Georgia

OCHA Georgia: Abkhazia briefing note Jan 2004

Format
Situation Report
Source
Posted
Originally published

Attachments


RECENT EVENTS/HIGHLIGHTS

  • UNDP-led Feasibility Mission to Abkhazia, Georgia takes place in December 2003

  • Efforts and initiatives toward the peace-process continue

BACKGROUND

The 1992-1993 civil war in Abkhazia led to a displacement of over 250,000 persons and devastation of this once thriving agricultural centre and tourist destination squeezed between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains. In 1994 the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) and with the facilitation of the Russian Federation, signed the Moscow Agreement on the separation of forces, bringing two years of fighting to a halt. The Commonwealth of Independent States Peace Keeping Force (CISPKF) has been deployed to monitor compliance with the Agreement, with the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) monitoring the implementation of the Agreement and observing the operation of the CISPKF.

A Quadripartite Agreement on Voluntary Return of Refugees and Displaced Persons was also signed in 1994 by the Abkhaz and Georgian sides, the Russian Federation, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This agreement, however, resulted at that time in a low level of official return of IDPs to the Gali District. By 1996 and 1997, an increasing number of spontaneous returnees drew the support and assistance of international organisations. A United Nations office for the protection of human rights in Abkhazia was established in 1996.

In 1997, negotiations resumed in Geneva, leading to the establishment of the Coordinating Council of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides. The Council is chaired by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) to Georgia, assisted by the Russian Federation as facilitator, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Group of Friends of the Secretary General consisting of France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation as observers. The Coordinating Council comprises three working groups: 1) On Security and the Non-Resumption of Hostilities; 2) On IDPs and Refugees; 3) On Social and Economic Issues. This Council has since been the main negotiating body within the UN-led peace-process for the settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia.

In 1998, within the framework of the Working Group on Social and Economic issues, the UN-led Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) visited Abkhazia. On 19 February 1998, four UN Military Observers (UNMOs) were kidnapped in Western Georgia during the Mission. Despite this incident, the Mission continued and was able to identify short- and medium-term needs in the primary production and social sectors. In addition, the Mission reviewed food security issues, landmines, facilities for post-trauma counselling and continuing humanitarian needs.

In the spring of 1998, the situation in the Gali District and Western Georgia deteriorated. From 12 March to 29 April 1998, a prolonged protest on the Georgian-controlled side of the Inguri River Bridge closed the only legal entry point into Abkhazia to vehicle traffic. The blockade severely impaired the movement of humanitarian aid workers and the delivery of assistance to civilians in need, as have a number of similar subsequent protests. In May 1998, fighting broke out in the Gali District, causing the renewed displacement of approximately 30,000-40,000 persons, many of whom were returnees receiving assistance from international organisations and were now displaced for the second time. During those events, many homes and communal facilities built or rehabilitated by UNHCR to support returnees were destroyed. Since the events of May 1998, security in Gali District has remained a serious concern to international community. The safety and dignity of returnees has not yet been guaranteed and international humanitarian organisations have not resumed regular assistance programs in areas of return. Nonetheless, as of 1999, a number of new spontaneous returns, with some encouragement by the local authorities, have been observed in the Gali District. The living conditions of these returnees have not been satisfactory either from the security point of view or in terms of the process of rehabilitation of their homes, infrastructure or socio-economically normal living conditions.

In November 2000, a Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) visited the Gali District. The JAM was led by the United Nations, with the participation of OSCE, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities (OSCE/HCNM), the Council of Europe, and the European Commission, while the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNHCR sent their observers. The purpose of the mission was to evaluate conditions for the safe, secure and dignified return of IDPs to the region.

Since the declaration of independence by the de facto Abkhaz authorities, attempts to resume negotiations on the political status of Abkhazia have been unsuccessful. To restart a dialogue, a document called "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" was created by the SRSG to Georgia in late 2001. This document, known as "Boden's paper", aimed at facilitating meaningful negotiations on the political status between the two parties in conflict, and received full support of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General; however, the Abkhaz side has not yet accepted to receive and discuss the document. Despite protracted efforts by the international community, the peace-process remains in a deadlock.

In parallel to these efforts aimed at resolving the political status of Abkhazia, the United Nations, in the framework of the 1997 Geneva Process, have addressed the issues of security, the return of IDPs and social and economic problems through the Coordinating Council and its three Working Groups. However, the Coordinating Council has not met since January 2001. Initially, the Abkhaz side suspended its participation due to aggravation of tensions, including hostage incidents and increased presence of armed groups along the ceasefire line in April and May 2001. Later Coordinating Council meetings were also cancelled by the two sides due to continued tensions and hostage incidents throughout 2001. Although - after several successful meetings of respective working groups in 2002 - tentative date for next meeting have been announced on several occasions, the Coordinating Council has not yet met and there is no indication on the timing of the next meeting.

In late 2002, the security situation in Gali District and Kodori Valley - despite a number of minor incidents and at times heightened tensions in Kodori - has in general improved. This has brought some positive results, i.e. the resumption of Working Group III dealing with social and economic issues. At the Working Group III Meeting in April 2002, agreements were reached on further steps regarding education, provision of painkilling drugs by Georgian side to Abkhaz side. It was also acknowledged that the Phase I of the telecommunication project, implemented by UNDP with German government funding, was completed. At the next Working Group III Meeting in June 2002, the sides, among other things, discussed the issue of teaching in native the language in Gali District. The sides also agreed to conduct cardic surgery for children suffering from heart diseases, endorsed the sport proposal for youth in the conflict zones, endorsed the second part of the telecommunication project and adopted mutually agreed points to be included in next phase, and endorsed the proposal for the development of Zugdidi and Sukhumi electricity infrastructure. The last Working Group III Meeting took place in Tbilisi in November 2002. The meeting discussed the implementation of projects such as reinforcement of the Inguri river banks, production and transportation of Abkhaz and other unique grape saplings, restoration of Abkhaz cultural heritage thru UNESCO. On the sensitive issue of language of instruction in Gali, the sides agreed to consider concrete measures within three months. The next Working Group III Meeting was originally foreseen for February 2003, but has been postponed to date.

From 8-12 November 2002, Mr. Guehenno, the UN Under Secretary-General (USG) for Peacekeeping Operations, paid an official visit to Georgia, including Abkhazia. This was the highest-ranking UN official's visit ever to Abkhazia. The USG had an opportunity to learn first-hand about some technical and material aspects of UNOMIG operation. The visit, which included a series of high-level meetings in Tbilisi, Sukhumi and Moscow, was expected to upgrade the profile of the conflict and reinvigorate the Geneva Process, as well as prompt further negotiations over the peace process. In November 2003, Mr. Guehenno again visited Georgia, including UNOMIG offices in Tbilisi, Sukhumi, Gali and Zugdidi. During the visit, he met with the representatives of the Georgian government in Tbilisi as well as the Abkhaz de facto authorities in Sukhumi and Gali and discussed issues related to the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process. The USG highlighted the firm commitment of the UN to a peaceful settlement as well as the need for real progress on practical issues.

Despite continuing efforts by the international community, in 2003 there was little progress in the political process over the conflict in Abkhazia. The "UNSG's Group of Friends for Georgia" held a brainstorming session in Geneva on 19-20 February 2003, in which the "Friends" reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of political settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and recommended the establishment of task forces to deal with the three groups of issues: economic rehabilitation, IDPs and refugees, and political and security issues. Tbilisi-based "Friends" visited Sukhumi on 3 March 2003, and met with local authorities, CIS PKF and UNOMIG, for the first time in 4 years. The expectations were that the three task forces, broader-based than existing working groups, would act as mechanisms to help revitalise the political and the Geneva/Coordinating Council process. The Abkhaz side, however, reiterated their refusal to accept the "Boden" document. At the same time, they objected to establishment of the so-called Task Forces recommended by the "Group of Friends" as part of the Geneva Process, since there existed the Coordinating Council mechanism. The UNSG's Group of Friends for Georgia met again in Geneva on 21-22 July 2003 to discuss situation in Abkhaz conflict zone. Economic cooperation, return of IDPs, political and security issues were discussed at the top-level meeting, chaired by Mr. Guéhenno, the United Nations USG for Peacekeeping Operations.

The Presidents of Georgia and the Russian Federation met in Sochi on 6-7 March 2003. They discussed, among others, issues related to Russian-Georgian co-operation, the political settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, and international and regional issues of mutual interest. The de facto Abkhaz authorities participated in part of the talks. The Presidents agreed on the necessity of synchronization of the repatriation process to the Gali district with the reopening of the railway line. The Sochi process has been designed to function through two working groups, one dealing with economic rehabilitation, with the emphasis on the railroad link restoration and Inguri Hydro-power station, and another on the return of IDPs and refugees. The bilateral working group on return of IDPs held two meetings (in June and July, in Moscow and Tbilisi respectively), with the participation of UN/UNHCR, which have not yet resulted in concrete agreements on principles and modalities of a potential return of the displaced persons concerned, initially to the Gali district.

On 7 April 2003, the entire Cabinet of Ministers of the de facto Abkhazian Government, collectively resigned. The resignation followed the letter submitted to the Government by the 1992-1993 Association of War Veterans of Abkhazia called "Amtsakhara". This resignation, compounded with the escape of 9 'high-profile' prisoners from the detention centre in Sukhumi, created an acute temporary political crisis in Abkhazia, which was defused by the end of the month with the formal establishment of the new political management.

On 26 July 2003, UN Secretary-General recommended the UN National Security Council to prolong the mandate of the UN Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG). On July 30, the UN Security Council extended the UNOMIG mandate in Abkhazia, Georgia until 31 January 2004. Unanimously adopting resolution 1494 (2003), the Council also endorsed the Secretary-General's recommendation to add a civilian police component to the Mission to strengthen its capacity to carry out its mandate and, in particular, to contribute to the creation of conditions conducive to the safe and dignified return of IDPs and refugees. Civil police was planned to work closely with Georgian and Abkhaz sides in building trust and cooperation in areas of law enforcement, good governance and protection of human rights, and more concretely helping the creating safer conditions for the return of IDPs in Gali District. In preparation for launching the deployment, under the auspices of UNOMIG, the high delegations of Georgia and breakaway Abkhazia visited and got acquainted with the peace processes and UN civil police experience in the post-conflict areas in the Balkans, i.e. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, Serbia-Montenegro. Security issues were the main topic of discussion, which included the assistance provided by international civilian police to local law enforcement agencies. The actual deployment of the first division of 20 international UN civil policemen to Abkhazia, Georgia started in the last quarter of 2003, although the actual commencement of all planned civilian police officers' work is pending further consultations.

The UNDP-led feasibility mission to Abkhazia, Georgia was undertaken from 30 November 30 - 17 December 2003, with the aim to assess the feasibility of a sustainable recovery process for returnee populations and local communities. The Mission looked at rehabilitation issues which are key for the sustainability of the local population and returning IDPs in the areas included in the former Gali district borders (i.e. present-day Gali district and parts of the present day Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli districts). Also, specifically in terms of rehabilitation issues for the local population, the mission looked at the present day districts of Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli in their entirety. The mission had the following objectives: to produce a menu of prioritised options with timelines, benchmarks and costing for programmatic and policy interventions that would; assess the rehabilitation needs of the local population, including economic rehabilitation; identify the immediate rehabilitation needs for a joint rehabilitation/return programme, as well as further actions needed to meet the main rehabilitation needs and ensure the sustainability of the return of IDPs; and establish the priorities for such actions, and the modalities for implementing the outcomes of the mission. Involved in the mission were representatives of UNOMIG, UNHCR, UNV, UNICEF and OCHA. The Mission's report is expected in early 2004.

SECURITY

In most of Abkhazia the security situation has generally been calm and stable throughout 2002 and 2003. However, a first major incident in recent years involving international community took place in June 2003. On 5 June 2003, four UNOMIG staff were kidnapped. The incident occurred when a joint UN Mission and CIS peace-keeping force were on a regular patrol in the upper Kodori valley, scene of previous clashes in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. The CIS soldiers were released shortly thereafter but the UN personnel, consisting of two military observers, a paramedic and a local interpreter were kept by unidentified armed group for almost a week. After various demands allegedly put forward by the kidnappers and negotiations by Georgian law enforcement bodies as well as official requests from the UN, hostages were released unharmed and brought to Tbilisi on June 10. All UNOMIG patrols to the area were suspended after the incident. This was the fourth time UNOMIG staff were kidnapped since the commencement of the Mission. Each time the kidnapping occurred in the same area and each time the hostages were released unharmed after negotiations. Another major incident during the UNOMIG's Mission was the downing of the UN helicopter in Kodori in October 2001, which killed all nine person on board.

The two exceptions to a generally relatively quiet situation in Abkhazia are the Kodori Valley and Gali District, which are widely considered insecure areas for both the local population and humanitarian agencies. A number of violent incidents, including some tragic ones, with criminal and possibly political motivations, continue to take place in Gali District. In 2003, the rise in criminality was also observed on Zugdidi side of the Inguri River. The latest reports of the Secretary General on the situation in Abkhazia acknowledged that the level of tension in Gali District has decreased in comparison with the same periods in previous years due to a moratorium on partisan activities. Figures concerning criminal actions are in general also lower, although "cross-border" crime remains a serious problem, particularly in lower Gali. Criminal activities typically increased during the hazelnut and mandarin seasons. It has been noted of late that most criminal incidents are increasingly more of purely criminal rather than political nature.

In Gali District, criminality, including cases of robberies, shooting accidents, abdications, explosions, and sporadic paramilitary activities, continue to raise concerns about the safety of the growing returnee population that have already returned spontaneously, as well as the safety of humanitarian aid workers. Insecurity in the area also hampers visits, assessments, and possible additional support to the population of the area by international organisations. CISPKF and UNOMIG regularly conduct patrols in the Restricted Weapons Zone and the Security Zone to monitor the 1994 Moscow Agreement. CISPKF and UNOMIG have themselves been victims of criminality and/or partisan attacks, as have some NGOs. The Abkhaz de facto authorities have also been the target. On 11 March 2003, near the village of Zemo Bargebi in the Gali District, a gang of 4-5 men shot at a UNHCR truck. There were no casualties and it is assessed that the gang misidentified the vehicle for another that was possibly involved in smuggling scrap metal. A few days later, a private truck was attacked at the same location, with the driver killed and several passengers injured. On 16 April 2003, a HALO Trust soft skin vehicle was hijacked by four armed and masked men near the Sukhumi Airport. The vehicle was found abandoned in Sukhumi later the same day, along with the hijacked driver and passenger. However, reportedly the sum of US$ 95,000 and other items were robbed.

The security concerns in Abkhazia were particularly raised in early April 2003, upon the resignation of the Cabinet of Ministers of the de facto authorities of Abkhazia, which coincided with the escape of 9 criminals from the detention centre in Sukhumi, all of them classified as "dangerous", and 6 of whom had been sentenced to death. UNOMIG then imposed temporary movement restrictions. However, the tensions were gradually been reduced by end-April. By August 2003, the harvest season, including a traditional economic battle over lucrative hazelnuts business, compounded with the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Abkhaz "Independence/Victory Day" which falls on September 30, conspired to make the security situation more fragile again, including a possible threat to UN employees in view of global developments. As a preventive measure, UNOMIG imposed temporary security-related travel and movement regulations and restrictions for UNOMIG personnel, effective from 1 September - 15 October 2003.

OVERVIEW OF HUMANITARIAN SITUATION, NEEDS AND RESPONSES

The civil war in Abkhazia led to a displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and subsequent economic collapse. This has severely impoverished much of the population in Abkhazia and left large segments of the population vulnerable. International humanitarian agencies have continued with provision of aid targeting the most acute food and medical needs among the most vulnerable segments of the population. However, international aid has been steadily decreasing since 1998, while the humanitarian situation has not significantly improved and, according to most humanitarian organisations present in the region, has been aggravated for many people.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the humanitarian aid is still required for some groups, most specifically for the elderly without family support and those with major diseases, it is a commonly-shared view of the international community active in Abkhazia that it is time the emphasis should be shifted towards addressing the underlying causes of humanitarian needs more proactively. There is, for example, much scope for local-level, participatory community mobilisation projects designed to increase opportunities for self-help and community building, thus preventing further de-capitalisation and destitution. Even though the political status of Abkhazia remains unresolved and the peace-process is in a deadlock, more concerted efforts by the international community should be directed towards low-scale rehabilitation activities aiming at improved basic living conditions and creating more income. There is still a need to encourage community development and mobilisation initiatives in Abkhazia.

In certain parts of Abkhazia, most notably Gali District and the Kodori Valley, the volatile security environment complicates even the provision of humanitarian assistance. The lack of safe and dignified conditions for returnees in Gali District remains as one of the biggest challenges faced by international humanitarian agencies. Acute humanitarian and basic rehabilitation needs continue to be a problem and the difficult economic situation encourages criminality. Many returnees often migrate between Georgia proper and Abkhazia based on harvest seasons, while continuing to receive IDP allowances in Zugdidi. After assessing the conditions in Gali District, UNHCR has resumed certain types of assistance including support for the rehabilitation of schools to address the needs of persons who have already returned. Recognising that the security threat in certain parts of Gali District precludes regular programming visits by humanitarian actors, UNOMIG, in consultation with UNHCR and other humanitarian actors, has been exploring ways in which it can contribute to the alleviation of human suffering in regions in which the UNOMIG patrols constitute the only regular international presence.

In 2003, UNHCR, UNV, ICRC, MSF, and the HALO Trust continued their programmes, while some others started, resumed or considered resuming their work in Abkhazia. Nevertheless, donor organisations are still by and large reluctant to intervene, mainly due to precarious security conditions and lack of progress in peace-process negotiations. But as a number of returnees, between 30,000 and 40,000, are now residing in Gali District, and there is a broad understanding that socio-economic conditions in Abkhazia are not improving, but rather further degrade the living conditions for the majority of the population, some donors are indicating willingness to support infrastructure and small community building projects. By end 2002, and throughout 2003, a somewhat greater interest by donors to support projects in Abkhazia was noted. This resulted in the reopening of the office of Premiere Urgence in November 2002, while Accion contra el Hambre (ACH) reactivated its programme in January 2003, subsequently introducing two other projects, one funded by SDC and another as implementing partner to the UN World Food Programme (WFP). By end 2002, UNIFEM and AED also opened their respective offices in Sukhumi. Notably, ECHO in early 2003 announced the allocation of 1.3 million Euro to support humanitarian programming in Abkhazia and western Georgia in 2003, which was to be effected through ICRC and ACH programmes. ECHO mission took place in May 2003 and visited ECHO-funded projects in Samegrelo and Abkhazia. ECHO thereafter confirmed that it intended to continue and even expand its humanitarian programmes in the region. A new funding decision of 2.2 Million Euro was adopted in September 2003, which will allow to continue funding food security programmes implemented by the ICRC and ACH.

On 18 November 2003, OCHA convened a conference in Tbilisi to present the Georgia Humanitarian Situation and Strategy 2004 to the Government of Georgia, donors and other assistance community. The objectives were similar to the Conference convened earlier for the 2003 Strategy Document and Conference (held in February 2003). The Strategy 2004 aims at assisting the humanitarian and related players in their strategic planning, fundraising, advocacy and other efforts on behalf of the vulnerable population in Georgia. It is also expected to spur further debate, discussion, and action on the issues contained therein. Four prioritised areas, as identified earlier by participants in the process, were discussed at the Conference: IDPs, Food Security, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Special Populations (Elderly, Children, Persons with Disabilities). The prioritised panel group Abkhazia and South Ossetia concluded that there is no humanitarian emergency in Abkhazia at present, as compared to the situation in early years following the armed conflict in early 1990s. However, the panel also identified gaps in humanitarian and related rehabilitation needs in Abkhazia. The panel group's recommendations for Abkhazia (as for South Ossetia) were the following: continue to facilitate international and local efforts to bring a peaceful settlement of the conflict; review the humanitarian situation and address the existing gaps, with priority given to the health sector; support, to a much larger extent, rehabilitation of basic infrastructure and private dwellings; increase income and employment generating activities; consider more labour-based infrastructure and community mobilisation / development projects; encourage support to psycho-socially oriented projects aimed at addressing the various long-standing psychological problems related to the conflicts and their aftermath; coordinated support to civil society and local NGO development and sustainability. It should be noted that upon the February 2003 Humanitarian Conference there has been noticeably more interest by the international community in considering support to various programmes in Abkhazia, and some new projects have actually been materialised. It is expected that the November 2003 Conference will also prompt more international organisations to consider additional or new programming in Abkhazia as per the Humanitarian Situation and Strategy 2004 Document recommendations.

PROGRAMMES BY SECTORS

Education

UNHCR, in co-operation with local authorities and beneficiary communities, continued to focus on improving communal infrastructure through the school rehabilitation project in order to create minimally acceptable educational conditions for returnee and local children to attend classes, thus far contributing to the UN-led peace and confidence building efforts. In addition to the 73 schools rehabilitated in 2001-2002, UNHCR completed rehabilitation of 10 more school buildings in Abkhazia (6 in the Gali District and 4 in other parts of Abkhazia). All construction materials provided by UNHCR have been delivered to the sites on time and the communities concerned have used them in accordance with agreed upon objectives. The year 2004 marks the end of this UNHCR project, which allowed to rehabilitate 83 schools with 14,100 beneficiary students. In 2002, UNICEF supported this UNHCR effort by the provision of 22 school-in-a-box kits for children at the primary education level (over 4,700 beneficiaries), which have been distributed through UNHCR channels. It is expected that UNICEF will made available some more school kits for Abkhazia in the weeks to come. Assistance continued to be provided to over 270 vulnerable and elderly persons in Sukhumi in the form of food and non-food items, as well as health services and social service delivery. As of 2004, these beneficiaries will be included in the ICRC-run programme in Abkhazia.

