Support to conflict-affected persons
Two decades of European assistance to people affected by conflict in Georgia
For twenty years, the European Union (EU) has been funding programmes to support people affected by armed conflicts in Georgia. EU-funded projects have aimed at improving living conditions of affected populations and at creating conditions for the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their places of origin. The EU has also facilitated a constructive dialogue across the conflict divide and has kept open communication channels between parties on different levels.
Initially, EU support to conflict-affected people was humanitarian in nature. It aimed to offer a quick response to the instant needs created by the conflicts, both in terms of food and shelter. Over the past years, EU support has moved from this short-term humanitarian assistance to a medium-term, developmental perspective. Instant shelter provision has given the way to durable housing and the establishment and maintenance of community infrastructures. Direct food assistance has been replaced by longer-term socio-economic integration of IDPs and livelihood programmes. In fact, livelihood support has become a keyword in the EU's new support initiatives for IDPs. The final aim of such a policy is to raise the socio-economic standards of IDPs to those of the average Georgian citizen and fully facilitate their integration into their respective local socio-economic fabric.
New EU support to conflict-affected persons after the August war of 2008
Long before August 2008, the EU was the largest donor in support of the needs of conflict-affected persons from South Ossetia and Abkhazia – both those who had returned to these regions and those who remained in internal displacement. The August 2008 events caused a new wave of internal displacement from these regions and served as a catalyst for further EU engagement in favor of those affected by the conflicts. At a donor conference on Georgia held in Brussels on 22 October 2008, the EU pledged funding of up to €500 million to be used for a variety of activities, including assistance for the resettlement of internally displaced persons; economic rehabilitation and recovery projects; macro-financial stabilisation and support to Georgia’s infrastructure. EU assistance for conflict affected persons in Georgia is primarily channelled through the Georgian Government but also via international organizations or international and local non-governmental organizations.
Currently, the EU also remains one of the largest donor organizations in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, with a focus on confidence-building, education, health and livelihoods. In South Ossetia, EU-funded programmes have almost come to a halt after August 2008, due to political preconditions set up by the de-facto authorities of that region.
What has been achieved since the August war of 2008?
Emergency phase: Instant humanitarian assistance to help internally displaced persons live through the winter
• ECHO's humanitarian aid relieved the immediate needs of the newly displaced people for food, shelter and psychological support. This ECHO assistance (€12 million) was delivered through United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations.
• The EU helped these IDPs to get through the winter by making their temporary houses weather-proof and warmer.
• Small scale economic activities, such as professional training and micro-credit for farmers, were set up with European funds to enable displaced persons to create stable income. These projects (totalling €29 million) also included the protection of the rights of displaced persons, for example, through free legal aid.
Durable housing phase: Decent living for internally displaced persons
With €105 million of budget support to the Georgian Government (90 million disbursed so far) and numerous grants to international organizations and NGOs, the EU has been comprehensively providing internally displaced persons (IDPs) -from both the conflicts in 2008 and in the 90ies- with decent and durable housing conditions
• For the IDPs resulting from the 2008 conflicts, new cottage houses were built in Shida-Kartli.
• For IDPs who returned to their war-damaged houses in Gali district, houses were reconstructed.
• For IDPs resulting from the Abkhaz conflict who had been living in dire housing conditions in the Samegrelo region since the 1990s, apartments in housing blocks where fully renovated.
• For those IDPs whose living spaces could not be rehabilitated because the buildings posed a physical (or other) hazard, new apartment blocks were build locally (e.g. Tskhaltubo) or in economically promising places such as Poti and Batumi.
• In addition, numerous projects aimed to rehabilitate schools, drinking water supply and irrigation systems, connecting roads, etc., and to support IDPs with farming opportunities.
Developmental phase: Assistance to socio-economic integration of IDPs
While durable housing for IDPs remains a core concern, livelihood assistance has become an important component of the EU's upcoming IDP support programme to Georgia (€19 million from 2012 to 2015). The central idea of this livelihood assistance is to create opportunities for IDPs and host communities to reach self-sufficiency
• Vocational trainings and small grants
• Support for investments
• Employment generation
• Strengthening of community organizations
• Supporting the Georgian Government provide such opportunities on the local level
The aim of such activities, in the longer term, is to mainstream IDPs into regional development processes and, in case of IDP farmers, help them reach the level of average Georgian farmers.
The EU remains committed to strengthening sustainable and stabilizing solutions in support to Georgia's own efforts by continuous engagement in a constructive dialogue across the conflict divide and other social and productive activities involving local communities, surrounding populations, civil society and relevant authorities.
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