OCHA Georgia: Abkhazia briefing note Jul 2004

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 31 Jul 2004


RECENT EVENTS/HIGHLIGHTS
On 24 May 2004 Major General Kazi Ashfaq (Bangladesh) ended his tour of duty as the UNOMIG Chief Military Observer. He is succeeded by Major General Hussein Ghobashi (Egypt).

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 cardio 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 since has been postponed indefinitely.

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.

Under the auspices of the SRSG and with the consent of the two parties, the UN carried out a Security Assessment Mission (SAM) to the Gali district between October and December 2002 The purpose of the SAM was to determine the ways and means of improving security conditions in the Gali District within its pr-1992 administrative boundaries. The SAM recommended the training and equipping of the law enforcement agencies, the improvement in co-operation between law enforcement agencies and the local population, the improvement of mechanisms for co-operation between the sides, the improvement of human rights and the economic rehabilitation of the area through support to economic programs/projects for the Gali and Zugdidi districts and possibly in adjacent areas.

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 26 July 2003, UN Secretary-General recommended the UN National Security Council to prolong the mandate of the UN Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG). On 30 July, 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. It was planned that the civilian police would work closely with the 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. Unfortunately, due to internal political issues the Abkhaz side has since rejected the deployment of the civilian police component to the Gali district. UNOMIG continues its negotiations with the Abkhaz but for the time being the civilian police component is only active on the Zugdidi side of the cease-fire line.

Between 1 and 17 December 2003, UNDP led a mission to Abkhazia to look at the feasibility of building a sustainable recovery and rehabilitation process for IDPs, returnees and local communities focusing on the Gali, Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli Districts in the east of Abkhazia. The mission drew upon the findings and recommendations of earlier UN missions to Abkhazia, including the February 1998 Needs Assessment Mission, the November 2000 Joint Assessment Mission and the 2002 Security Assessment Mission. The UNDP-led Mission broadly concluded that initial recovery and rehabilitation work was possible under the present security situation. Participating in the mission were representatives from UNOMIG, UNHCR, UNICEF and UNV.

The Mission recommended that a comprehensive and integrated programme be implemented in three phases. The first, to be embarked upon immediately, would be a Preliminary Phase to address immediate recovery needs; the second phase would be a Basic Rehabilitation Phase to move beyond the most immediate needs and into a sustainable recovery process and would be dependent upon adequate progress in the peace process with a particular emphasis on security and return; and the final Recovery Phase would address further recovery needs, based on lessons learned and confidence developed during the preceding phases. The programming options put forward were proposed as a means of establishing an environment conducive to the return of IDPs as well as the rehabilitation and recovery of the local population.

In April 2004, both the Government of Georgia and the de facto authorities of Abkhazia issued positive statements about the findings of the UNDP led Feasibility Mission and have welcomed the possibility of UNDP's implementation of a recovery programme.

On 19 January 2004 the SRSG held a further meeting on the implementation of the Gali Protocol of 8 October 2003. That meeting, which was attended by high-level Georgian and Abkhaz representatives and senior officials from the CISPKF resulted in the renewed commitment of the sides to continue efforts aimed at improving the security situation in the zone of conflict.

The UN chaired Group of Friends met again in February 2004 to discuss political and security matters, return of refugees and IDPs and economic co-operation issues. For the first time, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and representatives from UNDP took part in the relevant parts of the meeting. Both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides were invited to participate in the meeting but at the last minute the Abkhaz side boycotted the meeting. In a letter from the de facto President, the Abkhaz reiterated its refusal to accept the competencies paper and its transmittal letter and again invoked its unilateral declaration of independence. In the same letter, the Abkhaz side requested the resumption of the Co-ordinating Council, which has been suspended since January 2001 following the Abkhaz side's refusal at the time to participate in it.

On 26 and 27 April 2004, the Russian Federation convened a further meeting of the Sochi working group on the return of refugees and IDPs. For the first time the Abkhaz side participated along with the SRSG, representatives of the Georgian side and representatives of UNHCR and the CISPKF. One of the main items on the agenda was a draft letter of intent, prepared jointly by UNOMIG and UNHCR and endorsed unanimously during the February meeting of the Group of Friends. The Abkhaz side questioned the references to relevant Security Council resolutions and the role of the Group of Friends in the letter and presented its own draft. No agreement on the letter could be reached but both sides agreed to continue working on the text. Both sides did, however, confirm their support for the direct involvement of UNHCR in the return process. In the subsequent meeting in July 2004, the issue of the letter of intent was once again discussed without any conclusion.

On 20 May, in Sukhumi the SRSG chaired the third meeting on security guarantees between the Georgia and Abkhaz sides. In attendance, along with representatives from both sides were representatives of the Group of Friends, the OSCE and the CISPKF. At the meeting, the Georgian and Abkhaz sides once again reiterated their commitment to the non-resumption of hostilities and the settlement of all disputes exclusively by peaceful means. The meeting in Sukhumi served as a confidence-building measure that helped assuage Abkhaz apprehension of possible actions in support of the Georgian Government in the Gali district. The meeting in Sukhumi was preceded by informal consultations between the sides and international experts on the issue of security guarantees, held on 22 and 23 April at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. These consultations also allowed the parties to address a range of other aspects of the peace process.

SECURITY

In most of Abkhazia the security situation has generally been calm and stable throughout 2002 and 2003 and the first part of 2004. However, one major incident in recent years involving the 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, the 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, the hostages were released unharmed and brought to Tbilisi on 10 June. 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 people on board.

The two exceptions to the generally quiet situation in Abkhazia are the Kodori Valley and lower 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, however, typically increased during the hazelnut and mandarin seasons (~Sept-Dec). It has been noted of late that most incidents are increasingly more of purely criminal character rather than political nature.

In Gali District, criminality, including cases of robberies, shooting accidents, abductions, 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. In late 2003, a Premiere Urgence vehicle was also highjacked on its way from Gali to Sukhumi. The vehicle was never found.

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, tensions were gradually been reduced by the end of 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 30 September, 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.

Since the "rose revolution" in November 2003 the security situation has been generally calm but with a few moments of increased tensions. The Abkhaz side has followed developments in Adjara and the subsequent developments in Ossetia with considerable concern. Part of the Abkhaz side's anxiety stemmed from statements made by some Georgian politicians that Sukhumi would be next in the Georgian reintegration effort. This led to an increased Abkhaz security presence in the Gali district in lead-up to Georgia's National Day on 26 May. At the same time, in an attempt to diffuse some of the tension between the sides, UNOMIG made the decision to increase the frequency of their own patrols in the Gali district, a measure, which seemed to be effective and is still in place.

OVERVIEW OF HUMANITARIAN SITUATION, NEEDS AND RESPONSES

The civil war in Abkhazia led to a displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and a 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 the 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 the 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 continue to migrate between Georgia proper and Abkhazia. In Abkhazia they mainly return for the harvest seasons to harvest and sell their crops for extra income to supplement the IDP allowance they receive in Georgia proper.

In 2004, UNV, UNICEF, 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, throughout 2003, and in the first part of 2004 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 allowed the continuation of funding for food security programmes implemented by the ICRC and ACH. Recently, the European Commission announced that 4 million dollars will be available of the course of 2 years for a rehabilitation program in Abkhazia.

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 aimed 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 spurred 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 for 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. A Mid-term review of the conflict zones section of the OCHA organized Humanitarian Strategy Conference 2004 was held in June 2004 and determined that the process of drafting the paper through the specific working groups was a very positive experience for everyone involved and that the paper and actual conference provided a strong forum for sharing ideas and for developing a common vision. The group that met to conduct the mid-term review felt that the recommendations of last year's group were still relevant but needed to be revisited to update them for 2005.

PROGRAMMES BY SECTORS

Education

UNHCR finalised the last portion of its 2001-2003 school rehabilitation project with repairs completed in the final months of 2003 on a further ten schools in Abkhazia, Georgia, of which six were in Gali district. A total of 14,119 children in 80 schools in Abkhazia have benefited from the UNHCR school rehabilitation programme. In addition to the completed school rehabilitation project, UNHCR distributed school items to the total 50 most needy schools, which were primarily in Gali district, as well as in Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli. Over 7,000 students benefited from this distribution. In February 2004, UNHCR distributed 83 UNICEF school kits to the 80 schools 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. The third summer university took place in July 2004. 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 Centre for Peace Studies in Stadtschlaining, the International Human Rights School, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw, and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Building the successful implementation of Peace Education in Secondary Schools in Abkhazia- pilot project from 2003, The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) initiated a new project titled" Peace Education in Secondary Schools in Georgia and Abkhazia" with financial support from European Commission under the EIDHR micro projects. UMCOR's new Peace Education Project aspires to create a more democratic, peaceful and ethnically tolerant environment in the unresolved conflict situation between Georgia and Abkhazia through a series of peace education classes and peaceful conflict resolution training for teachers and students in Georgian and Abkhaz secondary schools. Reaching over 640 children and 32 teachers in ten regions, the project will enhance their ability to deal with conflict in a peaceful and democratic way, as well as to defuse the potential for future conflict. The groups of teachers will be selected from 16 Georgian, Abkhaz, Russian and Armenian schools in Tbilisi, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Zugdidi and Samegrelo, Gali, Sukhumi, Gagra, Gudauta, Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli. The UMCOR Georgia project will help maintain and strengthen the links between ethnic groups residing in Georgia and Abkhazia as well as promote ethnic reconciliation and tolerance building processes.

The ICRC supports an educational programme in secondary schools throughout Abkhazia. Pupils of the 5th, 6th and 9th grades are taught humanitarian principles and basics of IHL through literature and civic education, utilizing two textbooks developed by the ICRC - "The World around You..." (since 1997) and "International Humanitarian Law" (since 2002). In order to strengthen the teaching process, on an annual basis the ICRC offers refresher Methodological Seminars to teachers utilizing the two textbooks. In April-May 2004, teaching skills were monitored in 12 urban schools covering four regions in Abkhazia: Sukhumi, Ochamchira, Tkvarcheli and Gali.

The ICRC assists in the integration of IHL into the curricula of Abkhaz State University, at the faculty of Law and Journalism. Three professors from both faculties have participated in advanced IHL seminars organised by the ICRC in the Russian Federation. The university library has been provided with a wide range of IHL publications, thus ensuring that instructors and students have access to academic materials on IHL. In parallel, the ICRC carries out IHL presentations for the students of the Military Chair of Abkhaz State University - three presentations for 176 students have been carried out since the beginning of 2004.

The ICRC works to integrate IHL into the training programmes of military and law enforcement personnel in Abkhazia, so as to ensure that future officers possess a basic knowledge of the Geneva Conventions and other internationally accepted norms for the conduct of hostilities. The ICRC has provided training facilities with didactic materials and publications on IHL.

Children's Needs and Psycho-social Rehabilitation

UNHCR, through its local implementing partner Charity Humanitarian Center Abkhazeti (CHCA), continued youth related activities with over 670 IDP and local adolescents participating regularly in 17 youth clubs and vocational training in Western Georgia. Training is given on Business, Civic Education, Conflict Management, Communication, English and Computers. IDP and local children (aged 10-14) attend weekend schools. Vocational schools have benefited vulnerable IDP and local adolescents in Western Georgia and Tbilisi, with school drop-outs receiving practical work place training under the guidance of a mentor. The youth clubs have implemented 24 small business projects.

Developed jointly with the HALO Trust and the Sukhumi Rehabilitation Center Rainbow, UNICEF is directing DFID funds towards a one-month summer rehabilitation camp in Sukhumi for 16 child landmine survivors, their families and community members in Abkhazia. This small scale summer programme will span the month of August 2004, and will involve activities directed towards the social reintegration and participation of injured children; the development of a community based rehabilitation network; and the promotion of self acceptance, self-confidence and personal development of children through non-formal education, play and recreation using interactive learning techniques.

