European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorny Karabakh

The European Partnership for the Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh (EPNK) was a unique initiative supported by the European Union from 2010 to 2019 that sought to positively impact the Nagorny Karabakh conflict settlement process and contribute to lasting peace in the region.

Four school boys in Nagorny Karabhak pose with their arms around each other  in front of a large building.
© Jonathan Banks/International Alert

The partnership was a European civil society initiative with five member organisations: Conciliation Resources (UK), Crisis Management Initiative (Finland), International Alert (lead agency, UK), the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (Sweden) and LINKS (UK/Netherlands).

Through this dynamic partnership and a wide network of local partners in the South Caucasus, we worked on building mutual understanding of and confidence in the settlement process – essential ingredients for any sustainable and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

EPNK was implemented over a period of deepening antagonism and polarisation in Armenian–Azerbaijani relations. Particularly since 2014, insecurity along the ‘line of contact’ drove increasing militarism, culminating in a ‘four-day war’ in April 2016, which claimed over 200 lives. Under these circumstances, the space for peacebuilding was extremely constrained.

Yet, despite this volatile context, the final evaluation of the last stage of the project marked the initiative’s achievements as significant and gathered sufficient evidence showing that the peacebuilding activities had “contributed towards intended effects, which will provide increased opportunities to push the peace agenda further”.

Below are some of the highlights from the work of the organisations involved in the project.

International Alert

As the lead EPNK member organisation, International Alert generated alternative perspectives and fresh discourse on the Nagorny Karabakh conflict through its grassroots-driven analysis and media and public engagement programmes.

To do this, Alert facilitated dialogue among key groups of local actors involved in shaping public opinion, to develop alternatives to the radical conflict discourse. These groups included civil society leaders, experts, decision-makers, and mainstream media and independent journalists, as well as those directly affected by the conflict, through public outreach activities in urban and remote areas, as well as along the frontline.

Alert’s 2018 participatory research initiative, ‘Envisioning peace‘, strengthened community engagement in peacebuilding and amplified the voices of those not normally consulted on this subject.

Alert also facilitated dialogue through a network of journalists and editors who collaborated in a unique cross-conflict multimedia initiative, Unheard Voices. The platform ensures the voices of ‘ordinary’ people affected by the conflict are heard not only in their own societies but on the other side of the conflict divide, allowing readers to see the real faces hidden behind the images of ‘the enemy’. All the materials were published in four languages (Armenian, Azerbaijani, Russian and English) and hosted by JAMnews. To reach out to and engage new actors, particularly young people, Alert also used FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Conciliation Resources

Over the duration of the project, Conciliation Resources convened the Karabakh Contact Group (KCG), a platform for joint analysis and informal dialogue among Armenian and Azerbaijani activists, experts and former officials. A series of KCG meetings engaged these circles in dialogue on the Basic Principles – the proposal forming the basis for formal Armenian–Azerbaijani talks since 2007. These dialogues mapped different interpretations across the divide as to how the principles might resolve core issues, such as the status of Nagorny Karabakh, the return of displaced communities, access and security, and were summarised in a series of discussion papers.

Conciliation Resources worked with a wide range of partners to support the co-production and screenings of documentary films. They supported an Armenian–Azerbaijani–Turkish co-production, Memories Without Borders, which explored the memory politics of borders across the region. They supported screenings of short films made by young local filmmakers among audiences in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorny Karabakh, culminating in the publication of ‘Dialogue through film: A handbook‘.

Conciliation Resources also supported their partners, the Media Initiatives Center, Internews Azerbaijan and the Humanitarian Research Public Union, in the first ever attempt to produce a joint documentary narrating the history of the conflict. The three-hour Parts of a Circle trilogy draws on original interviews with eyewitnesses and participants in the events of 1988–94. A summary film was released in May 2020, commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Armenian–Azerbaijani ceasefire.

Crisis Management Initiative

To read about Crisis Management Initiative’s work in the Caucacus, please visit their website.

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (KtK) has supported Armenian and Azerbaijani women’s organisations and individuals since 2004, promoting women’s empowerment and meaningful participation in the Nagorny Karabakh peace process, including through the framework of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, capacity development and dialogue processes involving women peacebuilders and human rights defenders.

As part of EPNK, Kvinna till Kvinna collaborated with local women’s organisations and individual women peacebuilders and human rights defenders, and supported women mentors to engage and strengthen Armenian and Azerbaijani women affected by conflict, including those from marginalised grassroots communities, in order to empower them to become agents of change in peacebuilding efforts and collaborate in joint initiatives across the conflict divide.

Kvinna till Kvinna also provided safe spaces in national and regional dialogues for Armenian and Azerbaijani women to meet, discuss and develop knowledge and skills to increase women’s participation in peace processes, engage in advocacy efforts and foster solidarity among women, including both experienced peacebuilders and new faces. In addition, they documented the gendered effects of the conflict over Nagorny Karabakh and the priorities women saw for peace in a publication entitled ‘Listen to her’. This was then applied in advocacy initiatives on the international level and used, together with partners, to reach out and stimulate reflection on the effects of conflict on women.

Kvinna till Kvinna’s work as part of EPNK was published on their website as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Donors

International Alert is grateful for the kind support of our donors.