Confidence that Leads to Achievement

Abkhaz, Georgian and South Ossetian teenagers traveling together to a summer camp. Photo: UNDP

Confidence and trust between the communities affected by conflicts are in focus of the European Union and UNDP initiative. Youth camps, professional training, research, healthcare services and business development make an incomplete list of the projects undertaken since 2010 within the Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism (COBERM).

The programme seeks innovative and realistic ideas from civil society. Behind every initiative stand people who benefit one way or another. COBERM builds new ways to stronger friendships and mutual understanding.

Friendship vs Conflict

The media camp in Turkey in September 2013 brought together Georgian, South Ossetian and Abkhaz young journalists. For many of them the course was the turning point to change their perceptions about each other.

“From childhood, I thought that Georgians were rude and arrogant. But after meeting Georgian youth, this appears to be untrue,“ says a 19-year old TV reporter from Tskhinvali.

The authors of the media camp – experts from the Georgian media organization Internews, believe that only face-to-face contacts and joint activities can smooth the awkwardness and tension between the communities divided by conflicts.

During a 9-day training course, youngsters familiarized with the practical and theoretical sides of journalism. They learnt about film making, editing and documentary. Theoretical seminars were followed by more interactive activities:  young people were split into groups of three with one Georgian, one Ossetian and one Abkhaz in each, and were assigned to make short films.

“First days were not smooth. Young people locked themselves in their ethnic groups and rarely communicated with their peers. But after a while, youngsters became more open with each other. They worked together, brainstormed for hours, and in no time started bonding,“ says one of the course coordinators.

Separated by prejudice and lack of information, the young people never thought that a media camp could bring a bunch of new friends in their life. As one of them said:

“We have same interests and problems, we like same films and music, we read same books. Now we keep in touch on Facebook, share news and plans. Media camp showed us that shared professional interests often lead to friendship, a friendship which builds confidence and overcomes conflicts.”

Healthcare across Conflict Divides

An eight-month old child spent two weeks in the Sukhumi hospital after being diagnosed with a serious liver disease. His condition remained critical despite the efforts of the Abkhaz doctors. The child’s parents were losing hopes for his recovery.

The organization “For Future Generation” helped the family to arrange emergency transportation to Tbilisi where the baby patient received medical treatment in the Iashvili Central Children's Hospital, Centre for Infectious Diseases, and the Aversi Clinic.

To the relief of his family, the severe diagnosis was disproved by the medical tests. The boy’s critical condition improved with more effective treatment and he quickly began to recover.

This child is one of the many Abkhaz kids who receive medical help in Tbilisi, Zugdidi, Kutaisi and Gori. Child mortality in Abkhazia is about 20% according to the unofficial data. In many cases this high rate is caused by poor treatment and lack of medical equipment in the clinics. The organizations like “For Future Generation” help the Abkhaz patients to cross conflict divides for life and hope.

Crossing the Bridge

“Almost twenty years passed since I last saw my cousin. The conflict in Abkhazia of the early 90s separated us. She lives in Kutaisi, I live in Tkvarcheli. Small distance, huge barriers,” says an elderly woman.

The long lost relatives met each other after two decades when she was visiting Kutaisi to receive medical assistance. Travelling across the conflict divide was not an easy decision, but the treatment in Sukhumi and Tkvarcheli brought no tangible results. After much consideration, she decided to cross the Enguri Bridge, an administrative boundary line, to receive the qualified medical assistance in Kutaisi.

“People in Kutaisi showed me respect and love, they cared for me. Doctors are highly qualified and the hospital facilities really comfortable. There should not be separation between people. The “wall of distrust" should be torn down.”

This is one of the many who benefitted from the medical assistance programme run by the Georgian non-governmental organization “Peaceful and Business Caucasus.” In 2013 only, up to 300 Abkhaz and South Ossetians received health care services in the hospitals of Tbilisi, Zugdidi and Kutaisi. The organization helps to get in touch with the clinics and arranges transportation and other logistics. Medical service is provided free of charge in most cases.

Language of Art

Art makes people speak a common language, believe in DVV International, Georgian non-governmental organization. The language to discuss peace rather than conflict; the language that does not judge, but feels; the language that goes beyond the boundaries.

The organization invites young Abkhaz, Georgian and Ossetian artists to take part in the workshops in Turkey. Young creative-minds share their ideas, learn from each other, produce joint art-works and create strong personal and professional bonds.

“You can come from different walks of life but if you write poems, or play music, or make beautiful photos, there’s a common passion,” says one of the workshop participants, a theatre director from Tbilisi.

Three freelance photographers from Tetritskaro, Gali and Sukhumi met each other at the art workshop in Hopa, Turkey, in October 2013. Soon enough they became the “inseparable trio.” Now they are working on a joint photo exhibition “Life around us: Gali – Sukhumi – Tbilisi” to be held in Germany.

“No borders and distances can separate people if they want to communicate and do things together,” they say.

The first art workshop in Hopa already gave start to the joint projects, such as exhibitions and theatrical performances. One of the Abkhaz participants decided to continue her studies in Tbilisi, something she would not even think about before.

With this first success, a series of the workshops will continue in 2014 and 2015. 

June 2014

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