In 2004, UNV continued to print and distribute 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.

From 1998-February 2004, The Academy for Educational Development (AED) 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. During 2002-2004 the YLPD programme goal attempted 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. 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).

With support of the Swiss Agency for Development and 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. The 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 Abkhaz 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 Abkhaz.

Since the beginning of 2003 War Child Netherlands has been supporting psychosocial activities implemented through the Sukhumi Youth House. Activities focused on creative workshops using art, music, dance and drama to effectively deal with a range of psychological problems that affect children. These problems tend to be exhibited in hyper-activity, aggression, introversion, and other behavioural problems. The project includes those children who are considered to be especially vulnerable - the homeless, the disabled, orphans, etc. The arrival of a Regional Coordinator based in Tbilisi in July 2003 led to the development of the current project, which began in January 2004. The main goals of the current project are to maximize the impact of the creative workshops by training teachers and other professionals working with children in the use of creative methods with children and to involve youth, teachers and parents in conflict transformation activities with a particular focus on improving relations between Abkhaz and Georgians in Gali region. There is also a theatre studio run through Sukhumi Youth House and involving children in a number of regions of Abkhazia. The project involves children, youth, parents, teachers and others from Sukhumi, Ochamchira. Gali, Tkvarcheli, and Gagra.

Community Development/Community Mobilisation

Since November 2003, Accion contra el Hambre (ACH) has been implementing a community mobilisation and development program in Abkhazia and Samegrelo. This project, financed by SDC, seeks to enhance the socio-economic environment of beneficiaries, give them improved prospects for their life and contribute to the peace building process, while promoting attitudes towards a disengagement from conflict. To date the project is proceeding according to design.

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, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with its Implementing Partner - ACH has implemented recovery activities through the WFP's Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation 10211.0, for the period of 12 months (August 2003 - July 2004) in Abkhazia. A total of 14 food-for work (FFW) projects aimed at the rehabilitation of tea plantations, improving irrigation systems and agricultural access roads and reclaiming arable land in 3 districts (Ochamchira, Tkvarcheli and Gali) were developed and approved for a 5-month implementation period from March to July 2004. These projects cover 7,696 FFW participants and their dependants with a planned amount of 458 tons of food commodities (wheat flour, sugar, oil and iodized salt). Of which, 234 tons had been delivered by the end of June 2004. The communities have actively participated in the projects and overall performance against the planned outputs is satisfactory. The ACH team is currently facilitating a community mobilisation process with the participating communities to formulate new project proposals for the second phase (August 2004 - May 2005), with the same objectives and implementation approach being applied.

WFP plans to conduct a Household Food Economy Assessment in Abkhazia in October-November 2004. The proposal and an official letter requesting the authorisation was sent to the de facto Ministers of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Agriculture (MA) of Abkhazia. Through several meetings, the MA has informally expressed its interest and support. However, no official feedback has been received from MFA.

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 4,500 anti personnel, anti group and anti vehicle landmines and over 3,900 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 has established 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.

Funded by CIDA, UNICEF continues to support the HALO Trust in their mine risk education (MRE) programmes throughout Abkhazia and affected regions of Georgia. UNICEF provides for the printing of culturally appropriate, locally accessible and age specific MRE communication materials (i.e., copy books, colouring books and game boards for school children; information pamphlets for broader village/city populations) employed in their mine awareness campaigns and presentations.

Since 1994 the ICRC has been implementing a physical rehabilitation programme in Abkhazia. In collaboration with the health authorities, the ICRC assists mine and UXO (unexploded ordnance) victims at the Gagra Orthopaedic Centre, thus allowing those who have been disabled to lead an active life again. Since the opening of the centre, a total of 670 patients have been assisted with orthopaedic services.

