save the Children, Status of Households in Georgia, 2002

11 FAO/WFP Food and Crop Assessment Survey, 2000

12 Save the Children, Nutritional Status of Children in Drought Affected Regions, 2001-2002

Note: This document was produced to provide a range of views and opinions for proposed actions in the highlighted programming sectors. The recommendations included herein are not necessarily those of the UN/OCHA, but represent the collective recommendations of those involved actively in these areas. It is hoped that they will promote further discussion and debate concerning these issues.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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