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Summary of Discussions During the Conference



By Lars Funch Hansen

[From: Tom Trier & Lars Funch Hansen (eds.), Conflict and Forced Displacement in the Caucasus. Perspectives, Challenges and Responses. Copenhagen: Danish Refugee Council, 1999, pp. 155-184. Copyright: Danish Refugee Council and the author] 

The aim of this article is to sum up some of the major themes discussed during the conference. The list of these interrelated and overlapping themes, naturally, is of a very mixed character: frozen conflicts, conflict-resolution, refugees and IDPs in limbo, migration tendencies of the 1990s, security, reconciliation, reconstruction of war-torn societies, development crisis and economic stratification, state responsibility, transformation from relief work to sustainable solutions, capacity-building, the Caucasian NGO sector-, integrated solutions (across borders and institutional specialisation), future cooperation between authorities, international organisations and NG0s and local NG0s in the Caucasus, status differences among refugees and forced migrants and donor fatigue.

The discussion of the themes is organised according, to the following main headlines: status of the situation in the five zones of former violent conflict, major problems of the recent political and social developments in the Caucasus, activities and experiences of international organisations and NG0s, and finally, the major needs and recommendations for the future.  The purpose of discussing the major problems of recent development in the Caucasus is to evaluate the general context into which the international humanitarian efforts have entered, and to investigate whether chances in the political, economical and social context require changes in the strategies of the international humanitarian activities.  Making generalisations may be rather problematic in the very complex Caucasus region, nevertheless I will attempt in the following to do so, and without noting all the potential exceptions, a condition which would make this attempt at a general status of the situation impossible. Some of the papers from the conference will deal with the most important exceptions and details.

All the four countries of the Caucasus region are strongly affected by the general post-Soviet economic and institutional crisis and by the presence of large numbers of refugees and IDPS.  The four countries should be distinguished from the five conflict zones, all of which are mired in an almost permanent war-torn situation without genuine peace and reconstruction of the societies.[i]

The situation in the five zones of former violent conflict
The five former zones of violent conflict ill the Caucasus were not direct themes of the papers delivered at the conference, but in different ways all of the papers mention and discuss issues related to the present situation in these areas. Hence, this attempt at a status report of the situation in late 1998 in the conflict zones is far from complete, but instead reflects the comments and discussions expressed at the conference. Representatives from these areas were not present at the conference, except for Chechnya, due to the permanent presence of an official representative of the Chechen government in Copenhagen[ii]. Reference to the involvement of these areas in the papers and in the discussions was therefore very uneven, and some areas were mentioned only very briefly. Except for the Prigorodnyj District in North Ossetia-Alaniya, the areas are often referred to as de facto independent territories, through the precise status differs from area to area. Common characteristics of the areas have already been mentioned above, and will not be repeated in the following states report.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, the predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave on Azerbaijani territory, broke out in 1988 and has resulted in an extensive flow of refugees and IDPs. Approximately 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory is effectively occupied by Armenian troops, and according to some sources there are around 800.000 refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan, and some 300.000 refugees in Armenia. UNHCR has delivered humanitarian assistance to almost half a million refugees and IDPs in the two countries: approximately 300.000 in Azerbaijan and 150.000 in Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh is today to be regarded as de facto Armenian territory.

A situation of lawlessness still prevails in Nagorno-Karabakh and even in 1998 Armenian wearing uniforms have been seen burning houses belonging to displaced Azerbaijanis, worsening their prospects for return. These acts of violence have so far been committed with impunity.

The International negotiation process on solutions to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the so-called Minsk-group, has for some time been in stagnation. Some participants in the conference criticised the international involvement in the conflict for focusing on humanitarian aid and political negotiations, and emphasised the need for increased efforts to promote human rights in Azerbaijan at a possible future strategy for resolving the frozen conflict. One way to achieve this could be through stronger international involvement in the democratic development in Azerbaijan. As a democratic country it would then be less inclined to persecute its minorities, and perhaps Nagorno-Karabakh would then be able to find its place within Azerbaijan. The representative from the Armenian government, Mekhab Gabrielian, declared that the Armenian government is ready to continue the efforts of the Minsk group to find solutions to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without conditions, and that this willingness also applies to tile leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh.

During the conference, international experts emphasised that the internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan had become politicised and are hostages to the lacking political solutions. They remain in exile with few rights and without temporary integration, which is a violation of international norms.

South Ossetia
The conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia began in 1989 when the autonomous region of Georgia requested an upgrading of their status to autonomous republic. Violent clashes between Ossetians and Georgians broke out in the region during 1991, and more than 200 persons were killed, while 85,000 fled to North Ossetia-Alaniya and Georgia proper. During Spring 1992, several attempts were made to reach agreement on a cease-fire, and an agreement was finally signed in July 1992.  This led to the establishment of a joint peacekeeping force consisting, of Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian "troops". A political solution to the problem, has still not been reached, and strong forces within South Ossetia are still working to secede from Georgia.

The establishment, under the leadership of the OSCE, of the Joint Control Commission (JCC) dealing with the conflict in South Ossetia, is an example of the increased international cooperation in the Caucasus. Among the achievements of the JCC can be mentioned the establishment of procedures for repatriation of Ossetian refugees and IDPs to South Ossetia and Georgia proper, efforts to meet the economic needs via rehabilitation projects in the area, and various activities related to the joint peacekeeping force

The situation in South Ossetia could turn out to be a success story if the on-going return process of refugees and IDPs continues, although negotiations have as yet failed to lead to a durable solution.  The co-operation between the OSCE and the UNHCR in South Ossetia can be seen as an example of how active co-operation between international actors can contribute to the building of confidence between the parties, and hereby improve the possibility of their crucial involvement in the resolution process.  The experiences of JCC co-operation have helped create increased co-operation in Georgia in general, and also include the Council of Europe, EU and UNDP.

Disagreement on the territorial status of Abkhazia in August 1992 turned into a violent conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia that lasted for more than a year and resulted in the Abkhaz military taking control over the greater part of Abkhazia. The conflict resulted in the displacement of more than 250,000 Georgians from Abkhazia to Georgia proper. The position of Georgia is that any attempt at secession is illegal as long as all refugees and IDPs have not returned and been able to take part in a referendum on secession. Prior to the conflict, ethnic Abkhazians constituted less than 20 percent of the population of Abkhazia.

Co-ordination of international involvement in Abkhazia has mainly been a UN task and includes supervision of the CIS peacekeeping, forces present in the region and involvement in peace negotiations.  The prospects of solution to the conflict still bleak, as illustrated by the 6-day war in Abkhazia's Gali District in May 1998:

40,000 out of the 50,000 returnees were again forced to flee, thus destroying most of UNHCR's efforts towards rehabilitation and reconstruction. Failure to integrate the IDPs during their stay in Georgia proper increased the possibility of violent confrontations.   The IDPs were used politically by groups in Georgia who wanted to resume the war against the Abkhaz.  The so-called Abkhaz government in exile (located in Georgia proper and consisting mainly of ethnic Georgians) contributed to the creation and resurgence of feelings of hatred and revenge, which only led to strong counter-feelings among the Abkhaz population.   The Georgian government could have acted more resolutely in order to stop this vicious circle but is having difficulties because the issue of territorial integrity has become an issue of first priority in the Georgian Parliament and in dominant parts of the Georgian public opinion.  An insufficient process of reconciliation had not yet provided to the returnees the necessary protection or security. The OSCE has established several projects in Georgia intended to promote the establishment of democratic institutions, law and order, and respect for human rights, and to improve the prospects for a multi-ethnic Georgia.

Refugees from Abkhazia, especially those of Armenian origin, also reside in Russia and Armenia, and some tension has occurred between these Armenian refugees and the local population in the town of Adler in Russia's Krasnodar Territory.

