International Alert recently organised a study visit to Abkhazia for eight teachers from different parts of South Ossetia as part of an ongoing psycho-social and civil society capacity-building initiative.
Though there are many parallels between the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts, civil society in South Ossetia is much weaker than in Abkhazia. There are a number of objective reasons for the low level of civic initiative in South Ossetia. Firstly, a significant proportion of the South Ossetian elite migrated to North Ossetia during the Georgian-Ossetian conflict of 1990-1992, and this migration continued thereafter, stimulated by the post-war devastation and regular outbreaks of violence in the cease-fire zone.
Secondly, too little attention was paid to the South Ossetian conflict by external stakeholders prior to 2008, influenced by the perception that the Georgian-Ossetian conflict did not have deep roots and would resolve itself. Civil society actors from South Ossetia were not included in civil peacebuilding projects in sufficient numbers, and external stakeholders failed to utilise local expertise in their analysis of the causes and dynamics of the conflict.
The five-day war of August 2008 clearly demonstrated the need for alternative voices and local expertise from within.
Alert is trying to make up for this lack of investment in the South Ossetian context by providing training and creating opportunities for teachers to become active in their communities. The aim of the study trip was to increase the teachers’ civic awareness and to strengthen civil initiatives by providing them with an opportunity to learn from others’ experiences. Psycho-social rehabilitation of the population is a high priority in the post-August 2008 context, and the teachers had the chance to visit various rehabilitation centres in order to hear about different experiences and to develop professional contacts.
All eight teachers have previously taken part in trainings on psychosocial rehabilitation through social activism, organised by Alert.
The study visit included meetings with a number of Abkhaz NGOs covering a wide range of activities, interviews with the local media, visits to urban and rural schools, and some social activities.
The teachers were deeply impressed by what they saw. On their return home to South Ossetia, each participant held presentations for their fellow colleagues and some interested parents to share what they had learnt, providing a platform for them to air their ideas of setting up local centres for civic initiatives, or – as we would call them – “NGOs”.
This initiative is funded by COBERM, financed by the EU and administered by UNDP.
You can read more about Alert’s psycho-social training seminars here: