Georgia

OCHA Georgia: South Ossetia Briefing Note Jan 2004

Attachments


RECENT EVENTS/HIGHLIGHTS

  • Memorandum of Understanding on the projects to be financed under the EUR 2.5 million EC grant planned to be signed in early 2004

  • OSCE-led efforts towards peaceful conflict resolution continue despite setbacks

  • South Ossetia still requires more attention by international community in view of its humanitarian and basic rehabilitation needs

BACKGROUND

The South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast consisted of the four districts of Tskhinvali, Akhalgori (formerly Leningori), Java, and Znauri. Tskhinvali, the capital of the Oblast, is a half hour's drive north of Gori, the administrative centre of the Georgian region of Shida Kartli. In 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the Oblast declared its intention to raise its status to that of an Autonomous Republic within Georgia. The Georgian authorities annulled this decision and further revoked South Ossetia's status as an Autonomous Oblast. A violent conflict ensued during 1989-1992.

As a direct consequence of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, South Ossetia and adjoining regions of Georgia proper, including Gori, suffered substantial material damage, and over 60,000 individuals, mainly ethnic Ossetians, were displaced from their homes. Some 40,000 of them crossed into North Ossetia in the Russian Federation and became refugees. At the same time as the conflict raged, several violent earthquakes and aftershocks struck the region, causing significant damage, particularly in Java.

As early as the summer of 1992, an attempt was made to seek an amicable solution to the conflict and to establish an end to the hostilities. A cease-fire agreement was signed, leaving the authorities of the former Oblast in control of Tskhinvali, Java, Znauri and parts of Akhalgori, and the central Government in control of Akhalgori and several isolated ethnic Georgian villages. A peacekeeping force from the region was deployed. These forces consist of joint Russian, Ossetian and Georgian troops and are known as the Joint Peacekeeping Force or JPKF.

In 1992, a mission from the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), later renamed as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was requested by the Georgian and South Ossetian sides to help mediate and promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict. With the OSCE's facilitation, the Georgian-Ossetian conflict settlement machinery has evolved. This machinery has two principal components: political negotiations of Georgian and South Ossetian plenipotentiary delegations with the participation of Russia, North Ossetian authorities, and the OSCE; and the Joint Control Commission (JCC), which supports confidence-building measures and serves as a mechanism for the sides to address issues of mutual concern while leaving the issue of the region's political status to the political negotiators.

The JCC has three principal working groups: 1) On Military and Security Issues; 2) On Economic Issues; 3) On Refugees and IDPs. All four parties (i.e. Georgia, Russia, North Ossetia and South Ossetia) and the OSCE are represented on the JCC Working Groups. In addition, the JPKF is a participant on the working group on Military and Security Issues, the European Commission (EC) on the working group on economic issues, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the working group on refugees and IDPs.

During the early phases of the conflict, international humanitarian agencies addressed the emergency needs of the population. Later, during 1996-1999, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) addressed confidence building and development needs through a US$2 million project designed to rehabilitate essential components of the region's infrastructure. The UNDP project relied on an innovative system of joint technical groups with representatives from the Georgian and South Ossetian sides that identified and approved projects by consensus. Similarly, in 1998, the European Union (EU) issued a budget line to facilitate the normalisation of relations between the two sides and has allocated several million ECU for the rehabilitation of the region's infrastructure, including electricity and gas distribution networks and the railway line. Notwithstanding the achievements of the EU and UNDP programmes, much need for rehabilitation and development work remains.

In 1997, in light of progress on the political front and further reductions in tension and a steady improvement in the security environment, UNHCR began programming designed to create conditions for the return of IDPs and refugees to the region. Nonetheless, an overwhelming number of IDPs and returnees remain displaced. Vigorous efforts by UNHCR and its implementing partners to promote a voluntary, safe, and dignified return of refugees and IDPs to their places of origin have had only limited results. Until economic conditions improve and basic services such as healthcare and utilities are adequately restored, and the number and potential for income generating opportunities is sufficiently increased, many if not most refugees and IDPs will remain reluctant to return to their places of origin. In 2003, however, there had been some progress observed: more returnees have been registered than in 2002.

In November 2001, local presidential elections, unrecognised by the international community, were held in South Ossetia. This resulted in the defeat of the incumbent and a relatively peaceful transfer of power to the new de facto President and administration. At present, the central authorities in Tbilisi continue to exercise little direct control over the region. Despite the South Ossetian authorities' declaration of independence from Georgia in 1990, the region's status continues to be the focus of negotiations, and the international community remains firmly committed to Georgia's territorial integrity. The separation of the negotiations on political status from other issues under the auspices of the JCC allows the sides to maintain a level of pragmatism to continue to resolve issues of mutual concern.

Pragmatism is also evidenced in the attitude of the local populations residing on each side of the "cease-fire line." Much of the adult population speaks Ossetian, Georgian and Russian to varying degrees of proficiency, a sign of the close interethnic ties that prevailed throughout the region prior to the conflict. The local population on both sides enjoys freedom of movement across the lines of de facto South Ossetian-Georgian control. The freedom of movement refers to both ethnic Georgian enclaves under de facto South Ossetian administration and the population from South Ossetia and Georgia proper in general. A regular bus service operates between Tskhinvali and Gori. Georgian villagers bring their produce to the Tskhinvali market, and transactions take place in a variety of currencies, including the Russian ruble, US dollar and Georgian lari, although the economy is based primarily on the ruble.

In early 2002, and later in Autumn 2002, there were some negative developments in political talks and security repercussions on the ground. This to a certain extent impeded the peace-settlement process, which suffered along with the authority of the JCC being questioned. At the same time, the level of criminality, an acute problem in South Ossetia, has been intermittently on the rise. However, despite those passing tensions, the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict settlement process continued. The momentum in the Georgian-Ossetian negotiations was reflected in regularity of meetings held within the framework of the JCC in 2002 and 2003. As a result, some agreements were reached on important issues related to urgent security matters, economic rehabilitation, and IDPs/refugees. Moreover, the finalisation of the Russian-Georgian Intergovernmental Programmes on Economic Rehabilitation in the Zone of Conflict in December 2001 and working on the draft law on Return, Integration and Re-integration of Refugees and IDPs would be conducive to further deepening of confidence and rehabilitation between the two sides.

OSCE in 2003 continued to work towards peaceful settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, through facilitation of the JCC meetings and its subsidiary bodies. At the present juncture, it is stepping up its activities aimed at facilitating the two sides to implement the OSCE Mission's proposals, which have also a strong confidence building effect, on the release of a JCC newsletter and the enhancement of the operational efficiency of the Special Co-ordination Centre, that is joint policing activities. OSCE is also exploring the possibilities to enhance its efforts in the field of confidence building with a view of contributing to an atmosphere of trust and positive examples of co-operation. This, in turn, could be instrumental in bridging the gap between the two sides and facilitating JCC activities.

From 14 to 17 October 2003, OSCE facilitated the 10th Experts' Groups meeting of the authorized delegations for the sides within the framework of the negotiation process on a full-scale resolution of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, which took place in the Hague, Netherlands, upon invitation of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Hague meeting was a follow-up to the Experts Groups meetings in Vienna/Baden (2000), Bucharest (2001) and Castelo Branco (2002). It was attended by participants from the Georgian and South Ossetian sides, as well as representatives of the Russian Federation, North Ossetia - Alania, the OSCE Mission, the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus. Representatives from the European Commission also took part in the meeting. Unfortunately, the discussions revealed strong differences between the Georgian and South Ossetian sides on key issues of the political conflict settlement. The meeting ended without adoption of a concluding document. Nonetheless, taking into account the commitment from both sides to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict, OSCE will continue to facilitate a political dialogue next year as well.

On economic issues, the sides shared the view that rehabilitation in the zone of conflict played a growing role in the overall conflict settlement process. In November 2002, they expressed their readiness to participate in the EU joint Customs Control project, a joint taxation scheme on transit cargo traffic through South Ossetia the proceeds of which would be beneficial for the population in the zone of conflict. This, and other economic rehabilitation projects funded by the EU, were to be implemented and administered under the aegis of the OSCE through its field office in Tskhinvali. In exchange for agreement on joint taxation scheme, the EU would go ahead with the EUR 2.5 million in rehabilitation funds (1999 budget), mainly foreseen for road rehabilitation. However, de facto South Ossetian authorities reiterated they would not make any concessions, i.e. accept conditionalities, which would impede the sovereignty of the territory they control.

Nonetheless, the negotiations over these projects with some modifications in implementation programme have continued and are expected to bring positive outcomes shortly. OSCE has submitted to signature of the Georgian and South-Ossetian sides a Memorandum of Understanding on the projects to be financed under the EUR 2.5 million EC grant. The proposal is to allocate part of the fund to finance the rehabilitation of basic infrastructures in the amount of EUR 1.3 million. The proposal also envisages allocating the remaining EUR 1.2 million for projects in support to returnees and IDPs. In addition, the Memorandum of Understanding foresees that the projects be implemented with the support of UNDP and UNHCR and outside the framework of the Joint Control Commission (JCC). Some alterations have been proposed to the Memorandum. They are being discussed with the implementing partners UNDP and UNHCR, the EU Representative, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Special Affairs of Georgia. Once agreement on the adapted text has been reached parties will be invited to sign.

SECURITY

The security situation, from a military point of view, remains in general calm and quiet. OSCE continued its monitoring of the JPKF in the Georgian-Ossetian zone of conflict, with an emphasis on transparency of their activities and co-operation among the sides. The JPFK monitors the ceasefire and also maintains a rapid reaction force, which has proved itself capable of responding quickly to threats to the peace and defusing tense situations in the past.

The Georgian and South Ossetian sides have over recent years achieved substantial agreements on joint action against criminality. A Joint Law Enforcement Coordination Body was formed in February 2000 with the JPKF, with participation of South Ossetian and local Georgian law enforcement authorities. In February 2002, the EU donated communication equipment and vehicles to the Joint Georgian-South Ossetian law enforcement unit, the "Special Coordination Centre" (SCC), which is subordinated to the JCC. To address some of the shortcomings of the SCC, OSCE has urged the two sides to agree on concrete measures to improve the efficiency of the SCC for addressing the growing criminality in the region.

Criminality, nevertheless, remains an acute problem in South Ossetia, in part due to attempts to control the lucrative trade in "transit" goods shipped between the Russian Federation and Georgia proper via South Ossetia. Robberies are common in the region, especially car thefts. Casualties are often suspected to be victims of "business" disputes. Law enforcement officers from both sides are suspected to be at times involved in criminal activities. Furthermore, there have been cases of a kidnapping and assaults on officers in the zone of conflict. These incidents and unproductive investigations have provoked dissatisfaction among the local population. It has also become common that frustrated villagers block the major road for hours in protest against various events. There have been constant concerns among the international community that the present trend of rampant crime and series of incidents could incite ethnic tension and violence. The "Falloy" market disputes are often of high importance in security matters. This is often combined with "legal actions", for instance, "escort" fees by the South Ossetian de facto authorities and "Customs" fees by the Georgian authorities have caused further dissatisfaction among the population.