Regarding future international efforts in Abkhazia, it is generally believed that the newly established integrated approach and increased cooperation among the international organisations arid NG0s active in the region will improve humanitarian efforts. The new concept of coordination of programmes in Abkhazia, partially inspired by experiences in South Ossetia, should also improve the possibilities of a political solution to the conflict and by extension, improve the security situation.  The latter is a necessity if at least a part of the refugees and IDPs are to return. The increased co-operation and coordination in connection with the incidents in May 1998 and the subsequent emergency efforts resulted in a rapid return to the already functioning programmes focusing on long-term development and normalisation, and a positive bi-product his been increased cooperation in various other programmes.

Prigorodnyj (North Ossetia-Alaniya)
Violent clashes between Ossetians and Ingushetians over territorial control of the Prigorodnyj District broke out in October 1992. The conflict resulted in more than 50,000 IDPs, fleeing mainly to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. Around 9,000 Ossetians have been able to return to the Prigorodnyj District, while repatriation of the Ingushetian IDPs progresses very slowly. Lack of security is still a major problem in the Prigorodnyj District, with periodical harassment, clashes, kidnappings and murders.

During 1997 the negotiation process was revived following increased involvement by Moscow, and a new triparty agreement was signed between North Ossetia�-Alaniya, Ingushetia and Russia. Implementation of this agreement has subsequently run into problems, especially regarding financing of reconstruction and security measures in the region. As in Abkhazia, returnees in 1998 have also been subject to persecutions and attacks, and in some instances forced to return (again) to Ingushetia. Another aspect of the security problems in the region was illustrated by the January 1998 kidnapping of Vincent Cochetel, head of the UNHCR mission in Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia-Alaniya, and the subsequent suspension of all UNHCR activities in the Prigorodnyj District. Other international organisations and NGOs active in the district, including the Danish Refugee Council, also suspended their programmes in Prigorodnyj. Cochetel was rescued from captivity in December 1998.

The presence of South Ossetian refugees from Georgia in the Prigorodnyj District following the violent conflicts in South Ossetia in 1991 illustrates the complex character of the Caucasus, where problems of refugees and IDPs are often interrelated, thus complicating the search for solutions. It also reveals the need for integrated approaches to solutions. The present return process of refugees to South Ossetia will increase the possibility for Ingushetian IDPs to return to their villages in Prigorodnyj. Some of the Ingushetians' houses have been occupied by refugees from South Ossetia, and the return of the South Ossetians can be expected to ameliorate the hostile environment in the district.

In 1991 Chechnya attempted to secede from the Russian Federation, and in the following three years the republic was de facto independent, though without recognition from other countries. Russian forces entered Chechnya in December 1994, and the ensuing war lasted until August 1996, when Chechen troops forced Russian troops to leave Chechnya. A peace settlement was reached in September 1996. The war is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of more than 50,000 inhabitants of Chechnya, mostly civilians, while more than 300,000 fled from the republic (of whom at least 150,000 went to Ingushetia and about I 00,000 to Dagestan).

Many of the IDPs have since been able to return, especially those of Chechen ethnicity, while only a small percentage of the IDPs of Russian nationality will ever be able to return, even if they wished to do so.

In their joint paper entitled The Failure of Conflict Prevention and Management - The Case of Chechnya, Ib Faurby and M�rta-Lisa Magnusson dealt with the war, and especially the process of escalation of the conflict leading up to the war. Both Chechnya and especially Russia were strongly criticised for lack of serious attempts to avoid the outbreak of the war. The international community and international organisations such as the UN and OSCE were also criticised for not acting to prevent the outbreak and the further escalation of the conflict. The Western powers were strongly criticised for allowing Russia to refer to the war as an internal matter, although the OSCE charter provides justification for any member states to take action in the so-called "internal affairs" of other member states.

Vladimir Shkolnikov (OSCE/ODIHR) stressed that OSCE involvement in Chechnya was a unique experience, including the establishment of an "Assistance Group" in Grozny in 1995, while the war raged. The OSCE mission played an active and important role in the negotiation process that led to the August-September 1996 peace settlement, a contribution also acknowledged by Magnusson and Faurby. The subsequent planning and execution of elections were assisted by OSCE in its biggest task except for Bosnia. Vladimir Shkolnikov rejected part of the critique of OSCE by referring to the fact that involvement of OSCE in any conflict always has a dual focus: observance of human rights and the territorial integrity of the member-states.

The war and devastation of Chechen society will have major effects on large parts of the North Caucasus for decades to come. This is not due to just the sudden and strong presence of IDPs, but also because the neighbouring economies have suffered. For instance, the closing down of its border to Azerbaijan was a strong blow to the Dagestani economy that previously had been partly integrated in the Azerbaijani economy. The worsening of the security situation in large parts of the North Caucasus, and the reluctance of the international organisations and NGOs to enter several republics, is mainly a consequence of the war in Chechnya. The Minister for Nationalities in Dagestan, Magomedsalikh Gusaev, mentioned that there have developed new forms of crime in the form of criminal groups co-operating across the open border between Chechnya and Dagestan, and that some of these criminal bands, those specialising in the arms trade, for instance, might better be termed "war companies".

Mr. Gusaev and representatives from various South Caucasian NGOs requested humanitarian assistance to Chechnya from international organisations and NGOs as the most urgent problem in the North Caucasus, also stating that reconstruction of Chechnya would be impossible without help from international organisations and NGOs. During the discussion, Russia was criticised for not living up to its promises from the peace settlement, not offering financial support for the rebuilding of Chechnya, and for failing to establish a continuous process for the engagement in the future of Chechnya. Boris Beresovsky, CIS representative from the Russian Federation, who took part in the peace settlement in 1996 and who is one of the few persons in Moscow seriously interested and involved in the situation in Chechnya, has repeatedly called for strongly increased financial support and co-operation with Chechnya instead of increased isolation. Only such co-operation will help Chechnya out of its present dead-lock of crime and devastation. The representative of the Chechen Government in Denmark, Ousman Ferzaouli, stated that Chechnya needs assistance in removing land mines in order to get its agriculture functioning. Mr. Ferzauli also expressed wishes for long-term international in the various fields of capacity-building, proposing that UNHCR send a mission to Chechnya as soon as possible. Most refugees and IDPs have now returned to Chechnya but live without gas, water, proper housing, jobs, etc. Ekber Menemencioglu responded that he was aware of the great needs in Chechnya but stressed that security problems in the region were presently so dangerous as to make involvement impossible. Dr. Shkolnikov of the OSCE/ODIHR was very pessimistic regarding the prospects of recreating respect for human rights and confidence in justice in Chechnya in the near future.

The security problems and especially the many kidnappings in Chechnya have ruined the good-will generated during the war against Russia, and the situation has worsened after the conference in Copenhagen with the killings of four Western hostages in December 1998. So far it is impossible for the devastated, war-torn and fully impoverished government of Chechnya to control the development of structures of civil societies in the nearest future. Stronger state structures must be created, and since it is not realistic to expect income from tax-revenues in the very near future support from the outside world, including Russia, is a necessity.

Major Problems in the Caucasus
The fact that most of the conflicts in the Caucasus remain without any political solution constitutes the main problem facing all humanitarian efforts in the region, keeping refugees and IDPs locked in a political, social, legal and psychological limbo, with poor prospects for returning in the immediate future. Another major problem in the Caucasus region is security - for the refugees, IDPs and returnees and for the staff of the international organisations. National security issues and policies of the four countries in the Caucasus also remain highly affected by the general problems of transition as well as by the new geo-political realities slowly appearing after the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

Frozen conflicts, frozen hostilities, and "no war, no peace" were some of the terms most often used during the conference to characterise the present situation in the Caucasus, especially with reference to the zones of conflict: Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Prigorodnyj and Chechnya. However, it must be emphasised that all areas of the Caucasus are affected by the lack of solutions in these areas, the presence of large numbers of refugees and IDPs being the most obvious indication. Political solutions to the frozen conflicts are a pre-condition for any durable solution for the return of refugees and IDPs, so long held in a frozen situation.

With the exception of South Ossetia, there is a widespread lack of will to compromise among the parties in the different conflicts. The consequences are devastating for these war-torn societies in the conflict zones and prevent any normalisation in the near future. These areas remain in a downward spiral, where the situation worsens in every year which passes without a solution; the economy remains in ruins, most people are unemployed, almost no rebuilding is taking place, depopulation has occurred and has changed the demographic composition, leaving behind a large number of relatively immobile elderly people. In several of the conflict zones, the rulers have successfully managed a war with their "host-country", which often initiated the war; the price of the victory and achievement of "de facto independence" has been a situation of isolation and permanent crisis. Success in the battlefield has been accompanied by failure in the peace-building process. In the absence of international diplomatic recognition, the achievement of de facto independence has only increased the isolation of these areas.

The "host-countries" are in general also strongly affected by the lack of peace in the zones of former conflict, and not only because of the loss of control over these areas and the large number of refugees and IDPs they have received, but also because these issues have become an obstacle to the development of increased democracy and civil society. The claims to restore the full territorial integrity of the states have become dominating political issues in the "host-countries", often to a degree that makes other solutions or compromises seem impossible. Political actors suggesting compromises can easily be presented as national traitors. Still, it must be emphasised that life in places like Yerevan, Baku, Tbilisi, Stavropol and Krasnodar is steadily improving in terms of both economy and security, which cannot be said about the "capitals" of the isolated break-away regions: Stepanakert, Sukhumi, Tskhinvali and Grozny. In the Western media, the relatively small de facto independent areas in the Caucasus are often presented as victims of their own nationalism, implying that the crisis and isolation they are now experiencing are self-inflicted. This oversimplification overlooks several key aspects, for instance, that several of the areas initially did not seek full independence but increased autonomy within their "host-countries", and that the "hosts" initiated and conducted often very dirty wars in these territories. In several of the conflict processes the "host-countries" missed the opportunity to find a solution through negotiations with representatives from the areas inhabited by various minorities. Their conduct of the wars - targeting civilian residential areas, museums, archives and other points of historical and cultural importance - has created considerable animosity and is now making solutions difficult. The ethnic cleansing that created large numbers of refugees and IDPs following the wars was often also a result of the way the wars were conducted. Once the wars had broken out, atrocities tended to be committed equally by all sides.

According to UNDP, the South Caucasian states are increasingly realising that ~he situation must be normalised in the conflict zones, and that refugees and IDPs must be returned in order to achieve a stable and lasting development in these areas and in the states generally. The same must be assumed to be the case in the zones of conflict where the current situation of de facto independence is of no benefit if compromises and agreements cannot be concluded with the "host-countries" in order to find future solutions. Lack of political will and political solutions to the conflicts have resulted in donor fatigue, making it increasingly difficult for the international organisations and NGOs to obtain sufficient means to perform their tasks in the region. This has an extra effect on the conflict-ridden areas, whose economies are already exhausted and in ruins following many years in isolation.

The Western powers and European nations generally have indirect responsibility for the exhaustion and isolation of these conflict zones and de facto independent territories. This is partly because they mainly trade with the "host-countries", and almost never with these territories. As pointed out by Professor MacFarlane, the conflict zones, especially in the period from 1992-1995, received far less humanitarian aid than they could have due to "limitations on the capacity of humanitarian actors to operate in areas outside the jurisdiction of central government", as seen, for instance, in Georgia and Azerbaijan. European humanitarian involvement in the CIS countries, including the Caucasus, was motivated mainly by strong fears in the early 1990s of large inflows of refugees. Simultaneously, the West encouraged national movements to flourish and engage in a confrontation with the declining communist USSR - a call heard not only by the titular nationalities of the 15 Soviet successor states, but also by other ethnic groups in the post-Soviet hierarchy of nationalities. Most of these groups were surprised by the West's change of attitude shortly after the break-up of the Soviet Union, when nationalism and the Western powers suddenly saw the quest for national identity as the main problem of the region.

The expected influx of refugees failed to appear in the West (though not because of the success of the containment policies by many Western governments), but rather, made its impact all the more strongly in the countries of the former Soviet Union. The population movements have been enormous, and a country such as Russia has received millions of immigrants. The treatment of refugees and IDPs by the countries of the former USSR is not only a result of financial crisis and lack of standards regarding human rights and civil society. It also reflects the Western attitude towards refugees, and the 1990s have been characterised by a view of potential refugees as a security issue rather than a humanitarian issue. A similar situation concerns the xenophobia and islamophobia that is now causing trouble for refugees and migrants throughout the territory of the former Soviet Union. These issues are also high on the public and political agendas of many Western nations.

Regarding the general lack of involvement of the Western nations in the conflicts in the Caucasus, a complaint made by various groups in the region, Professor MacFarlane noted that the question of involvement is generally a political question rather than a humanitarian one. Henrik Kolstrup (UNDP) added that the West also has a responsibility towards the situation in the Caucasus, and that the West has acted naively in expecting a rapid transition towards democracy and market economy.

Refugees and IDPs
Between one and three million refugees and IDPs have for years been trapped in limbo - political, social, legal as well as psychological - as a consequence of the inability to find political solutions to the conflicts. They constitute the major challenge to international organisations and NGOs in the Caucasus in the past decade. While not all groups of refugees and IDPs face the same problems, the displaced persons in the Caucasus are widely being used by the various parties as hostages for political aims; the political exploitation of refugees and IDPs applies to the governments and parliaments of the respective states as well as in the de facto independent territories. There is a widespread lack of willingness to give refugees and IDPs the same rights as the rest of the  population, even though many of the displaced persons have been refugees for more than five years, often as IDPs within the borders of their own states. The lack of social and legal rights suffered by the refugees and IDPs has resulted in a range of different problems: difficulties in achieving citizenship, lack of residence registration permits (propiska) making it difficult to obtain employment, difficulties in owning houses, restrictions regarding freedom of movement, uncertainties regarding ownership of property in their places of origin, etc. Many displaced persons are forced to live as de facto refugees and IDPs and are prevented by strict norms and regulations from achieving official status as refugees or IDPs.

The many differences in official status (refugees, IDPs, de facto refugees, statelessness, labour migrants, citizenship, etc.) also cause difficulties for the international organisations, often forcing them to exceed their traditional mandates and bend procedures of action in order to act within the post-Soviet context in the Caucasus. Categorising of IDPs as a separate group, while a necessity in order to assess the needs of this group, also constitutes a potential problem, as it has generally weakened the responsibility of the governments towards this group. Mr. Hasim Utkan (UNHCR) emphasised that the leaders of countries of the Caucasus must demonstrate towards the group of donors supporting development in the region that they are willing to regard IDPs as citizens, and not constantly refer to the IDPs' presence as their main problem. Another example of the politicisation of refugees and migrants is the widespread tendency to link refugees and other migrants to the rising crime rates; as seen in Russia, this has led to the acceptance by federal authorities of municipal and regional introduction of compulsory registration (propiska).

Keeping refugees and IDPs - as well as the societies to which they come from and perhaps will be able to return to in the future - in a continued state of indefinite limbo without addressing their problems, reduces the possibilities of reconciliation and creates radical movements among these groups. The actions of radical groups often include violence and threats, triggering insecurity, counter-threats, revenge �etc. The conflict positions remain frozen, as is the case in Abkhazia and the Prigorodnyj District. It must be remembered, however, that reconciliation can be painful, as a certain amount of time must pass before the parties who have suffered during the conflicts will be able to face representatives from the opposing party. The considerable hatred generated in the conflict processes must now be taken into consideration.