Conciliation Resources (CR) continued to provide a civic education programme together with the local NGO Centre for Humanitarian Programmes (CHP), working with teachers from several regions of Abkhazia. The Berghof Research Centre and CR supported a range of Abkhaz and Georgian partner organisations to finalise and publish a discussion pack of materials on the Georgian and Abkhaz conflict. The materials, written in Russian and translated into Abkhaz and Georgian are being used in ongoing training programmes with university students in Tbilisi (under the auspices of the IDP Women's Association and the Caucasian Institute for Peace Democracy and Development) and in Sukhumi (with the Zurab Achba Foundation and Sukhumi Youth House), with joint workshops for the students planned in 2004. In September 2002, a two-week summer university entitled "International Relations in the Contemporary World" took place in Pitsunda, organised by CR, CHP, with the support of UNOMIG. Participants from throughout the Caucasus took part, including a number from Tbilisi. The second summer university took place in August 2003 with 35 participants. As part of its support to the educational development for young professionals in Georgia and Abkhazia during the course of 2003 CR arranged for 25 Georgians and Abkhaz to take part in training programmes run by institutions such as the Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution and European University Center for Peace Studies in Stadtschlaining, the International Human Rights School, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw, and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Since June 2003, UMCOR Georgia is conducting "Peace Education for Secondary Schools in Abkhazia" in cooperation with Sukhumi Youth House as implementing partner, and with financial support from United States Institute of Peace. UMCOR's Peace Education Pilot Project aspires to create a democratic and constructive environment in Abkhaz schools through a series of peace education classes that will teach conflict resolution skills to both teachers and students. Reaching over 320 children and 16 teachers in four towns, the project is enhancing their ability to deal with conflict in a peaceful and democratic way, as well as defusing the potential for future conflict. The project is bringing together different ethnic groups and helps create tolerance among these diverse groups. The group of teachers trained under this project is selected from eight Abkhaz, Russian, Georgian, and Armenian schools in Sukhumi, Gali, Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli. Through this project, UMCOR aims to maintain and strengthen the links between different ethnic groups residing in Abkhazia as well as promote ethnic reconciliation and tolerance building processes through peace education and peaceful conflict resolution training for teachers and students in secondary Abkhaz schools. To date, three Training of Trainers sessions for secondary school teachers have been conducted in Pitsunda. At present, second cycle of peace education classes in target schools is being completed. Peace Education Manual, prepared by the group of participants of the training sessions, is in the final process of revisions and editing, and will be published soon in Russian language.

In support of implementation of the ICRC educational programme in Abkhazia, 67 schools were monitored in Sukhumi and regions. Teachers training courses for twelve groups (totally 158 participants) were conducted in Sukhumi, Gali, Gudauta, Tkvarcheli, Gulripshi.

Children's Needs and Psycho-social Rehabilitation

UNHCR, through its local implementing partner Charity Humanitarian Center Abkhazeti (CHCA), continued youth related activities with over 300 IDPs and local adolescents participating regularly in youth clubs in Western Georgia. Training is given on Business, Civic Education, Communication, English and Computers. IDP and local children (aged 10-14) attend weekend schools. Vocational schools have benefited vulnerable IDP and local adolescents, school drop-outs receiving practical work place training under the guidance of a mentor. The youth clubs have implemented 20 micro-community grants and 35 small business projects. In 2003, UNHCR supported UNV to print and distribute 23,000 copies of the children's magazine "White Crane." The free monthly magazine is published both in Georgian and Russian languages and distributed to 11,500 most vulnerable children with the aim of uniting children from divided societies, giving them an opportunity to express their trauma. It is distributed to schools, institutions, collective centres and orphanages throughout Georgia, including Abkhazia.

Since 1998, The Academy for Educational Development (AED) has conducted the Caucasus Young Leaders for Peace and Development (YLPD) Programme with financial support from USAID/Caucasus. From its inception as a US Summer Camp Programme in 1998, which reached 40 young people, it became a multi-faceted programme which at the moment reaches more than 1,000 kids (510 teenagers are direct programme participants) from both sides of the 1992 -1993 Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. As a result of the YLPD Programme, there is an organisational framework and network of 15 clubs/NGOs serving vulnerable Abkhaz and Georgian youth, which have been established on both sides of the conflict. They are located in Tbilisi, Batumi, Zugdidi, Kutaisi and Tskhaltubo on the Georgian side and Gagra, Gudauta, Sukhumi, Gulripsh, Tkvarcheli, Ochamchira and Gali on the Abkhaz side. Within these clubs/NGOs and the YLPD network, the Abkhaz-Georgian young leaders find psycho-social support, encouragement and reinforcement for developing and putting into practice positive attitudes toward themselves, others, the future, their role in a democratic and market-oriented economy and the peaceful transitioning of the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict. In other words, they are building their capacities as individuals with mutual self-respect and understanding that are able to work together and communicate across the conflict's divide to define and address their own needs as well as the needs of other youth and adults within their communities. In 2002-2004 the YLPD programme goal is to consolidate the Programme into a sustainable cross-conflict collaborative organizational network of youth clubs and NGOs for promising Abkhaz and Georgian young leaders engaged in community service, career oriented education programs and employment and income generation activities in order to build a constituency for the peaceful resolution of the conflict and a foundation for long-term economic development. Besides the traditional program components, every club runs a weekend school where these subjects are taught to younger children. In addition, Young Leaders are putting their new business skills to use in a variety of income-generating initiatives to benefit their clubs. With support from the YLPD programme, two NGOs have been established: Young Leaders Association (YLA in Sukhumi) and the Academy for Peace and Development (APD in Tbilisi). On July 7 - 18, 2003, with financial support from USAID and in close cooperation with YLA and APD, the AED organized the YLPD Summer 2003 Peace Camp in Macka, outside of Trabzon, Turkey. 108 Abkhaz and Georgian teenagers and local trainers attended the Peace Camp. All participants were moved by the opportunity to meet each other and participate in an excellent programme full of interesting training sessions, nice recreation events, and a huge possibility to initiate and expand relationships. The young leaders had a chance to share their experience and knowledge and conduct various joint activities. The results from the Summer 2003 Peace Camp demonstrate that a bridge of trust, understanding, cooperation, and friendship exists between the Georgian and Abkhaz teenagers, trainers and the assistant trainers. They had fun learning and playing together, and also worked on joint projects, events, and camp videos. In the future, they will develop projects in civil society development, economic development, ecology, health, education, arts, music and sports, demonstrating that their collaboration in the camps is only the beginning.

With support from the USAID, UMCOR established a Youth House in Sukhumi to serve the needs of about 7,300 conflict-affected children. Programming includes language classes, art classes, music classes, journalism programme which publishes a newspaper, computer training, and psychosocial rehabilitation. Currently there are 2 youth houses in Abkhazia and 2 in Georgia proper (Tbilisi and Zugdidi). The conflict transformation seminars for all Youth Houses have been periodically held in Yerevan, Armenia. Sukhumi and Ochamchira youth houses have completed inter-ethnic conflict transformation projects aimed at ethnic reconciliation of youth. The Sukhumi Youth House developed an official website and the Ochamchira Youth House published a Children's Health and Hygiene Pictorial Story Book. At present, UMCOR is working towards completing a program that will help the Youth Houses in transition from UMCOR's support into an entirely local management.

With support of the Swiss Cooperation Office (SDC) for the South Caucasus, a local NGO, Women Association of the Gali District, has created a rehabilitation centre for children. It targets the social rehabilitation of the young population, the reinforcement of the team spirit and the sense of initiatives among the Gali children. A new project aims at further supporting of the above-mentioned rehabilitation centre for children and besides, supporting the psychological centre for women in order to contribute to the social and psychological rehabilitation of children and women through providing the support by the professional doctors for free of charge.