Although the security situation in general has been calm throughout 2002 and 2003, it has significantly deteriorated in mid-summer 2002, along with heightened tensions between Russian Federation and Georgia, which culminated in the Russian President's ultimatum to Georgia to take action against "terrorists" or face Russian unilateral action. This was compounded with fear felt by the local authorities and population over hostile intentions by the Chechen boyevics who were allegedly seen in the vicinity of South Ossetian eastern "border," and the possibility of a Georgian "anti-criminal" operation in the area. Although no major incidents related to those issues was recorded, these events resulted in some genuine concerns by the population for their safety as well as in partial mobilisation of South Ossetian military reserves called upon by local authorities. By late October 2002, the tension about Chechens was somewhat defused, and the South Ossetian de facto authorities were then more concerned over the "anti-criminal" operation in South Ossetia (officially, Georgian authorities place this operation in "Shida Kartli"). The mobilisation of troops in South Ossetia was retained for some time mainly due to the fear of Georgians using this operation as a pretext to take South Ossetia by force. By year's end, the tensions over the above issues abated, in parallel with positive developments in adjacent areas, which normally reflect on the situation in the zone of conflict. In recent months, heightened tensions in Georgia proper of late 2003 prompted local de facto authorities in South Ossetia to declare temporary "State of Emergency", as they feared possible repercussions of the crisis in Georgia proper in South Ossetia. To date, however, there have been no indication of neither any serious deterioration or improvement of the existing situation in near future as regards to the new political management in Georgia proper.

In the framework of the conflict resolution mechanism, the OSCE Mission to Georgia has worked for enhancing the operational effectiveness of the Special Co-ordination Centre (SCC) in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. For this purpose, consultations were held between the Georgian and Ossetian sides, facilitated by the representatives from the Strategic Police Matters Unit (SPMU) of the OSCE and the OSCE Kosovo Police service School. OSCE has also continued with the implementation of the projects for the collection of small arms and ammunition of the zone of conflict - which commenced in 2000, for providing small-scale, community needs based assistance projects such as providing the most modern ultrasound equipment for children's clinic, arranging summer camps for vulnerable children from the conflict zone, small-scale various infrastructure rehabilitation works for the villages, etc. So far hundreds of small arms as well as munitions, grenades, landmines, and one 100mm gun have been collected. The OSCE is considering further plans to implement projects for the benefit of communities from the zone of conflict.

OVERVIEW OF HUMANITARIAN AND DEVELOPMENT NEEDS AND RESPONSES

During the time of the Soviet Union, the region was a relatively prosperous one. Its mines, factories, and farms supplied raw materials to markets across the Soviet Union, and the mountainous regions of Java were dotted with resorts and tourist bases. Since 1989, however, the collapse of the Soviet Union, compounded with effects of the ensuing civil war and the powerful earthquake that hit the region, all contributed to a grim economic climate. Poverty has become widespread across the region and is growing.

The humanitarian situation in South Ossetia cannot be described as critical, but remains precarious and certainly requires more attention by international community. The Georgian-South Ossetian peace-process is practically in a deadlock, and the conflict in South Ossetia is at times described as a forgotten one. International aid has markedly decreased in recent years, while the humanitarian situation has actually slightly deteriorated, and some basic rehabilitation needs have grown. Local authorities have no external support to their budget for social security programmes and objectively cannot provide more than a minimal and irregular assistance to their own needy population. There is a widely-perceived need for continuing, and possibly increasing humanitarian aid, especially in the medical sector, as well as basic infrastructure rehabilitation in the fields of electricity, water, sanitation, etc.

There has been, for quite some time, a consensus amongst international humanitarian actors on the ground that properly designed transitional assistance programmes could spur confidence building, support and encourage return of IDPs/refugees, and promote rapprochement at the political level. It is, therefore, essential, to further raise awareness amongst donors to encourage appropriate assistance to the region. Throughout 2002 and 2003, the trend has, however, been quite the opposite. The deadlock in political negotiations, overall donor fatigue in a wider, regional frame, as well as some misunderstandings between the local authorities and international NGOs, have resulted in complete closure of most international NGOs and a prolonged delay in implementation of planned projects by others. While OSCE supports a range of activities in South Ossetia, and UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF maintain their low-level presence, it is noteworthy to point out that there is only international NGO, i.e. ADRA, currently operational in the area and dealing with health matters relevant to humanitarian situation. Possible implementation of the rehabilitation activities through EU's EUR 2.5. million grant, as stated above, would be a major project in the region in years.