Security is another major problem facing the staff of the international organisations and NGOs as well as the refugees, the IDPs and the returnees in the Caucasus. The almost permanent "no war, no peace" situation in the zones of former conflict, including the absence of political, economic or social normalisation, has resulted in high crime rates, the presence of enormous amounts of weapons, numerous armed bands, and a general situation of profound insecurity which the local authorities are unable to properly deal with. Law-enforcement is also a problem in the rest of the Caucasus where the general economic insecurity and crisis has resulted in increasing crime rates and the increased influence of organised crime at various levels of society, including the political level. Rising crime is a significant and unavoidable factor of the present transformation phase in the post-Soviet states, and as pointed out by Professor Sampson, crime also goes along with the building of civil society.

Widespread black market trading, for instance, fills needs which the state and the formal market economy remain unable to satisfy. Regrettably, local, regional and national actors in the Caucasus tend to link crime with the strong presence of refugees and IDPs, a tendency that makes life harder for the stigmatised groups, as well as for the international organisations and NGOs trying to assist them.

Institutionally, the security issues mentioned are generally matters of the ministries of internal affairs, but security at state level, typically under the ministries of defence and foreign affairs, is also highly affected by the present "no war, no peace" situation of the Caucasus. In the 1990s, the security environment, as so often in the history of the region, is subject to a geo-political competition which has steadily worsened a security situation already aggravated by the post-Soviet transformation process taking place in most spheres of life, one such sphere being the various security institutions. Russia is a major regional power in the post-Soviet Caucasus, and Professor Alexander Rondelli, the representative from the Georgian Government, pointed out that Russia had the power and possibilities to assist in improving the security environment in the Caucasus. Russia is involved in several of the South Caucasian conflict zones and has often played a dubious role during these conflicts. At the same time, however, the policy of blaming Russia has become a convenient explanation for some of the actors on the political scenes in the Caucasus, and sometimes acts as an abdication of responsibility or an attempt to play down their own errors. That Russia is not the only player in the game for political influence in the Caucasus is illustrated by the developments concerning the main issue of international interest in the region - the oil resources in the Caspian Sea. Turkey and the United States - against the will of Russia - support a project to build a new main pipeline for Caspian oil from Baku through Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean seaport of Ceyhan. Cheaper routes through Georgia and/or Russia are still being considered, but the initiative still represents a challenge to Russia's role as a major regional power. Whether such geo�political changes will result in increased stability and security in the Caucasus remains to be seen.

In his statement on the situation in Georgia, Professor Rondelli chose to deal exclusively with the general security environment in the Caucasus. Rondelli concluded by listing six factors that could improve the security environment in the region:

1. drastic changes in the Russian leadership and the Russian policy;

2. solution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh;

3. a quick and successful state-building process in the Caucasian countries;

4. an agreement between Russia and the Western powers on interests and rights in the Caucasus, including the establishment of an unambiguous framework for their co-operation and for the economic development in the region;

5. strongly increased oil-deposits in the Caspian region and/or significant increases in the oil prices;

6. a definite decision to construct the pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan in Turkey.

The worsened security situation in the Caucasus has forced the international organisations and NGOs to rethink their operations, and in areas such as Chechnya and its neighbouring territories, to a wide extent to suspend their operations. International organisations cannot be expected to support even the most needy populations if they are exposed to extortion, theft, kidnapping and murder. War-torn Chechnya is one of the territories worst affected by the current situation of frozen conflict, but the necessary short-term relief assistance as well as medium and long-term capacity-building cannot be provided under the present security environment. Security considerations are now at the heart of any planning of repatriation of refugees and IDPs to the former zones of violent conflict, as underscored by the recent second displacements of returnees in Abkhazia and the Prigorodnyj District in North Ossetia�Alaniya.

Greg Hansen from the Humanitarianism and War Project in addition discussed the situation of widespread lawlessness prevailing in the Caucasus, emphasising the fact that many offences, including violations of international laws and conventions (including the Geneva-Convention), occur with impunity.

An inescapable dilemma of the presence of international organisations and NGOs in the largely lawless, economically and physically ruined areas is that their entrance promptly results in an increased emergence of organised crime feeding from the resources of these very organisations. International organisations acting within the post-Soviet reality are still present in a relatively new environment, about which they still lack knowledge and experience. They become easy targets of criminal groups and black market forces, and many costly mistakes have certainly been made.

Migration tendencies
The overall migration tendencies in the Caucasus of the 1990s can be seen as an extension and in some instances even a completion of the tendencies already apparent since the late 1950s, towards the mono-ethnification of the several different territorial units in the region, as mentioned by the expert on the Caucasus region, Dr. Alexander Iskandarian. Dr. Shkolnikov (OSCE/ODIHR) used the term "ethnic unmixing" to characterise the migration processes of the 1990s, processes that further restrict prospects of repatriation for many groups of refugees and IDPs. Dr. Iskandarian stated that these processes also include a tendency to create mono-religious entities; in Azerbaijan, for instance, the main minorities are now Muslim while just a few years ago they had been Christian. Iskandarian labelled this development "orientalisation", a term rejected by Mr. Rajabli from the Parliament of Azerbaijan, who argued that Azerbaijan is a modern state under transformation towards democracy and market economy. Hadi Rajabli exemplified this by referring to the increased influence of foreign oil company personnel and investment in the Caspian oil fields and their presence in Baku. A similar discussion took place in extension of the argument used by Professor Yuri Kolesnikov of Rostov State University, in his designation of the North Caucasian societies as increasingly hit by nationalism based on traditional rural family networks and so-called ethno-economies. This was partly rejected by Dr. Iskandarian and others, who stated that the North Caucasian societies are under rapid transformation towards modern societies, which is supported by developments such as increased urbanisation and decreasing birth-rates.

Another tendency is a large-scale migration of economic or labour migrants, especially from Caucasus to different parts of the Russian Federation. The presence of economic migrants worsens the general situation of the ethnic Caucasians in Russia where they often are subject to discrimination. Caucasophobia has widened the gap between Russia and the Caucasian societies. If Russia wants to maintain its influence in the Caucasus in the future, it should be aware of this problem. Though labour migrants send millions of dollars back to the Caucasian countries, they leave behind a gap in the demographic composition: an important group of able and potentially enterprising workers and professionals are missing in the economic transformation processes of these countries. According to Dr. Iskandarian, the extent of the migrations and the general migration pattern in the Caucasus has been relatively stable since 1995.

Development crisis
According to Mr. Kolstrup (UNDP) economic indicators show a development crisis in the South Caucasian countries: military expenditures occupy an ever larger share of shrinking budgets, while labour productivity has decreased dramatically, unemployment is growing and private consumption shrinking. Other indicators of crisis are the reduced life expectancy and birth rates. Mr. Borsotti from UNDP �Georgia further illustrated the development crisis by some key indicators from Georgia, illustrating that although some stabilisation of the economy has occurred in recent years, e.g. the falling inflation and positive annual growth in the last three years, unemployment remains at between 30 and 50 percent; 44 percent of the population live below the poverty line, and a monetary economy is virtually non-existent in the rural areas.

One problem of the recent development in North Caucasus, as mentioned by Professor Kolesnikov, is the increased stratification between the different territorial units of the region. The ethnically defined republics of the North Caucasus receive almost no foreign investment; several of these republics are troubled by the consequences of violent conflicts or wars, and the neighbouring provinces to the north are receiving considerable foreign investments. Mr. Magomedsalikh Gusaev, Minister for Nationalities in Dagestan, confirmed these tendencies, stating that Dagestan receives almost no foreign investment. These tendencies are creating an increased stratification within the northern Caucasus, and a continuation of these policies, according to Professor Kolesnikov, will result in new violent conflicts. Professor Kolesnikov introduced the term "ethno-economy" to characterise aspects of economic development in the North Caucasian republics, notably the increasing resurgence of traditional and primarily agrarian forms of economic activity following the general collapse of industrial production in the wake of the demise of the USSR. The "ethno-economy" refers to the special type of family networks found among the peoples of the North Caucasian republics. Dr. Iskandarian supplemented Professor Kolesnikov by pointing out that the economic situation in the North Caucasus is difficult to assess, as the role of the black market economy must be regarded as extensive. As already mentioned, black market forces, according to Professor Sampson, can play important roles in the transition to modern societies, as seen historically, for instance in the United States.