Health

Médecins Sans Frontières-France (MSF) administers a free of charge Health Access Programme for vulnerable people, which provided access to primary health care through a network of 13 family doctors all across Abkhazia for 20,000 beneficiaries and provided medical care and follow up for 4,000 patients for chronic diseases. In Sukhumi a dedicated medical team provides visiting medical and nurse care as well as social support for 400 bed ridden patients. For the period of January to June 2004, 13,000 consultations were performed in the 11 polyclinics, 235 operations done and 160 patients were hospitalised in the cardiology department of the City Hospital in Sukhumi. MSF also runs a Tuberculosis Treatment Programme throughout Abkhazia. The TB Control Program is Abkhazia-wide and functions through one TB Hospital in Gulripsh and 8 TB Ambulatory Points. Since the beginning of the program in 1999 more than 1,400 patients have been admitted. For the period of January to June 2004, 126 patients were included into the programme, and currently, 225 patients are under the treatment.

The MDR TB Programme started in 2002 and has 50 patients currently under treatment. Since January 2004, 18 patients were added to the programme. In 2001 MSF launched a TB Program in the Penitentiary System of Abkhazia, which include TB detection in all place of detention and treatment of infected patients in Dandra Prison; 20 patients are currently under treatment.

In 2004, UNICEF continued to focus on extending its regular country programming into Abkhazia. Assessments of conditions related to maternal and child health in Abkhazia remain ongoing. UNICEF has begun development for trainings of maternal and child health care providers and primary care givers in all seven regions of Abkhazia on Breastfeeding and Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI). Funded by CIDA, trainings will take place in the fall of 2004 in Sukhumi and involve staff from maternity facilities and children's polyclinics in Gagra, Gudauta, Ochamchire, Tkvarcheli, Sukhumi and Gali. These capacity building programmes will be complimented with essential supply provision of basic resuscitation, midwifery and obstetric equipment to selected maternity facilities and children's polyclinics throughout Abkhazia.

UNICEF is also presently strengthening and expanding its child immunisation programme in Abkhazia, working to ensure vaccine security and the non-interruption of equipment provision to all seven regions within Abkhaz territory. In May 2004, UNICEF provided the second batch of 2004 EPI immunisation supplies and is currently working with local partners to strengthen the cold chain, improve conditions for storage of vaccines and supplies in all holding centres, and introduce a standardised reporting/monitoring system for hospitals and administration centres in Abkhazia. The supply package provided by UNICEF for under-2 child vaccination covered routine EPI vaccines (BCG, DPT, OPV and Measles), auto-disabling and re-constitution syringes and safety boxes. Vaccine supplies for 5 and 14 year-old children have been provided directly by Government of Georgia. Hep B vaccines granted by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations/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, according to statistics made available by the de facto government of Abkhazia. The assistance of the Georgian-Abkhaz Commission in terms of logistics arrangements and distribution of programme supplies has played a critical part in ensuring programme arrangements. Monitoring and evaluation of the immunisation programme in Abkhazia remains a key priority, in line with co-ordination 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 and Gali Hospitals), supplying them with medicines and surgical equipment every two months. All emergency surgical patients, including those wounded by weapons, have access to basic medicines and equipment, during the first 8 days of treatment. For the period of January-June 2004, a total of 299 emergency operations were performed in the ICRC assisted hospitals. Among the patients requiring emergency surgery, 28 had weapon related injuries and 6 had mine injuries. The ICRC also assists four Blood Banks in Sukhumi Republican, Agudzera, Tkvarcheli and Gagra Hospitals, supplying them with testing-kits for HIV, Hepatitis B&C and Syphilis, as well as Lab equipment. All patients in Abkhazia, including emergency and maternity patients and those injured by weapons, suffering from acute blood loss, have equal access to safer blood transfusions. Between January and June 2004, the total number of beneficiaries amounted to 231. Within the Blood Transfusion project the ICRC, in co-operation with local health authorities, re-printed and distributed leaflets concerning prevention of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B/C.