A large majority of South Ossetia's population lives on extremely low salaries or pensions. Some are involved in petty trade or the "transit" goods trade. Some have obtained the right of Russian pensions, which are considerably higher than the South Ossetian ones. Many working age people are economic migrants and increasingly emigrants to Russia, who then provide remittances that support their relatives. The majority of the population, however, survives on subsistence agriculture. Due to the gloomy overall socio-economic situation, unprecedented level of crime and related manifestations, such as increased drug addiction and suicide rates, have become a huge concern to all. Furthermore, South Ossetia faces demographic erosion as ever larger number of working-age people migrate, or rather emigrate, primarily to the Russian Federation, in search of better employment and income opportunities. Lack of income and employment opportunities is the central issue in addressing the dismal socio-economic situation in the region.

In the absence of adequate programmes to stimulate the economy, the local population, especially the most vulnerable groups, such as single elderly without family support, will remain dependent on humanitarian assistance, for which funding has been low and decreasing. It should be highlighted that the current situation is not conducive to potential returnees. The lack of potential for improvement in the immediate future is a crucial factor in the low number of returnees into South Ossetia, even for the Ossetian ethnic group. Due to the low level of return, UNHCR and its implementing partners have scaled down their presence in the region.

On 18 November 2003, OCHA convened a conference to present the Georgia Humanitarian Situation and Strategy 2004 to the Government, 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 South Ossetia at present, as compared to the situation in early years following the armed conflict in early 1990s. However, the current level of humanitarian aid in South Ossetia is considered inadequate for the well-being of the most vulnerable segments of the population. The panel group's recommendations for South Ossetia (as for Abkhazia) 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.

PROGRAMMES BY SECTORS

Food Security and Agriculture

There is no immediate danger of hunger and related diseases among the general population in South Ossetia. Nevertheless, the most vulnerable segments, such as the elderly, orphans, and families with many children, face serious food security problems due to their level of poverty. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) continues providing relief food aid to orphans and abandoned children residing in two boarding schools and to the most vulnerable persons such as disabled persons and single elderly in one soup kitchen. The last food delivery covers the need until end February 2004. DFID supported a project in the village Prisi with a mixed Georgian-Ossetian population. The project aimed at income generation and improved food security for the village households through technical assistance and agricultural inputs supply for tomato and cabbage production and sale in Tskhinvali market.

Health

The Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) extended the primary health care initiative programme, which first started in November 2000, until August 2004. In the period June 2002 - April 2003, ADRA continued the programme trying to address the needs found in the last baseline study conducted by end-2002, which indicated that the incidence of chronic thyroid diseases such as goiter is endemic, the sanitary situation is very unsatisfactory, and that there is a high level of ignorance amongst the local population concerning Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), particularly HIV/AIDS. Other activities during the period were the delivery of First Aid medicine and equipment to Tshkinvali nursing home, Tshkinvali state prison and to 24 medical points located in the villages of the PHCISO project. ADRA also participated in the celebration of World Health Day in a week of health talks and activities for the population of South Ossetia entitled "Growing Together". Other activities include IMCI Training for health care providers, Healthy Life Style discussions in Tshkinvali State University, publishing health related topics in the local newspaper, a monthly newsletter with health updates for the general population, round table discussions for Health Care Providers with updated information, basic English language and computer classes for Health Care Providers, free access to library and internet for Health Care providers, radio and television programmes, formation of village councils and volunteer groups to empower the community so that they can begin to address their health problems, formation of mothers' group and other activities relevant to the project.

UNHCR provided shelter assistance for establishment of a medical point in the biggest collective centre in Tskhinvali (Turbaza) which will provide medical assistance to IDPs and returnees in the area. UNHCR is also supporting a doctor and 2 nurses in this collective centre will allowance while ADRA will provide medical equipment and medicines.

UNICEF continued to provide vaccines and injection safety equipment to ensure non-interruption of child immunization programme in South Ossetia - 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 programme in 2003 covered routine EPI vaccines (BCG, DPT, OPV and Measles), 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 UNICEF country office is based on target group estimates provided by Government of Georgia, as per statistics available through de facto authorities of South Ossetia. Support of UN OCHA in coordination and transportation arrangements of the programme supplies to South Ossetia has been crucial in 2002 and 2003. Exploring opportunities for expanded inter-agency coordination (i.e. ADRA International) for monitoring distribution and reporting on programme performance as well as capacity building activities has to be prioritised.