Economic co-operation and integration
Ideas of increased political and economic co-operation and integration between the countries of the Southern Caucasus seem to have matured during the difficult years of independence during the 1990s. These issues were mentioned several times during the conference by government representatives from all the three South Caucasian countries. According to Mr. Gabrielian who represented the Armenian government, the South Caucasian states should establish some future form of co-operation in a union following the example of the European Union. The main argument of Mr. Gabrielian was that the three countries are geo-politically connected, and that this has been further demonstrated by the many movements of forced migrants in the 1990s. Hence, solutions to the problems of displacement should also be solved by means of regional co-operation. Professor Rondelli, representing the Georgian government structures, mentioned security and emphasised that the states of South Caucasus must increase their co-operation in the fields of economy and security in order to improve their prospects for a better security in the region. The key imperatives for improved co-operation in the South Caucasus, according to Professor Rondelli, are to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and for Russia and other interested nations to revise their policies towards the Caucasus. Different relations to Russia have hitherto been a major obstacle to increased integration of the Southern Caucasus. According to some of the statements presented at the conference, however, this could be about to change. Whether increased integration in the South Caucasus could be a sign of an increased gap between North and South Caucasus is difficult to assess. This would seem to be the case, but refugees and IDP will continue to cross the borders if new conflicts arises, and the common historical and cultural traits, contacts and networks will continue to exist whether or not a political integration takes place between the countries of the South Caucasus.

Activities and experiences of international organisations and NGOs

The large number of refugees and the unsolved conflicts that prevent these refugees from returning are the two main overall problems facing the international organisations, and whether their main issues of focus are refugees, human rights or general questions of development, all organisations are in one way or another involved in the conflict-solution processes. In order to achieve successful operations in the Caucasus, all actors are dependent on political solutions to conflicts. In recent years, this has forced the international organisations to co-operate in these efforts.

Among the challenges facing the international organisations are attempts to improve the political will so as to find solutions among the national and local authorities. Concepts such as conflict-mediation, confidence-building, reconciliation, conflict-prevention and capacity-building are increasingly brought to the fore among the international organisations in the Caucasus, and are increasingly becoming axes for inter-organisational co-operation. That many organisations have been forced into activities beyond their traditional fields of operation has meant a certain measure of experiments. Generally, however, the international organisations were already discussing these issues and several have experiences in applying such policies in other conflict-ridden parts of the world. The fact that co-operation between international organisations has become a high priority in the Caucasus is a positive development that has strengthened both the humanitarian efforts and the general transformation process towards modern civil societies taking place in the region.

One of the dilemmas facing international organisations, according to their mandates, is that their efforts can be limited towards a certain group of people in a certain amount of time. UNHCR, for instance, can have difficulties in maintaining a fully staffed mission for the many years it sometimes takes to establish the kind of phased return-process to which all parties can agree. Such problems make inter�agency co-operation all the more important. The important issue of continuity in assistance was brought up by Dr. Shkolnikov in relation to Abkhazia, where several international NGOs established reconciliation programmes that often ended in failure, due to a lack of long-term involvement and lack of knowledge about the conflict and the context. In reconciliation projects, it is especially important that the process not be broken, in order to avoid apathy from spreading and resulting in a possible return to the initial position.


The CIS Conference process

An example of international efforts to strengthen activities in the Soviet successor�-states is the co-operation process on migration following the states in the CIS conference on migration following the 1996 Geneva conference. The CIS conference process takes place under the aegis of UNHCR, IOM and OSCE and involves governments from the CIS countries. All the countries have signed the joint Programme of Action, agreeing upon a joint strategy towards problems of migration and displacement. The results of the CIS conference process can so far be found on many levels in the Caucasus: increased co-operation and co-ordination between international organisations; increased understanding among the countries involved concerning the need to formulate migration and displacement policies and draft legislation in accordance with international standards; increased institutional and financial support to local NGOs; and the provision of a forum for discussing solutions to the problems of the formerly deported peoples, such as the Meskhetian Turks. The CIS Conference process provides a useful framework within which the international organisations, the Caucasian governments and the local NGOs can meet and develop future strategies and programmes in co�operation. In taking the initiative to establish the CIS conference process in 1994, the UN General Assembly must be praised for its all-regional and integrated approach to the shared problems of migration and displacement on the territories of the former Soviet Union. All parties acknowledged the importance of the CIS conference process, and generally expressed desire for these efforts to continue beyond the planned time frame of year 2000.

Another recent example of increased international co-operation in the Caucasus is the international framework provided by the Joint Control Commission (JCC) to promote solutions to the conflict in South Ossetia and the co-ordination efforts of the international response to the renewed outbreak of conflict in Abkhazia in May 1998. The co-operation between UNHCR, OSCE and the Forced Migration Project of the Open Society Institute to develop an integrated response to the problems of the Meskhetian Turks, is an example of recent co-operation that was welcomed by the international organisations as well as by the governments involved.



With the millions of refugees and IDPs already kept in limbo in the Caucasus for many years, the task of repatriation has been on the agenda of the international organisation for some years now. Some of the on-going repatriation measures have proven to be successful, but many difficulties remain in the conflict zones, as seen recently when returnees were forced to flee for the second time in Abkhazia and in the Prigorodnyj District, and when the UNHCR investments to rebuild housing were destroyed with the burning of the IDPs' homes. Repatriation is extremely difficult in areas of unresolved conflicts or frozen hostilities, confronting the international organisations and NGOs with a challenging "antagonism": on the one hand are the warnings so often voiced against repatriating of refugees and IDPs before the local population has been ready and prepared, a process of reconciliation started, infrastructure relatively rehabilitated, etc. On the other hand local actors as well as international organisations often point out that repatriation of refugees and IDPs should be implemented as soon as possible, since long periods of unresolved tension and instability result in still deeper wounds to heal, and an accumulation of still stronger anger that makes solutions even more complicated. In short, stronger effort must be put into the process of reconciliation, even though persons from different groups are still far from becoming friends. As pointed out by Professor Sampson, the creation of structures of democracy and civil society does not necessary entail the establishment of mutual friendships, but rather, a framework of co-operation in which coexistence is possible without violence. Mr. Oleg Orlov from the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, commented that prospects for repatriation looked bleak and pessimistic with only one positive result so far in the Caucasus (in South Ossetia). Mr. Bohdan Nahajlo from UNHCR responded that if stability could be created in the different areas of the Caucasus, further repatriation measures would be possible.

Dr. Shkolnikov introduced a special aspect of problems relating to repatriation refugees and IDPs: the wish for revenge and the fear of revenge. These feelings are often kept alive and even nurtured by the governments, as seen, for instance, in Georgia with the so-called Abkhaz government in exile and the lack of integration of the IDPs from Georgia. Such examples can be found in different places in the Caucasus, and even though authorities play a part in the decisions to repatriate refugees and IDPs, they often simultaneously bear a responsibility for the renewed radicalisation of the conflicts.

Transition or transformation were other expressions heard often during the conference, especially by representatives from international organisations and NGOs, and by academics. Transition from conflict to peace, from emergency aid to durable solutions, from Soviet society to democratic civil society, from planned economy to market economy, etc. "Transition" in the Caucasus is not a code word for a simple passage from one state or system to another. Rather, it signifies a complicated long-term process with a range of different factors, problems and conditions. This is a necessary understanding in order to realise the meaning of another term often heard at the conference, "capacity-building". It is important to recall that the meaning of "transition" differs for the four countries of the Caucasus in general compared with the five former conflict zones. The present complex situation in the Caucasus, with several areas being isolated and plagued by unresolved conflicts for many years, together with the general absence of wars and larger violent conflicts and improvement in the overall transformation process towards market economy and modern civil society, has meant that several different types of international organisations are represented: emergency-oriented organisations as well as those focusing on long�term development. Three terms constantly emerged during the discussion of the period of transformation from emergency aid, war and conflict to long-term solutions: "capacity-building", "state responsibility" and the "development and involvement of the local NGO sector". This is especially true on the part of the international organisations and NGOs, while these terms are rarely used, if at all, by government representatives in the Caucasus. Many are still not used to the language of the international organisations and donors.

