Georgian-Abkhaz Youth Dialogue: Perspectives and Challenges

The Georgian and the Abkhaz youth have very limited opportunities to meet and interact with each other. Occasionally, with the support of various international organizations working on the conflict in the breakaway regions of Georgia, meetings and forums between the Georgian and the Abkhaz youth take place. Such meetings usually are organized overseas. In general, the Georgian society is not aware about the processes going on at such meetings/occasions and the results they might bring for our country.

On 16 June 2010, the HBS organized a debate dedicated to perspectives and challenges of the Georgian-Abkhaz Youth Dialogue and invited young persons who at various occasions have been involved in the Georgian-Abkhaz youth dialogue. They have been invited to inform the participants of the debate about their experiences and discuss the role of the public diplomacy in the conflict resolution process.

Natia Oniani - The member of the initiative group for the Georgian-Abkhaz Dialogue (the student of the Tbilisi State University after Ivane Javakhishvili), Kote Chokoraia – The Chairman of the youth organization ‘Pirvelebi’, Irakli Megrelishvili – The assistant to the Head of the Administration at the Tbilisi State University after Ivane Javakhishvili were invited as speakers to the debate. The moderation was undertaken by Nino Kalandarishvili, the Coordinator of the project ‘the Georgian-Abkhaz Youth Dialogue’ at the Institute for Nationalism and Conflict Studies.

Nino Kalandarishvili briefed guests about the project: The process of the dialogue between the Georgian and Abkhaz youth started in 2007, when the first meeting was held in Switzerland. In all, 5 such meetings took place in Switzerland, the Great Britain and Belgium. There are several international organizations supporting attempts of resuming the dialogue between the Georgian and the Abkhaz youth, such as the Reconciliation Resources, the Berghof Center and the Institute of Conflicts and Negotiation. In addition, meetings are organized by other international organizations, where youth from both sides of the conflict participate. The local non-governmental organization ‘The Association of IDP Women – Consent’ is also involved in these processes. Moreover, there are several independent initiatives organized by young Georgian and Abkhazians.

Kote Chokoraia is one of the active members of the Georgian-Abkhaz dialogue. According to Kote, after the August 2008 war, the attitude of the Abkhaz society towards the Georgian side has been changed. The only official channel of communication between the conflicting sides at this stage is the Geneva talks. The majority of the society considers that the dialogue does not play any role in the conflict resolution process. Only a few thinks that the dialogue with the Abkhaz is essential. Despite the fact that the direct dialogue may not bring solve the problem without Russia’s involvement, it is still necessary. The youth should be involved in the process. On both sides the youth is growing who have different opinions on issues and do not know each other.

Irakli Megrelishvili is also one of the participants of the dialogue. Although for the foreseeable future Irakli does not see the possibility of solving the conflict, the dialogue should be continued and the citizens should be actively involved in it. The meetings between the youth should be organized more frequently. Organizing the dialogue twice a year is not enough for changing relations and attitudes between the Georgian and the Abkhazian youth. Enacting the state strategy was necessary, but the belated step. The component of the public diplomacy is in the strategy. The process of the public diplomacy should not be limited to 20 persons. It is also necessary to coordinate the efforts and here, the state should play a leading role.

Natia Oniani is the third member of the dialogue and considers the process of the dialogue as a unique forum, where the Abkhazians and the Georgians meet each other, exchange information about the processes taking place in the respective societies. It is necessary to work with the Abkhaz society, but this will be a very difficult task.