Human Rights

Regarding promotional activities, The UN Human Rights Office Abkhazia, Georgia (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.

The ICRC, through its protection activities, regularly visits detainees under the responsibility of law enforcement bodies in Abkhazia, in order to ensure that their treatment and conditions of detention correspond to international standards. In addition, vulnerable groups among the civilian population are protected in cases of discrimination, and, if necessary, recommendations are submitted to the authorities in an effort to improve the situation. The ICRC also helps with family reunification and exchange of family news between separated family members through the "Red Cross Message" service. Since the beginning of 2004, the ICRC has reunited 5 families and exchanged 1656 Red Cross Messages from/to Abkhazia. The ICRC actively works to resolve the fate of those that have disappeared as a result of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. Technical support is provided to the Georgian and Abkhaz Missing Commissions - facilitating the collection of ante-mortem data and encouraging exhumations; support is also provided to the families of persons.

NGO Development and Confidence-Building

A number of international organisations, NGOs and Institutes, including the EU, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), UNIFEM, Conciliation Resources (CR), 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.

The 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.

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.

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. In May 2004 UCI held its 11th major dialogue conference in Moscow where participants discussed the latest events related to the Georgian/Abkhaz conflict as well as ways in which to move the dialogue forward. Also in May, UCI once again convened meetings in Sukhumi and Tbilisi of project directors and participants in governmental and non-governmental confidence-building organisations working in the region.

Civil Society Development/Gender

The UNIFEM Project "Women for Conflict Prevention and Peace building in the Southern Caucasus" promotes women's concerns, insights and visions to be included in the peace, security and development agendas of the Southern Caucuses. The project continued to support people-to-people dialog initiatives, to promote women in leadership, and to target youth and education activities focusing on conflict prevention, conflict resolution, gender and peace building with special emphasis on the role of women in the process. The first meeting of Georgian IDP women leaders and Abkhaz women leaders from Sukhumi took place in Moscow in November 2003. During this quarter, follow-up strategies regarding this meeting were designed and discussed. The first public forum amongst women of Gali district and the authorities from Gali took place in late December 2003. This event provided women from Gali town and 9 Gali villages, for the first time, the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the authorities. The possibility of a having a similar event in the future was discussed and elaborated. The project on organizing the first informal meetings of women leaders from Gali, Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli is being discussed with local partners and will be supported. Students at the University of Sukhumi continue to attend the course on "Conflict, Peace Building and Gender" which was prepared through the UNIFEM project. Course materials are being developed to include the course into the curriculum at the University in Sukhumi. UNIFEM is also supporting the attempt of the women's newspaper "Atana" to become sustainable and financially independent. During the first quarter of 2004, UNIFEM partners worked on a strategy that would allow them to continue working with youth and peace building, to continue building the capacity and confidence of women to become leaders within their communities, to continue engaging with the media to support the advancement of women and to continue improving the economic security of women. All project activities are implemented in partnership with local NGOs and members of the civil society.

The Swedish foundation Kvinna till Kvinna (KtK) is supporting six local Women's NGOs in Abkhazia. These are Avangardi in Gali, who are working on a reproductive health project as well as on empowering young girls; the Association of Women of Tkvarcheli in Tkvarcheli, who are running a basic psycho-social rehabilitation centre for women; the Centre for a World Without Violence in Sukhumi, who are running a gender training program for high school teachers and university lecturers; the Association of Women of Abkhazia in Sukhumi, who are working on a joint project concerning Abkhaz/Georgian security perceptions together with an IDP Women's NGO in Kutaisi; the Union of Businesswomen of Abkhazia in Sukhumi as well as their branch in Gagra, both of whom are developing business training for women. All the projects are implemented by local NGO partners. KtK plans to stay active in the region for several years and possibly expand their activities further.