In addition to the immunization programme, in 2003 UNICEF in partnership with ADRA supported introduction of the IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illness) programme to South Ossetia. 20 Primary Health Care Workers from Tshkinvali Child Hospital, Child Polyclinic and 16 Village Ambulatories were trained through an 11-day IMCI training session facilitated by Master Trainers from the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia. The training was followed by a 5-day assessment mission to 11 PHC centres in South Ossetia. The trained PHC workers have demonstrated improved practices in assessing child health and nutrition status and skills to ensure effective case management as per IMCI guidelines.

Heating

People in the region suffer from particularly harsh winters while gas and electricity supplies are irregular and insufficient to provide adequate heating. Thus, a large portion of the population relies on firewood and wood stoves, which has already caused large-scale deforestation. Furthermore, local authorities are unable to distribute sufficient quantities of firewood to address the needs of vulnerable segments of the population, such as the single elderly and those residing in collective centres. Those most at risk reside in urban areas and are unable to pay utility bills, purchase firewood on the market, or even to simply (illegally/free) cut woods. Firewood supply is considered to be a seasonal humanitarian priority for some segments of the population. Upon an appeal for supporting a firewood distribution project launched jointly by ADRA and OCHA to the international community in Autumn 2003, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) provided funding to ADRA to carry out the firewood and stove distribution project for South Ossetia. The project was implemented in January 2003 during one of the worst winters in the region in the last 10 years. This project helped 250 families with firewood and 40 with stoves. The beneficiaries of the project were IDP's and others among the most vulnerable people. Taking into consideration the cold winter season, UNHCR delivered 33 wood - burning stoves to those ex-refugee and ex-IDP families who returned in the year 2002. In addition, 20 stoves have been provided to evicted IDPs in Doghlauri. UNHCR is in the process of delivery of 108 wood - burning stoves to those ex-refugee and ex-IDP families who returned in the year 2003. Firewood assistance (approx. 90 m3 of timber) will be also provided to the most vulnerable returnees and IDPs in South Ossetia. Each family will receive 2 cubic meters of firewood. This winter, USAID-funded winter assistance programme through Merci Corps and sub-grants to local NGOs allowed for the purchase and distribution of stoves and their distribution to socially vulnerable poor households.

Human Rights and Confidence Building

OSCE has conducted regular human rights monitoring in the region. As a confidence building measure, OSCE facilitated activities designed to empower and build confidence among local media professionals (with the particular emphasis on female journalists) and their counterparts from Abkhaz, Georgian, and other south Caucasian media outlets and NGOs. Project activities included financing the publication of the South Ossetian women's journal "Amaga," engaging media workers in the Association of South Caucasian Journalists, as well as organising training workshops on topics such as role of journalists in post-conflict confidence-building, media as a business, writing about women's issues for the network of female journalists.

In collaboration with UNHCR, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) produces and distributes copies of the interactive children's magazine "White Crane", distributed to children in schools and orphanages in Tskhinvali, Java, and Kurta on monthly basis. In October 2002, a local NGO "Journalists for Human Rights" conducted a training in human rights, society democratisation, and the role of United Nations for school-teachers, supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Georgia.

Civil Society Development and Peace-building

Within the framework of its regional project, "Women for Conflict Prevention and Peace-Building in the Southern Caucasus," the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) continued building the skills and capacity of women to be involved in the peace, security and development agendas. Confidence building measures encouraging communication and networking were implemented through activities focusing on peace education, information exchange and dialog. UNIFEM supported the first meeting of secondary school teachers from Georgian villages located within the territory of the Tskhinvali region and teachers from Tskhinvali on the role of education and teachers in peace building. Participants of the meeting agreed to pilot a model for senior students entitled, "Anatomy of Peace" into their classes. This interactive model was designed, developed and successfully piloted by a group of multi-ethnic teachers in Rustavi and includes topics related to human rights, conflict management, peace-building and gender issues.