Through the financial assistance of the SDC, the Georgian-Abkhaz Two Side Coordination Council organized the translation and publication of the adopted, fairy-tale version of "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" (by Shota Rustaveli). The main objective of the project is to contribute to overcome the post-war mistrust and aggression between the two sides of the conflicting parties. Introduction with the culture and history of the Georgian people will help Abkhazian children to overcome the existing mistrust and negative attitude towards Georgians, so the publication of the book will facilitate the re-establishment and improvement of the relationship between Georgians and Abkhazians.

Community Development/Community Mobilisation

Since November 2003, Accion contra el Hambre (ACH) is implementing the Community Development in Abkhazia and Samegrelo. This projects, financed by SDC, aims at enhancement of the socio-economic environment which will allow beneficiaries to have a better future prospect in their life and contribute to a peace building process, while promoting attitudes towards a disengagement from conflict.

SDC, in close cooperation with UNOMIG, allocated 150,000 Swiss Francs for local initiatives in Abkhazia and Samegrelo in order to increase self-reliance of the population and promote confidence building between the ethnic groups. Up to 25 small projects (in Sukhumi, Gulripshi, Gudauta, Ochamchire, Tkvarcheli, Gali, Zugdidi districts) have been financed (budget limitation to USD 5,000). The appreciation of this small project line showed the need and usefulness of such actions, therefore it is extended with the new grant of 75,000 Swiss Francs.

Since September 2003, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with its Implementing Partner - ACH has started implementation of recovery activities of the WFP's Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation 10211.0, for the period of 12 months (August 2003 - July 2004) in Abkhazia. The ACH team has been trained by WFP on food-for-work implementation. The community mobilization is on-going in 20 selected communities of Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli districts to develop food-for-work project proposals and formulate a three cycle development plan by communities that are the priority of vulnerable rural small-scale farmers and best address their long term food security, and to promote community ownership of the assets created. Because of security reasons, the project has not started in Gali district.

Humanitarian Mine Clearance and Mine Risk Education

The HALO Trust remains the only humanitarian mine clearance organisation working in Abkhazia. Since 1997, The HALO Trust has continually and consistently worked in all aspects of mine action, including manual and mechanical mine clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, minefield marking, minefield survey and mine risk education. This has resulted in the safe removal and destruction of over 4,800 anti personnel, anti group and anti vehicle landmines and over 3,700 items of unexploded ordnance. In the process of this work HALO has declared over 2,500,00 square metres as mine free and safe for regeneration completing 47 high priority tasks. The target beneficiaries of this work include the entire local population of Abkhazia and Zugdidi Region, in addition to local authorities, international and non-governmental organisations. A further 60,000 people have benefited from various forms of mine risk education (including IDPs living in Zugdidi Region). The HALO Trust has a headquarters in Ochamchira, operational base locations in Sukhumi, Tamish, Gali and Preveli Otobaia and administration and liaison offices in Zugdidi and Tbilisi. It employs over 380 members of national staff from all ethnic groups in Abkhazia and Zugdidi Region. HALO deploys 14 manual clearance teams, six mechanical teams, four mine risk education teams, a Survey and Minefield Marking team and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, across Abkhazia. The HALO Trust is in the process on establishing a complete and comprehensive data-base of landmine and UXO accidents in Abkhazia, in order to establish where victim assistance might be best targeted. It liaises closely with ICRC in the provision of this information. The mine accident rate in Abkhazia has fallen from on average 50 accidents per year (in the immediate years post conflict) to around 2 accidents a year currently. The HALO Trust believes this is due to a concerted effort to remove landmines, the marking of minefields and mine risk education. The HALO Trust is funded by the United States Department of State, the Department for International Development, the Royal Netherlands Government and the Committee of 'Mine Free' with Association for Aid Relief - Tokyo Broadcasting Services. The HALO Trust is currently seeking funding to continue Mine Risk Education activities in Abkhazia and Zugdidi Region. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, ICRC assists mine and UXO (unexploded ordnance) victims through the Gagra Orthopaedic Centre.

Health

Under USAID grant, medical equipment and supplies valued at US$ 109,000 were provided to the Sukhumi Maternity Hospital and to the Sukhumi City Hospital in February 2002. UMCOR was responsible for shipment and coordination of the aid.

Médecins Sans Frontières-France (MSF) administered a free of charge Health Access Programme for vulnerable people, which components are the access to primary health care thru a network of 13 family doctors all across Abkhazia for 20,000 beneficiaries, the medical care and follow up of 4,000 patients for chronic diseases, and medical care and follow up of 400 bed ridden patients in Sukhumi thru one medical team dedicated to home visit. In Sukhumi, MSF supported the departments of Surgery and Cardiology of the City Hospital. An average of 30 vulnerable persons per month are treated free of charge in the hospital. MSF also runs a Tuberculosis Treatment Programme throughout Abkhazia. The TB Control Program is Abkhazia-wide thru one TB Hospital in Gulripsh and 8 TB Ambulatory Points; since the beginning of the program in 1999 more than 1,000 patients were treated. Currently, 200 patients are under the treatment. The MDR TB Program started in 2002 and 21 patients were included into the program. In 2001 MSF launched a TB Program in Penitentiary System of Abkhazia, which include TB detection in all place of detention and treatment of infected patients in Dandra Prison; 30 patients are currently under treatment.

UNICEF continues to provide vaccines and injection safety equipment to ensure the non-interruption of child immunization programme in Abkhazia - routine as well as supplemental immunization activities (national immunization days, mopping up campaigns, etc.). The supply package provided by UNICEF for under-2 child vaccination in 2003 covered routine EPI vaccines (BCG, DPT, OPV and Measles) completed by auto-disabling and re-constitution syringes and safety boxes. Furthermore vaccine supplies for 5 and 14 year-aged children have been provided directly by Government of Georgia. Hep B vaccines granted by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations/vaccine Fund (GAVI/VF), were also procured through UNICEF. Calculation of vaccine/syringe forecast and procurement through the UNICEF country office is based on target group estimates provided by the Government of Georgia, as per statistics available through de facto government of Abkhazia. Assistance of Georgian-Abkhazian Commission in logistics arrangements and distribution of the programme supplies should be of high notice. Monitoring and reporting on immunization programme performance in Abkhazia remains a key priority in line with coordination and capacity building activities to be supported through inter-agency partnership.

The ICRC continued to assist, on a regular basis, five Hospitals in Abkhazia: Sukhumi Republican, Agudzera, Ochamchira, Tkvarcheli & Gali hospitals, supplying them with medicines and surgical equipment every two months. Any weapon related wounded persons, for the whole duration of their hospitalisation, and all other emergency surgical patients, for the first 48 hours of their hospitalisation, have free of charge access to surgical care in the above-mentioned hospitals. For the period of January-November 2003, a total of 1,199 emergency operations were performed. Among the patients requiring emergency surgery, 37 had weapon related injuries and 7 had mine injuries. Two surgeons from Abkhazia participated at the 2003 ICRC War Surgery Seminar (22-23.10.03) in Moscow. Within the Abkhaz Children Cardiac Surgery programme, during January-December 4 surgical interventions were provided to 2 children with congenital heart disease, from which one was a new case and another one underwent the second and third extra operations. In addition, 18 medical consultations (mainly post operation follow-up) were offered to 8 children. The programme was completed in December 2003. The ICRC also assists four Blood Banks in Sukhumi Republican, Agudzera, Tkvarcheli & Gagra hospitals, supplying them with testing-kits for HIV, Hepatitis B&C and Syphilis, as well as Lab equipment. On November 28, the ICRC and the Abkhaz de facto Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) signed a Cooperation Agreement for the centralisation of the blood transfusion services in Abkhazia. All patients from Abkhazia, including emergency, maternity and weapon related persons, suffering from acute blood loss, have equal access to 'safer' blood transfusions. Since January to November 2003, total number of beneficiaries amounted to 471. Within the Blood Transfusion project the ICRC, in cooperation with local health authorities, printed and distributed the leaflets concerning prevention of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B&C.