Capacity building
Capacity-building seems to be the essential term for international humanitarian efforts in the Caucasus in the year 1998, and in the years to come according to most of the papers delivered at the Copenhagen conference. The following statement by Bohdan Nahajlo captures the general meaning of the term "capacity-building":

“UNHCRs approach in the Caucasus has [...] been based on the recognition that the rebuilding of national capacities to cope with the challenges of reconstruction in war-torn societies requires not only the strengthening of the state's capacity to promote security, justice and well-being, but also the promotion of grassroots approaches to reconciliation and the development of local structures committed to peace and rebuilding”.

In order to achieve some of these goals, UNHCR has established a range of projects to support and develop local NGOs and to secure the legal and political acceptance of increased involvement of the NGOs in the Caucasian states. Different organisations use the tem "capacity-building" differently, and in the UNHCR the principal usage of the term has been to denote the increased involvement of local NGOs as implementing partners in the post-emergency phase. To emphasise the necessity of revising and enlarging the traditional use of the term by UNHCR in the CIS context, UNHCR representatives stressed that capacity-building initiatives in the CIS countries have concentrated on the establishment and implementation of policies and legislation towards refugees and other migrants, particularly citizenship issues.

Mr. Marco Borsotti from UNDP mentioned five mutually related types of international assistance necessary to achieve peace and development in the Caucasus as the main aim of the UN involvement: emergency aid, rehabilitation, confidence building, capacity-building and conflict solution. According to Mr. Borsotti, the experiences from the Georgian post-emergency capacity-building efforts, and especially the co-ordination of these efforts, have exemplified the complexity of these efforts as the advantage of a co-ordinated and integrated approach. Borsotti is the co-ordinator of this programme, which also involves a range of non-UN agencies and donors.

The experiences of UNHCR and UNDP illustrates the remarks by Professor Steven Sarnpson that a clarification and discussion of the necessity to rethink the term "civil society" as the declared goal of the capacity-building initiatives in relation to the different Caucasian contexts. Foreign (Western/European) models for civil societies should not be directly imposed on different societies. According to Professor Sampson, this has been a major lesson from capacity-building projects in other regions of the globe. Ekber Menemencioglu's remarks supported the view launched by Sampson:

Capacity-building, of course, is not simply a transfer of instruments or technology; it carries cultural and social values, which are not evenly accepted across the CIS countries. This affects our ability in some countries to engage, for example, in meaningful NGO capacity building.

Representatives from UNDP and UNHCR responded to the suggestions of Professor Sampson by stating that the capacity-building programmes they offer to authorities and others in the Caucasus are offers of genuine assistance including financial and technical support, and not attempts to force certain models of development on the governments and populations of the Caucasus.

The major increase of the Caucasian NGO sector - especially in the South Caucasus - is a sign of the effect of capacity-building programmes, established not only by the international organisations, but also increasingly by and in co-operation with the authorities on different level in the Caucasus. Professor Sampson argued that ethnic identity and so-called traditional loyalties towards family and clan should not be rejected in the capacity-building programmes, as they can contribute to the positive development of modern civil society (though many seem to find this improper). Moreover, rejecting these traditional structures can lead to increased fundamentalism.

There are structural differences between North and South Caucasus with implications for the international humanitarian efforts, through these were only indirectly put on the agenda during the conference. For a number of reasons, it seems easier for international organisations and NGOs to operate in the South Caucasus than in the Russian North Caucasus. The South Caucasus states are smaller and more transparent to deal with; it is easier to find out who is in charge of what and thus, to find partners; there is a greater willingness to co-operate, etc. The sheer distance between North Caucasus and Moscow alone poses different problems. International organisations and NGOs generally have to negotiate with Moscow before entering the North Caucasus. This can be a long process, in which Moscow often has seemed reluctant to participate. In the beginning it was perhaps more difficult for Russia, the main heir to a former superpower, to accept the assistance and aid of international organisations and NGOs, but year by year Russian willingness to involve international organisations has gradually increased.

The 1994-1996 war in Chechnya resulted in strongly increased international humanitarian involvement in the North Caucasus. The instability of the frozen peace settlement since 1996, including murders and kidnappings of international aid personnel, has spread from Chechnya to neighbouring Dagestan; Ingushetia and North Ossetia-Alaniya, and for security reasons international organisations and NGOs have left or suspended their operations in the North Caucasus. UNHCR has moved most of its activities from Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia-Alaniya to neighbouring Stavropol, and the Danish Refugee Council has moved their assistance to returnees in the Prigorodnyj District to refugees from Chechnya in Stavropol Territory. Following the frequent reference during the conference to the increased role of the NGO sector in the Southern Caucasus, it seems as if the North Caucasus is lagging behind. Positive developments in the South Caucasian NGO sector are partly a result of various international capacity-building programmes especially following the launching of the CIS Conference process. Hopefully, these experiences will be applied to the North Caucasus as well. The goal of the international organisations and NGOs must be to treat the North and the South Caucasus relatively equally.

Needs and recommendations for the future development and activities of international organisations and NGOs
The most important need in the region is that of conflict-solution - at a political level as well as at a social service level. Without increased political will and responsibility by governments and other actors, the necessary solutions for the normalisation of life in the conflict zones and return of the refugees and IDPs will not be possible. Major tasks are still ahead regarding the physical rebuilding of the war-torn communities, as well as assisting those parties affected by the hostilities.

In the immediate future, co-operation between the international organisations, governments and local NGOs can be expected to be continued and even intensified. This is especially true if the states concerned increase their involvement and general responsibilities in dealing with the problems facing the region. The CIS conference process on migration, begun in 1996, is starting to make an impact, and the general understanding of the needs for integrated solutions across international borders as well as institutional and organisational specialisation has strongly increased. Capacity-building, including support and involvement of the local NGO sector, are key words in the coming years for the international organisations involved in the transformation from relief work to durable solutions the Caucasus.

The increasing co-operation between international organisations, governmental structures and local NGOs is a necessity for the long-term development of the Caucasus, especially because some organisations - mainly those oriented towards emergency relief - will gradually leave the region according to their mandates.

Local actors must eventually take responsibility for conducting the necessary activities and operations of humanitarian and post-humanitarian efforts. The crisis in the Caucasian economies and the many problems of institutional transformation in the countries signify that even if the conflicts are solved and the refugees and IDPs can return, international organisations focusing on development and human rights issues will still be involved in the region. The follow-up to the CIS conference process on migrations will be the central framework for the international co-operation in the following years, and considering the success of this process, it will hopefully be extended beyond the presently planned year 2000.

Some of the following needs and recommendations have already been mentioned in the previous section and will therefore be treated relatively shortly. Those, which have not been mentioned earlier, will receive more extensive treatment.