In Tskhinvali, a series of 3 seminars and 3 round table discussions focusing on youth, gender and peace building were conducted with and for students by the local NGO "Women of South Ossetia for Democracy and Human Rights". These discussions resulted in the creation of the Youth Peace Club in Tskhinvali. In September, activists of the Youth Peace Club together with members of the NGO conducted more than 30 peace lessons in the secondary schools in Tskhinvali and organized the first celebration of the UN International Day of Peace in Tskhinvali City Centre. Peace Day activities included a concert of twelve children's dance ensembles, an exhibition and award ceremony of drawing contests among schoolchildren on "Youth and Peace", short public speeches on peace and 1,000 small paper boats with candles put into the fountain pool in the city square. Project activities are a part of a larger, regional programme, which builds the skills and confidence of women, empowering them to be active participants in the conflict resolution and peace building processes. The teacher's network and the Youth Peace Club have strategised future directions and activities supporting the inclusion of women in the peace, security and development agendas. The need remains for further support in the areas of conflict resolution and peace-building.

In 2003, DFID has supported the founding of the NGO Resource Centre in Tshkinvali, to be implemented through a local NGO, "Association of South Ossetian Women for Democracy and Human Rights". The Centre will serve as a venue for the press-club, meetings of the third sector, publishing informational bulletin, creation of South Ossetian NGO directory, specialised library etc.

Education and Children

In the frame of the ICRC education programme based on the Russian literature, a refresher course was carried out for secondary school teachers of Tshkinvali in October 2002. UNHCR has also funded, jointly with OSCE and UNICEF, the summer camp project for 20 children from the conflict zone including IDP and returnee children. As per the request of the South Ossetian side, UNHCR is also exploring the availability of funds to assist in rehabilitation of one Georgian and one Ossetian schools in the conflict zone. In February 2003, UNHCR provided the local authorities with doors and windows for rehabilitation of schools in South Ossetia and construction materials for repairs of the gym of Tskhinvali University in Gori.

Income Generation

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had been implementing micro-lending programs in Gori and Tskhinvali. However, IRC closed its Gori office in January 2002 and Tskhinvali office in April 2002, while NRC closed its Tskhinvali office in July 2002. At present, no international organisation provides support to income-generating activities although there is a need for such programmes to be designed, to promote the development of a small business sector and spur job creation.

Psycho-social Rehabilitation

Among many priorities in South Ossetia, local NGOs and local authorities have reiterated the lack of psycho-social rehabilitation programmes designed to address trauma and psychological problems resulting from the war and subsequent socio-economic problems. Also, there are very few programmes addressing the special needs of vulnerable children, many of whom are orphans living in collective centres.

Returnees, Rehabilitation and Shelter

In 2003, UNHCR Georgia continued to support the conflict resolution process for the returnee caseload from the Georgian - Ossetian conflict of 1989 - 1992, under the aegis of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Being an observer to the Joint Control Commission (JCC), UNHCR advocated for the right of the displaced to return to their home in both secure and dignified conditions.

In 2003, UNHCR continued to facilitate voluntary repatriation of refugees from North Ossetia to the places of their former residence in South Ossetia and Georgia Proper. Four Voluntary Repatriation convoys have been organized and a total of 39 families (117 individuals) have returned to the places of their former residence and have been assisted by UNHCR with standard block houses or shelter rehabilitation kits (roof repair kits, room repair kits, doors & windows). It is worthwhile to note that the number of refugee returnees in 2003 is more than twice as many as in 2002. UNHCR in the zone of the Georgian - Ossetian conflict has also assisted the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who chose to return to the places of their former residence. UNHCR implementing partner and counterparts in South Ossetia and Georgia Proper registered 531 IDP families (approx. 2,000 persons) who wished to return. In 2003, the office assisted 106 IDP families (377 individuals) in South Ossetia with shelter in terms of standard block houses, roof repair kits, room repair kits, doors & windows. Here again the number of IDP returnees increased tremendously in 2003 (more than 3 times) if compared to the number assisted in 2002. As such, in 2003, a total of 145 families (494 individuals) including both refugees and IDPs who have expressed their wish to return to their places of former permanent residence were assisted with shelter by UNHCR upon their return to their formal place of residence. In order to meet the local standards and requests from beneficiaries and the local authorities, the size of UNHCR standard block house constructed in the year 2003 was increased to 44.4 m2 (instead of 38.4 m2 in the previous years).