Human Rights

In connection with the International Peace Day on 21 September 2002, the UN Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia (HROAG), together with the Association of Women of Abkhazia and the Foundation World Without Violence, on 22 September 2002 organized a seminar entitled "Women's Contribution to Peace Process", financially supported by the Open Society-Georgia Foundation. The participants - all leaders of NGOs from five districts of Abkhazia, including Gali, as well as from Tbilisi - focused on (1) international standards in the field of women's rights and on (2) issues concerning more active involvement of women in conflict prevention and conflict settlement.

Regarding promotional activities, HROAG was supported by the Government of Norway, which through the OSCE Mission to Georgia, funded several human rights projects. The first project - a contest among the students of the Abkhaz University and Sukhumi Open Institute, envisaged active participation of students in preparing written essays on "Democracy and Human Rights: Current Problems and Perspectives". They were considered by a Board of Experts (seven persons, including representatives of local NGOs, de facto Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights, National Commission on Human Rights, mass media and HROAG). The authors of the three best works were awarded with special prizes on 25 December 2002. The project was implemented by Civic Initiative and Human Being of the Future, a Sukhumi-based NGO. The second project - training for human rights teachers, was designed for 25 participants, representing all seven districts of Abkhazia, Georgia. The aim of the project was to give guidelines to schoolteachers who will be involved in teaching, based on the textbook "Your Rights" to junior high-school students. The book was published within the framework of the UNHCHR Technical Cooperation Project. The author or the book, Nona Pilia, is responsible for implementation of the project. The third project was implemented by a local NGO, the Gagra Center for Development of Civil Society. The project included a one-day seminar-festival with schoolchildren from Gagra and Pitsunda attending human rights presentations; these were delivered by the children themselves, based on games, exercises, tests, drawing of posters, etc. On 21 September 2002, the most successful participants of the festival received complementary prizes, in Gagra.

In July 2002, an ad hoc group designated to assess the conditions of the return of refugees and IDPs within the Gali District, was established under the Working Group II of the UN-led Coordinating Council. The ad hoc group is to inform the participants of the weekly Quadripartite Meetings (QPM) on the returnee progress. The ad hoc group began its work in February 2003, following the appointment of representatives of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides as well as HROAG. While not being able, for a variety of reasons, e.g. particularly volatile security situation in Gali, to permanently and closely monitor the situation of spontaneous returnees in the area, UNHCR focused on providing free legal aid to IDPs in places of their current residence, including in Imereti and Samegrelo, through its implementing partner - The Georgian Lawyers' Union (GLU). GLU also published and disseminated 6 issues (200 copies each) of a brochure "Legal Assistance for IDPs" containing articles on IDPs' legal rights and entitlements.

ICRC, through its detainee protection programme, regularly visits detainees in Abkhazia, to ensure the detainees are materially and psychologically treated according to the Geneva Conventions. In addition, vulnerable groups of the civilian population are protected in cases of discrimination, and recommendations are submitted to the authorities in an effort to improve the situation. ICRC also helps with family reunification and the exchange of communication between separated family members through the Red Cross Messages service. The ICRC technically supports the governmental Georgian and Abkhaz Missing Commissions, as well as the families of persons missing as a result of the Georgian / Abkhaz conflict, through the facilitation of international expertise on Ante Mortem Data Collection and Management, psychological support for families of missing persons. UNHCR conducts limited protection monitoring in areas of return.

NGO Development and Confidence-Building

A number of international organisations, NGOs and Institutes, including the EU, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and CR (both financed by DFID), the University of California-Irvine, the Berghof Center, the OSCE, DFID and the HROAG, support the development of the local NGO sector. In addition, the Centre for Humanitarian Programmes, a local NGO, serves as a logistic and resource centre in support of other local NGOs. An increasing number of conferences, trainings, and meetings have brought NGOs and civil society actors from both sides of the conflict together for practical training and confidence-building activities.

Between May 2002 and March 2003, CR organised five study visits to Great Britain and Northern Ireland for 60 government officials, members of parliament and civic actors from across the conflict divide. The visits examined economic, security, educational and political aspects of the Northern Ireland peace process as well as the role of civil society and public participation in conflict resolution. While the experience of Northern Ireland is different from that of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and peace process the visits enabled participants to analyse jointly how specific mechanisms and political dynamics influence progress in a peace process. In addition, the visits provided an opportunity for extensive informal discussions about participants' own experience of the relevant issues. These visits built on an ongoing dialogue process organised by CR and the Berghof Center, which has seen twelve meetings since February 2000. In 2003 meetings took place in Germany in April and July and in Austria in December. The series of meetings have provided a forum for joint analysis of all key issues in the peace process from constitutional and status issues through the role of economic pressure and development as levers for change, and questions of security and IDP return.

In addition to working with politicians and civic activists CR has developed a range of initiatives with journalists on both sides of the conflict divide. In 2003 in addition to supporting the work of the IDP radio collective Postfactum in Tbilisi and the community radio station Atinati in Zugdidi, CR has supported Radio Soma in Sukhumi. A new initiative has seen Georgian journalists in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Zugdidi and Abkhaz journalists in Sukhumi producing radio diaries about the lives of ordinary people that are broadcast on state and independent radio stations. The diaries have also begun to be exchanged - with Russian language diaries from Abkhazia being played in Georgia and Russian language diaries from Georgia being played in Abkhazia. The BBC World Service and FNR in Moscow have also been broadcasting the diaries. In November 2003 the journalists met for a four day training in Moscow to review the programme and to examine the role of journalists in covering conflict issues.

In partnership with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (London and Tbilisi) and the Media Club (Sukhumi) in March 2003 CR began to publish a monthly newspaper, Panorama. Edited and published in Tbilisi and Sukhumi by local journalists the paper addresses topical social, economic and political issues. Journalists from the paper have met on a number of occasions during the year in order to develop the content and policy of the paper, including a four day meeting in Moscow in November when they overlapped with the Radio Diaries journalists (see above). This project has also begun to provide opportunities for Abkhaz journalists to travel to Georgia in order to cover general political developments there, leading to a range of articles in Abkhaz newspapers. The television journalists from Abkhaz State TV and Studio Re, who collaborated on a film about the Gali region in 2002, have continued their relationship in 2003. A number of visits have been made between Tbilisi and Sukhumi and two films on Georgian and Abkhaz aspirations are currently in the final stages of production for release in 2004.