Conflict-resolution and state responsibility
The obvious needs for conflict-resolution - and by extension hereof the need for increased state responsibility - in the Caucasus was mentioned by most speakers at the conference. The general lack of response from representatives of the governments of the countries shows some of the political difficulties facing the international efforts in the region. Though the official representatives tended to avoid committing themselves to conflict-resolution, several signs of increased openness, interest and willingness to co-operate in a number of initiatives related to conflict-resolution were part of the official statements. The problems that could be labelled as "lack of state responsibility" are preventing and often destroying the possibilities to find the necessary political solution to the conflicts in the five troubled areas. For instance: the failure to integrate refugees and IDPs results in increased radicalisation, lack of acknowledgement of official refugee and IDP-status, the widespread tendency to link refugees and IDPs to the increasing problems of crime, restrictions on the freedom of movement, etc. The tendency to politicise the presence of refugees and IDPs has resulted in radicalisation of the conflicts and worsened the prospects of conflict resolution. The isolation of the conflict-ridden territories helps reduce the prospects for establishing durable peace settlements, and simultaneously makes international humanitarian efforts difficult. Isolation is not just a self-inflicted situation or a condition the "host-countries" try to maintain in order to punish the de facto independent territories. It is also a responsibility of the international community. To break the isolation of these territories could be one of the necessary openings towards increased efforts of conflict-resolution.

The classification of forced migrants as IDPs has often weakened the responsibility of the states, even though the IDPs are citizens of the states; the IDPs as a group have become highly politicised. This strengthens the deadlocked conflict-situation, which only increases donor fatigue. A vicious circle is established and maintained. Humanitarian problems and human suffering seems not to influence the various conflict-resolution negotiations, which Mr. Hasim Utkan stressed that it should, especially for the sake of the victims, but also in order to avoid increasing donor fatigue.

Mr. Jessen-Petersen and Mr. Utkan from UNHCR both stressed the need in the future activities to link increased self-reliance with increased state responsibility towards the conflict-resolution processes. Conflict-resolution generally falls outside the mandates of the various UN organisations, as these normally concentrate on humanitarian and development issues. Yet the experiences in the Caucasian context has shown the UN-organisations that without the element of conflict-resolution the other types of assistance will be pointless and potentially infinite.

Professor MacFarlane emphasised the existence of two major dimensions to conflict-resolution: the political and the societal. Populations at the societal level, tired and worn out by the conflict, can long for normalisation. In South Ossetia, for instance, such reactions at the societal level led to the opening of an unofficial dialogue between people and representatives from women's groups from both parties. Criminal gangs, on the other hand, generally benefit from the unsolved conflict situations and can be expected to act against solutions. Conflicts may never be fully solved, and the goal should be to create the possibility for civilised mutual co-existence without violence, as pointed out by Professor Sampson. International experiences on conflict, conflict-resolution, multi-ethnic coexistence, establishment of territorial autonomies, etc. should be discussed in the Caucasian context, and these discussions should take place not just between politicians and other persons of influence, but also on a societal level, perhaps as part of reconciliation projects.

Reconciliation is an important part of all conflict-resolution processes, but when conflict-resolution is dependent on the political will of the parties involved, reconciliation can take place on all levels, and is partly independent of the political process. This makes initiatives towards reconciliation possible before political solutions are finally reached. On the other hand, reconciliation can often be a much more extensive task than finding political solutions, as traumas and feelings of pain, loss and revenge can be extremely strong and are often passed on to coming generations. Such strong feeling are easy to politicise and can be exploited by extremist groups in their recruitment propaganda. This is why some groups wish to maintain these sentiments, and why it is important to address them in so toe kind of reconciliation programme. Another difference is that when conflict-resolution initiatives involve politicians and other representatives of the populations, the reconciliation initiatives target most parts of the civilian populations affected by the conflicts. Considering the very large numbers of civilians affected by these conflicts, this is especially important.

There are many way of addressing the necessary settlement of feelings of injustice created during the conflicts, and the exact extent of reconciliation should differ from context to context; this is also up to the parties and to decide. Full justice or full reconciliation is perhaps not possible, but a certain degree of reconciliation can make mutual coexistence possible. Is it possible, as pointed out by Steven Sampson, for structures of non-violent civilised society to function and for people to interact in various ways, even if they still hate each other. The conflict zones in the Caucasus are relatively Small territories and, locally, people often know or strongly suspect certain persons of the killings, lootings, etc. The process of reconciliation would probably be easier if all suspects were investigated by the law-enforcement bodies and, when necessary, brought to trial. Confidence in justice and effective law enforcement are crucial elements of the long-term settlement of conflicts and possible return of refugees and IDPs. "Confidence-building" is another important term in relation to reconciliation efforts.

The scope of reconciliation initiatives is potentially very large and can include community meetings, treatment of traumatised children, establishment of truth� commissions and/or war tribunals, etc. An interesting reconciliation project on a different level, which also plays a part in most of the conflicts, is the creation of a common history textbook for the children of the Caucasus, with participation from all four countries (Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan) and supported by the Council of Europe. Open discussions of historical events have been forbidden for centuries in the region, and in the 1990s are threatened by new nationalistic writing and dogmatic "truths".

Many attempts at reconciliation have already taken place in the conflict zones of the Caucasus, and the results vary considerably. Some attempts have lacked the necessary local knowledge and long-term commitment, while others have been forced to suspend their activities for security reasons. Continuity in reconciliation efforts is important, and considering the different short-lived attempts in the Caucasus, it would be desirable if increased co-operation in the field could be established in order to advance from the preliminary results and keep resources from being wasted. There exists a range of international reconciliation experiences, and it is perhaps about time for a comprehensive evaluation of the various reconciliation attempts in the Caucasus, pooling of experiences and knowledge in order to improve - together with various international experiences - future efforts in the field.

Reconstruction of the damaged buildings and infrastructure in the war-torn societies in the five conflict zones is a necessity to achieve a normalisation of life in these areas. Reconstruction is an important part of the rebuilding of the economy and creation of job-opportunities. Simultaneously, reconstruction can play an important role in the rebuilding of the economies and societies generally. It is possible to support reconstruction projects on many levels that are planned and carried out locally. Reconstruction projects could help maintain specialists and segments of the skilled work force within the territories, and perhaps slow down or halt the present emigration processes threatening to leave these territories populated by mainly pensioners and other vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, incidents during 1998 in Abkhazia and the Prigorodnyj District, where newly reconstructed houses of returnees where partly destroyed, will make international organisations more reluctant about this kind of reconstruction. Still, there are plenty of challenges in the fields of reconstruction, and local NGOs should be encouraged to further involve themselves in the process of selecting and discussing reconstruction projects.

Capacity-building efforts have already been discussed extensively, and often include the various fields of conflict-resolution, self-reliance, reconciliation, confidence building, rehabilitation or reconstruction, but especially include support for establishing a local NGO sector, and legal and institutional support to the Caucasian countries. The rapid growth of the NGO sector in the Caucasus is highly positive, though in several instances NGOs have been established mainly due to their interest in the financial means of the international organisations and donor. The Caucasus is part of the post-Soviet reality, and to seek new ways of earning money is a necessity for most people of the region. The challenge for the international organisations and NGOs is to find the right partners and support these in their further development. In fact, the situation is also the reverse: Caucasian NGOs are increasingly pressuring local and national authorities to create proper legal frameworks and institutional practices. Generally, the establishment of a Caucasian NGO sector is still in its infancy, as is the co-operation with international organisations and NGOs. Local NGOs still face many legal problems and suspicion from the authorities in the Caucasian countries. To receive financial support for activities from foreign countries, even when for strictly humanitarian purposes, and to co-operate with foreign organisations is in the eyes of many people in the Caucasus interpreted as part of a hidden political agenda. Suspicion of the motives behind the financial support from the West is still widespread in the post-Soviet countries.

Mr. Ekber Menemencioglu (UNHCR, Georgia), in his paper on capacity-building in the Caucasus, emphasised the need for UNHCR to develop instruments to evaluate the effect of the various capacity-building efforts in order to improve future activities and programmes, as the experiences in the CIS countries are markedly different than in other parts of the world. Menemencioglu also emphasised the following needs for supplementary activities in capacity-building programmes in countries of the former Soviet Union: "public information, mass information, education, constituency building in parliaments and in academic circles may all be necessary and complementary activities for UNHCR and others to undertake."