Apart from shelter assistance to returnees, UNHCR provided shelter assistance for establishment of a medical point in the biggest collective center in Tskhinvali (Turbaza) which will provide medical assistance to IDPs and returnees in the area. UNHCR also supported a doctor and 2 nurses in this collective centre with allowance while ADRA provided medical equipment and medicines. In April 2003, UNHCR provided 30 doors and 46 windows for rehabilitation of schools in South Ossetia. UNHCR has also funded jointly with OSCE and UNICEF the summer camp project for 20 children from the conflict zone including IDP and returnee children. In co-ordination with SO Vladikavkaz, UNHCR continues to discuss the conduction of an information campaign targeting refugees in North Ossetia in order to make them more aware of the situation in the area of potential return in South Ossetia and Georgia Proper. UNHCR hired a local Consultant on legal issues to assist returnees with solution of their property restitution issues. UNHCR will continue to assist repatriation and continue to provide shelter for refugees and IDPs willing to return to the places of their former permanent residence in 2004.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) provided financial support for urgent repair work for schools in the villages of Khelcho and Teregvan. Secours Populaire Francaise (SPF), in collaboration with the local NGO ADA, completed the rehabilitation of the drinking water supply system in September 2002 in Khokhat-Sarabukh village in which some 120 returnee families reside. The rehabilitation improved living conditions and was expected to support the return process.

Infrastructure Rehabilitation

In 1997, the EC granted ECU 3.5 million for rehabilitation in the conflict zone. The EC established a "Coordination Board" between the sides, who agreed to focus on infrastructure of vital interest to the population (schools, farming cooperatives), with special emphasis on those that bridged the Georgian (+/-30.000 in 1989) and Ossetian (+/-60.000 in 1989) communities (drinking water, irrigation and electricity networks). The Austrian NGO Hilfswerk implemented these projects. Under a second tranche of Euro 1.5 million, the EC proposed the reactivation of economic links between South-Ossetia and Georgia proper. The projects targeted the key sectors of transport (railway link Gori/Tskhinvali, railway station in Tskhinvali) and energy (electricity supply from Inguri, gas network in Tskhinvali, metering): these projects were implemented by Hilfswerk and have all been completed except for the railway link Gori/Tskhinvali, which was expected to be fully implemented in 2003.

UNDP together with the UNHCR is expected to start the implementation of the third EC-funded rehabilitation programme in the territories affected by the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. The programme is in the total amount of EUR 2.5 million, granted by the EC to the OSCE Mission to Georgia. The objectives of the programme are: to support the process of reconciliation between the parties to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict; to promote and support the voluntary return in safety and dignity of refugees and IDPs affected by the conflict to the places of their previous residence; to assist in the process of rehabilitation and improvement of social and economic conditions on the territories affected by civil conflict and natural disasters; To assist in laying basis for the re-start of the economy within the territories; to ensure that rehabilitation projects financed under previous grants are being maintained. The programme will seek to benefit both communities on the territories as well as both the resident and returning persons. UNDP allocation of Euro 1.7 million is divided into two components: Euro 1.3 million is earmarked for the rehabilitation of basic infrastructures in support to the resident communities in Edisi-2, Kekhvi, Tskhinvali, Avnevi, Kemreti, Tsunari and others. Euro 0.4 million is earmarked for the rehabilitation of basic infrastructures in support to returnees and IDPs to complement the UNHCR shelter projects. The sites for this component are to be identified in cooperation with the UNHCR. The programme is planned to start in 2004

of humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance programmes in South Ossetia in 2002-2003 (pdf* format - 151 KB)

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

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

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