Eurasia Programme of International Alert has been implementing the second stage of the Georgia-Abkhazia confidence-building project. The first phase ran in 1997 - 1999 and proved that there was a need for more confidence and capacity building activities to be promoted between the two societies. The second stage commenced in 2001. Three strands of activities were formed: working with women (The League of Caucasus Women), youth and participants of war, i.e. writers, disabled people, ex-combatants. The second phase is a three-year project funded by the European Commission, while additional funding is sought for with the DFID. Overall, the project aims at strengthening the capacity of significant civil society actors to maximise their impact on those individuals and groups who have power to make peace. While attempting at conflict transformation and prevention primarily by confidence-building measures between Georgian and Abkhaz societies, the project's strategic directions aim at civil society capacity-building, strengthening and support at peace-stakeholder community, and advocacy. Practically, civil society actors are brought to capacity and confidence-building workshops, which mainly occur in all-Caucasian format. The youth branch has worked with journalists, training in the conflict-sensitive journalism; disabled people are aiming at implementing the concept of philosophy of independent life to the Caucasus; writers are collecting as book of fiction on wars in the Caucasus; the women's strand has established a network of women of the Caucasus who seek for a more active participation of women in the peace process and life of the society at large. In Abkhazia as well as elsewhere in the region, the partners are local NGOs or individual civil society actors.

Since the beginning of its presence in Georgia in 1993, UMCOR has provided NGO development training to the staff of several local NGOs and structures in Georgia and Abkhazia, in management, grants development, proposal writing, teacher training and additional areas. The management of four UMCOR-supported Youth House NGOs participated in all of those trainings. Grant Management Structure (GMS), in place for Zugdidi Youth House, in the period of 2001 - 2002 was replicated and implemented to manage Tbilisi, Sukhumi, and Ochamchira Youth House NGOs, and proved successful. UMCOR-Georgia's approach to assisting local NGOs in building conditions for self-sustainability has focused on training and hands-on assistance to local NGOs. The Youth House NGOs have been managed and operated by officially registered, local NGOs. Passing the UMCOR Youth House model along to local NGO management has provided an avenue for duplication and long-term organizational sustainability. At present, UMCOR is conducting a pilot project with all four Youth House NGOs, aimed at assessing needs and capabilities for their self-financing in the long term through a variety of methods - from income generation schemes (such as fee-for-service activities, consultancy and training services, etc.) to locally based fundraising to building volunteer constituencies. The project is aimed at changing the way Youth House NGOs mobilise resources - from reliance on a small group of international funders to a diversified base of local and international support - through assessing possibilities of each of four Youth House NGOs to develop and implement Creative Resourcing Strategies. In the framework of this project, UMCOR Georgia has conducted a joint training for 16 Abkhaz and Georgian Youth Houses' staff and young leaders on Creative Resourcing Strategies. At present, the Youth Houses are implementing self-financing ventures for which UMCOR has provided a start-up capital.

In March 2003 the University of California at Irvine (UCI) and Conciliation Resources (CR) jointly sponsored meetings in Belfast and London of Georgian and Abkhaz nongovernmental representatives with numerous civil society and top-level political actors representing all the parties in the Northern Ireland conflict. Participants learned about the interaction in Northern Ireland between civil society, local and international politicians, the role of civil society in the peace process and how all the parties built the foundation for the Belfast Agreement and how they are sustaining the process through many difficulties. The final two days were spent in feedback sessions, sharing lessons learned and planning new strategies of action in the Georgian-Abkhaz work, taking into account what was relevant from the Northern Ireland experience. In July 2003 UCI held its 10th major dialogue conference in Moscow. Participants assessed the current situation and planned future project activities to impact public opinion and the peace process. Also in July, UCI convened meetings in Sukhumi and Tbilisi of project directors and participants in governmental and nongovernmental confidence-building organizations working in the region. The UCI project has published the 9th volume of its conference proceedings, which summed up the evolution of all the project's dialogue conferences on the following topics: (1) The roots of the conflict. (2) Options for resolving the political status of Abkhazia; (3) Options for the return of Georgian IDPs to Abkhazia; (4) The underlying interests of the parties in the conflict and policy options for resolution; (5) The role of citizen peacebuilding in the peace process; (6) The role of civil society in transforming the conflict. Volumes 7-9 of the project's published conference proceedings outline some needs and interest-based approaches and related policy options for resolving the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.

Civil Society Development/Gender

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) continued to work with local NGOs in Abkhazia within the framework of its regional project, "Women for Conflict Prevention and Peace-building in the Southern Caucasus." The project promotes women's concerns, insights and visions to be included in the peace, security and development agendas of the Southern Caucuses. In the spirit of confidence building measures, the project continued to support people-to-people dialog initiatives. The first meeting of IDP women leaders and women leaders from Sukhumi took place in Moscow in November 2003, and was attended by the Deputy SRSG who elaborated on the UNSC Resolution 1325. This joint project was implemented by two NGOs - one based in Sukhumi and the other based in Kutaisi. The result of this very important seminar-dialogue on strengthening women's role in the peace-building process resulted in an outline of possible future collaboration of participants. In December 2003, a Gali-based NGO along with the Gali Women's Council organized the first ever Gali Women's Forum in Gali to raise the social concerns of people of Gali to the authorities and to build the confidence and capacity of women (living in Gali area) by bringing their opinions to the attention of the authorities. More then 55 women and men from Gali town and nine villages of Gali district attended and participated in the public forum. The project continued to empower women with a series of Women Leadership workshops that were held in all 7 districts of Abkhazia. The workshops were followed by a seminar/conference entitled "Women in Leadership", which provided women a platform to gain information, network, collaborate and to openly discuss and strategize actions to support women to leadership positions. In the Gali area, a magazine entitled "Women and Peace" was published. With the inputs from Abkhaz and Georgian women on gender and women's issues and on the role of women in the peace and development agendas, the magazine provides a venue for communication, information dissemination and dialogue. In efforts to support the economic security of women, a network of women entrepreneurs was established through a series of training workshops in all 7 districts. A final conference, bringing the best and most enthused participants of the business training workshops together provided an opportunity to finalise business plans and formalize the network. In the education agenda, local partners developed a course for students at the University of Sukhumi. The course was designed to increase knowledge in negotiations and dialogue, gender, conflict resolution and peace building. The course was extremely popular and course materials will be elaborated. Specific activities in Ochamchira implemented by NGO partner supported teachers and youth in health education with special focus on women in health. To mark the International Peace Day and to contribute to the promotion of the culture of peace in the society, an art contest, "Peace Through My Eyes" was organized amongst schoolchildren from all districts of Abkhazia with presentations in various villages and towns with a final presentation in Sukhumi. In support of youth and peace initiatives a series of seminars for teenagers in Gali district on gender issues, peace building and communication skills was implemented. All project activities are implemented through local NGOs and with the support of NGO partners and members of the civil society.

The Swedish Foundation Kvinna till Kvinna (KTK) continues to work with the NGO Avangardi in Gali, which is working on a reproductive health project. In coming months, KTK has considered supporting three more women's NGOs in Abkhazia.

Rehabilitation and Shelter

With financial support of SDC, the French NGO Premiere Urgence (PU) continued its relief programme of small rehabilitation - quick impact projects - aiming at improvement of living places and conditions for the most vulnerable households for two more years; hence, the programme's duration is November 2002 - July 2005. This programme will provide assistance to a total of some 2,000 households, divided into two components: a) individual and private flats or dwelling houses; b) blocks of flats or collective buildings. First component regards people living in extreme poverty, who are mainly beneficiaries of MSF and ICRC assistance programmes. Needs in this sector are much bigger than what the PU programme can provide for and PU will not be able to cope with the number of applications, and most of those needs remain unmet. Consequently, it will not be possible for PU to geographically extend the area of activities, and most of the projects will cover only the town of Sukhumi and its surroundings. Regarding the second component, projects directly emanating from local initiatives produced very satisfactory results. PU will therefore play the role of an intermediary structure, and projects will be implemented by the beneficiary communities themselves, together with local administrations. In order to reinforce this local capacity as well as the sustainability of the actions, PU national staff will attend specific training, which would result in the constitution of a local structure technically able to carry out an emergency relief programme such as the one PU is currently carrying out. The last year of the PU programme will see PU local staff working in an autonomous way. In view of unmet needs in the sector, PU intends to perform assessments in the western regions of Abkhazia, focusing mainly on income generation and agriculture.

In June 2003, the Controller approved terms of reference for a fund to receive contributions for small scale, quick impact humanitarian projects in the UNOMIG mission area. Two Member States, namely Italy and Switzerland, have already made contribution to this fund and several more have indicated plans to do so in the near future. Since the launch of the UNOMIG's Quick Impact Projects 16 projects have been implemented and 6 of them are now concluded. The area of intervention varies from restoration of basic public services, such as water, electricity, power and schools, to Jump-starting economic activity through income generation programmes. Although the UNOMIG Quick Impact Fund is still in its infancy, it has already demonstrated how small but important and highly visible projects can contribute to establishing normality and improving the living conditions of the local inhabitants.

With financing from UMCOR-NGO, NRC and UNOMIG, UMCOR/Georgia is beginning the procurement of construction materials for completing the rehabilitation of Ochamchira Youth House building. The works are expected to begin in late January - early February 2004, and the renovation will be completed by late summer 2004.

Food, Nutrition, and Income

In Sukhumi, over 270 war-affected vulnerable persons, predominantly women, continued to benefit from UNHCR assistance covering basic food and medical needs provided through local NGO "Peace and Accord." During first half of 2003, over 1,500 hot meals were distributed to hospitals and 270 persons received food baskets. Medical assistance was provided to 215 persons. 30 agricultural plots were cultivated and 30 single vulnerable households were provided with seedlings and fertiliser.

In June 2003 the ICRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the health authorities of Abkhazia on the continuation of food assistance activities throughout Abkhazia. ICRC runs the assistance programme to address the food security needs of the most destitute part of the population throughout Abkhazia. Nearly 20,000 persons receive food and non-food items, which covers their basic nutritional needs and helps them to live a more dignified life. The food assistance consists of either daily meals in 20 canteens, or of a dry food ration, distributed to targeted beneficiaries on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Daily meals are delivered to the homes of bedridden elderly persons where they are fed and where they get hygienic care and psychological support.

ACH has started a new 10 months ECHO-funded agricultural project aimed at improving the food security of vulnerable families from Ochamchira, Tkvarcheli and Gali Districts or displaced in the Samegrelo Region (Georgia proper), with the development of agricultural production activities and income generation activities. ACH is implementing the PRRO project funded by WFP and ECHO in Ochamchira, Tkvarcheli and Gali Districts and Samegrelo-Upper Svaneti Regions. ACH is implementing WFP's food-for-work project that comprises an important component on community mobilization and aims at improving food security status of 13,550 vulnerable families through rehabilitation of agricultural potential.

Returnees

UNHCR's involvement in a sizeable reintegration programme for returnees in the Security Zone remains dependent on tangible progress in the UN-led peace-process and on reaching concrete agreements between all parties concerned on return of the displaced persons to their original homes. In view of the above, the focus of its programme activities in Abkhazia is the school rehabilitation project, which was initiated in the Gali District in 2001 and then extended to other districts of Abkhazia in 2002 while still covering most acute needs in Gali, and continued on a smaller scale in 2003. UNHCR participated in several discussions in various working groups in order to enhance this IDP returnee process within the Coordinating Council process as well as within the bilateral process (between Georgia and Abkhaz) known as the "Sochi follow-up".

Water Supplies, Hygiene and Sanitation

Cooperation between the ICRC and the local water boards in Sukhumi and Ochamchira continued in 2003. The main aim of ICRC activity was to "facilitate" the completion of rehabilitation work that had begun in 2001 and still has not been fully completed - i.e. the repair of the secondary water distribution system in these two cities.

During this period, the local water boards installed a total of 400 meters of ICRC-supplied pipes in Sukhumi and 270 meters in Ochamchira in order to repair/improve the supply of water for the local civilian population.

Additionally, as concerns WatHab activities in places of "detention", the ICRC, in cooperation with the Abkhaz Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) de facto, rehabilitated 2 shower rooms for detainees in an MVD detention facility in Sukhumi.

Infrastructure

The EC continued its rehabilitation activities on the Inguri Hydropower Plant. Combined EC and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) allocations are given towards the urgent repairs to restore its safe generating capacity. Due to the cascade design of the Inguri plant (the Arch Dam located in Georgia proper and the Station in Abkhazia), the project appears to be an important confidence building measure between the parties. The implementing partner, Electricite de France (EDF), recently selected two urgent actions: the procurement of a new stoplog for the Inguri Arch Dam and the procurement of a new generator at the Inguri Station.

In 2002 UNDP implemented a two-phase project on rehabilitation of telecommunications infrastructure in Abkhazia and adjacent territories in Georgia proper. The project was funded with the Grant from the German Government, which allocated US$ 300,000 for this purpose. The objective of the project is to contribute to confidence-building between the de facto Abkhaz authorities and the Government of Georgia through improvement of telecommunications in both Abkhazia, Georgia and adjacent regions in Georgia proper. This objective was met through rehabilitation of the damaged telephone cable system in Abkhazia (the village of Gulripshi and the city of Sukhumi, as well as Tamishi-Ochamchira main cable), improving telephone operation in Gali and Zugdidi, improving TV transmission in Zugdidi and installation of telephone lines in the IDP compact settlements in Tbilisi. Based on the agreement with the Government of Germany, it was decided to implement the Project in two Phases splitting the total amount budgeted in the Project into two equal parts. Based on the success of the Phase I of the project, which was verified by the Working Group III on Social and Economic Problems on its meeting of 25 June 2002, the German Government approved the 2nd tranche of funds for the Phase II under the Agreement signed with the German Government on 15 October 2002. The Grant covered the following activities: Repair of the damaged segments of the main cable between Ochamchira and Sukhumi; Rehabilitation of the supporting operational facilities (NUP) in the village of Achigvara; Procurement and installation of CODAN communications systems between Sukhumi-Psou and Tbilisi - Omarishara; Procurement and Installation of TV and Radio Transmitters in Svaneti; Procurement and installation of stationary acid batteries and diesel generator in Zugdidi and Gali for the improvement of telephone operation; Procurement and installation of 1kW TV Transmitter in Zugdidi for the improvement of TV transmission; Procurement and installation of 6.3 km connecting cable in Sukhumi, 2.140km cable in Gulripshi, 1.4 km cable in Sukhumi and Tamishi-Ochamchira 3km main cable; Procurement and installation of telephone lines in IDP compact settlements; Procurement and installation of Interface equipment ensuring automatic connection of telephone subscribers to the telephone station (ATS) in Sukhumi; etc.

of humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance programmes in Abkhazia in 2003 (pdf* format - 206 KB)

Compiled by OCHA Georgia. In collaboration with donors, UN agencies, international and non-governmental organisations.

Comments and suggestions are most welcome.

For more information contact Srdjan Stojanovic, Head of Office, OCHA Georgia, UN House, 9 Eristavi Street, Tbilisi. Tel: (99532) 943163 or tel./fax: (99532) 959516, e-mail: srdjan.stojanovic@unocha.org.ge

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.