Georgia-Abkhazia on the road to 2020: Discussion papers

The publication features nine discussion papers that examine the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict through the lens of democratisation and governance, statebuilding and nationbuilding, socio-economic development and international relations.

On 1st October 2012, Georgians went to the polls to elect a new parliament, with the Georgian Dream opposition coalition headed by relative political newcomer Bidzina Ivanishvili winning a sweeping victory.

President Saakashvili gracefully ceded defeat on the day of the elections, announcing that he would go into opposition for the remainder of his term. There followed a period of euphoria and a degree of political chaos, as the inexperienced new government settled into a period of “co-habitation” with the president.

During this period of consolidation and lack of clarity over what this change in configuration meant for conflict resolution, International Alert launched a new “Dialogue through Research” process with Georgian and Abkhaz experts – prominent public figures who play a role in shaping public debate in their respective societies – inviting them to take stock of the challenges and opportunities facing both societies, taking a medium-term view to 2020.

Within the overall framework of state, politics, economy and society, each research team commissioned the other particular themes of interest – for example, the Georgians commissioned the Abkhaz to examine the condition of the Abkhaz state building agenda; while the Abkhaz commissioned the Georgians to examine Georgia’s choice of democratic or authoritarian modernisation – both clearly trying to better understand which direction each is heading in. All were asked to identify key questions, the answers to which require broad societal consensus.

Questions posed through the dialogue reveal – perhaps unsurprisingly – similar aspirations on both sides, regardless of their polarised political positions. Both articulate the challenges inherent in developing an economically strong, democratic, inclusive society that ensures broad civil and political participation and integration of minorities. Yet clearly, the two societies are trying to achieve their aspirations in starkly different circumstances.

While the Georgian papers pose questions as to how “co-habitation” will affect their Euro-Atlantic agenda and whether they can expect a resumption of trade with Russia, the Abkhaz papers ask whether Abkhazia is heading for self-imposed isolation. While the Georgian papers suggest that a coalition government, however inefficient, is a safeguard against creeping authoritarianism, the Abkhaz papers express caution over the strengthening of vertical power.