Professor Sampson recommended the active inclusion of ethnic identity in the capacity-building projects and in the transformation process in general, instead of rejecting these affiliations as old-fashioned or exclusively conflict-generating. It is possible and necessary to regard ethnicity as a resource rather than as an obstacle towards development of modern civil society. According to Sampson, the widespread perception of ethnic groups and migrants as victims of tradition or circumstances should be re-evaluated so that we can regard these people as individuals attempting to act creatively under difficult circumstances.

The establishment of a network for the exchange of knowledge and experiences in relation to humanitarian, conflict-mediation and development assistance in the Caucasus could strengthen the joint efforts of the international organisations and NGOs active in the region. Two recent publications are fine examples of such attempts at exchanging and distributing knowledge on working in the Caucasus: Humanitarian Action in the Caucasus – A Guide for Practitioners by Greg Hansen from the Humanitarianism and War Project, and Coping with Conflict – A Guide to the Work of Local NGOs in the North Caucasus by the Forced Migration Project of the Open Society Institute.

Security problems
The need for increased security has already been mentioned, and in discussing the need for increased state responsibility in the Caucasus, authorities must improve their efforts in the field of security. The long lists of unsolved crimes and the general situation of lawlessness in the former conflict zones, an issue raised by Greg Hansen, suggests that much more could be done by the various authorities towards improving the general security situation and re-establishing confidence in the judicial system.

An important task for the international organisations and NGOs, perhaps as part of the various capacity-building projects, is to assist the countries and de facto independent territories of the Caucasus in forging new strategies towards increasing security on different levels, as the countries themselves all have obvious problems in this field.

Specifics of the Northern Caucasus
Security problems have strongly limited the possibilities of international humanitarian assistance in the North Caucasus, as in several other conflict zones. However, instead of leaving the areas, attempts at employing local partners in a higher degree should be established. International organisations could consider adopting a new strategy towards involvement in the North Caucasus. Large operations and high profile projects with a large presence of international personnel do not seem feasible in the immediate future, but the international organisations, instead of leaving the area, could choose to accept the new challenge and become involved in the creation process of creating new ways of involvement: with low key, perhaps many small projects, which can identify and co-operate with a range of local partners. Projects could include the establishment of small enterprises and income-generating projects in key sectors (e.g. flour mills or brick-making). These could result in locally initiated spin-off projects and the beginning of a positive economic spiral, as needs differ from settlement to settlement. Other projects could include rebuilding of houses and infrastructure. Small-scale projects are crucially needed to rebuild the devastated economies, a rebuilding which is a major priority in the zones of former conflicts. "Small projects are much safer than large ones" as has been stated by Andre Kamenshikov (in Forced Migration Project: Coping with Conflict) who has many years experience in the North Caucasus. Such modes of operation seem to be difficult for international organisations and for donors as well. Still, international organisations and NGOs should link the small-scale work involving small local NGOs to the necessary donors. The present strategy of abandoning insecure areas is understandable, but the result is compliance to the wishes of extremist forces resisting the solution to the conflicts and the possible return of refugees and IDPs, and punishment of the most vulnerable groups and persons.

Foreign investments in the North Caucasus are primarily located in the predominantly ethnic Russian regions of Krasnodar, Stavropol and Rostov. According to Professor Kolesnikov, this contributes to increasing the stratification between these territories and the seven neighbouring predominantly non-Russian republics. Kolesnikov predicted that a continuation of this stratification process could lead to new violent conflicts in the North Caucasus, and recommended that foreign investors become involved in the seven republics simultaneously, suggesting that they begin with the three westernmost republics that have so far been able to escape incidents of violent conflicts, in order to prevent such developments in the future. Foreign investors or donors, TACIS for instance, should be encouraged to include conflict prevention and reconstruction of war-torn territories deadlocked in almost permanently frozen situations in their considerations in relation to investments in the region. The tendency to assist the strongest and not the weakest and most vulnerable groups should be reconsidered.

To sum up some of the major developments in the Caucasus since the 1995 PRIO conference in Oslo, we can mention on the positive side: the increased co-operation between international, national and local actors; a developing local NGO sector with increasing influence in the region; an increasingly amount of legislation in accord with international standards; a generally strengthened transformation in the direction of democracy and other norms of modern civil society; signs of progress in the economic development of the countries; an increased familiarity by Caucasian and post-Soviet societies in the international organisations and NGOs. On the negative side, we should note the following: a situation of status quo in the frozen hostilities in the zones of conflict, a situation that can easily erupt into new conflicts; the absence of political solutions; the return of only few refugees and IDPs; lack of reconstruction; the worsened security situation; increasing organisation of crime; increased economic stratification; and despite generally increased democratisation and transition towards civil society, signs of increased political radicalisation, sentiments of racism and xenophobia, and a heightened donor fatigue.

The political and societal development in the Caucasus is a balancing act where positive results rapidly can turn into negative. Regarding the solution of conflicts and repatriation of refugees and IDPs, pessimism is widespread among various experts, but a conference such as this can contribute to the collection and dissemination of positive results, such as the JCC co-operation around the conflict in South Ossetia. Hopefully, it can help inspire in other contexts. Will the international involvement in the extraction and transport of oil from the Caspian Sea be used as a contribution to a positive development in the Caucasus? Or will it increase the tension and result in new conflicts? Hopefully, the international actors will intervene responsibly to a more peaceful and prosperous Caucasus.

It is paradoxical that simultaneously with the increased co-operation between the different parties involved in efforts of conflict mediation, humanitarian and developmental assistance, and the long-term involvement in the field of capacity building projects in the Caucasus, the international organisations and NGOs have increasing problems with donor fatigue. Hopefully, this conference can contribute to help donors understand and acknowledge the importance of continued financial support to the processes already underway, though far from completed. Donors not only assist the development of civil societies so that they are free of violent conflicts for the benefit of the people of the Caucasus. They also need to create a future region which is more stable and less war- and refugee-producing, a region which otherwise might collapse into internal conflict. These last years of the twentieth century are crucial for the Caucasus. Without impetus and support from the outside world, many of the "no war, no peace" situations could easily break out anew. The consequences of long-term conflicts in the Caucasus for European stability are difficult to assess, and hopefully will not be relevant.

As labelled by Professor Sampson, “capacity-building”, “reconciliation”, “conflict-mediation”, “confidence-building” are all “buzz words in the world of projects” international organisations and NGOs. Through the papers of this report however, it should become obvious that all these terms reflect real problems and needs in the Caucasian societies. These problems and needs are obvious when visiting the areas and meeting the people who live in realities of frozen conflicts, often stuck in temporary shelters for most of this decade, often living only a short journey away from their place of birth, their houses and land, and the burial places of their ancestors, but year after year are prevented from returning home. The strong feelings of loss and pain among these victims of the conflicts, who are forced to exist as permanent underdogs in the hierarchies of the societies where they reside, cannot properly be represented at a conference, where they are often reduced to objects of academic discussion. Still, the increasing level of commitment and willingness toward positive involvement by all parties present at the conference are signs that the Caucasus region will continue to have the support of the international community in the difficult transition from conflict to durable solutions.


[1] Definitions of the geographical extent of the Caucasus can vary.  Some authors seem to use the term as synonymous with South Caucasus (formerly referred to as Transcaucasus), and more or less overlook the North Caucasus. "South Caucasus" refers to the states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.  Definitions of the North Caucasus vary but two versions seems to be most widespread: a smaller version delimiting the seven ethnically defined southernmost republics of the Russian Federation (Adygea, Karachai-Circassia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia-Alaniya, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan), and the larger version consisting of the seven republics plus Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories and Rostov Region to the north. 

[2] The absence of official representatives from the five zones of conflict which played such a great role at the conference, was a conscious decision in order not to make the conference larger and more "confusing" than was already the case.  The aim was to focus on the international humanitarian effort, the transition to durable solutions and the states that officially are responsible for the transition process.  It is inescapable that this approach leaves several questions unanswered, hopefully, these questions will be addressed by other initiatives.