Rehabilitation and Shelter

With financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the French NGO Premiere Urgence (PU) continued its relief programme of small scale rehabilitation aimed at the improvement of living places and conditions for the most vulnerable households. The programme's is funded from November 2002 - July 2005. This programme provides 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. The First component focuses on people living in extreme poverty, who are mainly beneficiaries of MSF and ICRC assistance programmes. This first component of the project covers only the town of Sukhumi and its surroundings. The second component focuses on the Tkvarcheli district and is implemented in partnership with the local de facto administration, who provides the labour for the projects. In order to reinforce local capacity building as well as the sustainability of the work underway, PU national staff will attend specific training, which will focus on creating a local organisation technically able to carry out an emergency relief programme such as the one PU is currently implementing. The last year of the PU programme will see PU local staff working in an autonomous way.

In June 2003, the UN Controller approved the terms of reference for a UNOMIG trust fund to receive contributions for small scale, quick impact humanitarian projects in the UNOMIG mission area. Since the beginning of 2004, UNOMIG's Quick Impact Projects nine new projects have been approved by the Trust Fund Committee. The sectors of intervention vary from the restoration of basic public services, such as water and electricity, to the renovation of local schools and ambulatories. UNOMIG's Quick Impact Fund continues to demonstrate 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 is rehabilitating the Ochamchira Youth House building. The works are began in early February 2004 and the renovation will be completed by late summer 2004.

Food, Nutrition, and Income

In March 2004 the ICRC signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Abkhaz authorities 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 in all the districts of Abkhazia. Some 20,000 people receive food and non-food items, which cover their basic nutritional needs and help them live a more dignified life. Food assistance consists of either daily meals in 19 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; through a network of Red Cross social assistants, this category of beneficiaries also receives hygienic care and psychological support.

ACH continues implementing the 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. Bakeries, shops and cow, sheep and pig breeding, are some of the activities developed under a co-operative system. Networking and marketing analyses are envisaged to improve the profitability of the aforementioned activities.

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 was 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 and completed in 2003. In 2004 UNHCR continues to participate in discussions in various working groups in order to enhance the possible return of the IDPs within the Co-ordinating Council process as well as within the bilateral process (between Georgia and Abkhaz) known as the "Sochi follow-up".

Water Supplies, Hygiene and Sanitation

Co-operation between the ICRC and the local de facto Administration Water Boards in Sukhumi and Ochamchira continued in 2004. The main aim of ICRC activity has been to facilitate the repair of the secondary water distribution systems in these localities. Since the beginning of the current year, 669 meters of water pipes have been laid in Sukhumi and 586 meters in Ochamchira.

Infrastructure

The European Commission (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 April-May 2004 UNDP conducted an ex-post evaluation of the German Government funded, UNDP project "Rehabilitation of Telecommunications Infrastructure in Abkhazia, Georgia and Adjacent Territories in Georgia Proper". The evaluation was conducted by the UNDP/UNV International Community Facilitator and the UNHCR Telecom Assistant. The Monitors determined that all equipment and cables at all the sites, except Svaneti, had been installed and were working as per project specifications. The Monitors also determined, from their conversations with people living in the collective centres, that telephone service was functioning at each of the targeted centres, as envisioned in the project plan.

The Monitors were unable to travel to Svaneti to verify the installation of a television transmitter due to bad weather and poor road conditions. They were also unable to verify firsthand that all the telephone cable had been laid in Abkhazia as per project specifications because the majority of the cable was buried and thus not visible. However, they concluded that all systems in Zugdidi, Abkhazia and Tbilisi were functioning as per the project specifications.

In summary, the Monitors concluded that the project equipment was in place, in proper working order, functioning according to technical specifications as defined by the project.

Compiled by OCHA Georgia

In collaboration with donors, other UN agencies, international and non-governmental organisations. Comments and suggestions are most welcome.

For more information contact Ms. Nino Antadze, Acting Head of Office, OCHA UN House, 9 Eristavi Street, Tbilisi.
Tel: (99532) 94 31 63, or tel./fax: (99532) 95 95 16
e-mail: nino.antadze@unocha.org.ge

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