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Common space for common goals 

November 15, 2021
Nino Chikhladze

Motivation and expectations

In its complete and limited meaning, peace is the reality where there is no place and time for violence, violent conflicts, and, moreover, war. The violence-free environment means the most valuable thing – respect of human rights and security. Even more, for me, it is the measuring indices of peace and development. Information about the situation with human rights is the answer to the question about the peace level in states, regions, and various societies.

To learn how dignified, free, and secured individuals in Abkhazia and South Ossetia feel, what the memory of the conflicts they held, I decided to participate in the peace workshop that was the rare opportunity of communication and meeting with them face-to-face. I knew that this opportunity would help me re-assess some stereotypes about Abkhazians and Ossetians and create a realistic view of them, and I was right. I was mistakenly thinking that the tension would be inevitable during the five-day training session when discussing the future of the Georgian-Abkhazian-Ossetian conflict. Though, it makes me particularly happy that I was wrong. Like me, the training united the people for whom peaceful co-existence, relationships, respect, and lessons learned from the previous mistakes were the major. Somehow, having a joint assessment, we wished for a peaceful future and completed the first training day full of hopes. 

The exercise of sharing the future vision by the end of the day helped me get released from the tension and confusion. It added motivation and confidence for the following days. We realized that we found the shared space for common goals.

About the trainer

The space turned up to be safe for sincere dialogue. The trainer, together with the participants, contributed to these sessions to become such. The trainer was professional and responsive, the person who gained my trust right from the first minute. For me, he is the right person who precisely knows the importance of peacebuilding and at the same time is competent in how to achieve it. He was very enthusiastic about sharing his personal experience and knowledge. He brought real examples demonstrating that dialogue, recognition, compassion, and mutual participation in peacebuilding are essential for a tangible result.

He made us think of the skills needed for peace and development-oriented communication. He managed to unite us and facilitated the dialogue favoring our shared future in just five-day sessions. The first thing we did was that we jointly agreed and developed the guiding principles for the dialogue. Symbolically we called this agreement the constitution.

The primary message from the trainer

Besides listening to the participants' individual stories, attitudes, and desires, I expected the project to help me find and grasp my role in conflict resolution. Now, this role is distinct and clear for me. I acknowledge that all of us have individual responsibility not only in terminating the conflict but also in the process of consistent peacebuilding. The answer to why it is so is simple: the future as we imagine it must be created by ourselves, and the time for it is today and now. The primary message that the peacebuilding session started with became the main source of motivation for each of the participants during the five-day session discussions and group work.

Understanding the individual responsibility is insufficient without acknowledging the role of even small contributions in rebuilding trust in the peacebuilding process. One of the main things that the trainer tried to show us many times was the need to constantly search for resources within ourselves, never expecting others to take action, especially those who have more power and, correspondingly, more resources. Even a tiny step forward is valuable. I think that is precisely the step each participant took when we decided to go to a third country and talk to each other. This decision was necessary to restore trust in each other, get to know each other, and understand the routine of each other. After all, most of our perceptions are based on the stories told by others; hence the information is inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent. The relationship established in the five days of the seminar, some of the acknowledged and re-evaluated facts, is believed to be a worthy and essential element of the long and challenging process of peacebuilding. Another thing we learned from our trainer was the need to maintain these connections. None of the steps taken in favor of peacebuilding are separately insignificant, and all results must be treated with care.

What do we need?!

The willingness and readiness of the participants to contribute to peacebuilding were felt outside the session, in an informal environment where it was difficult to pretend. Individual conversations and attitudes towards each other demonstrated a sincere desire to create a peaceful future inspired by recognizing common guilt and the desire to rethink the past. After talking to some of the workshop participants, I clearly felt that they trusted me and the desire to communicate was mutual. I felt like we had too much to talk about, but we never had enough time. Unfortunately, the reason for this was also clear and obvious. We knew little about each other's past and present. We were rarely given space for open and sincere dialogue. 

 It was clear that each of us was experiencing a lack of direct, accurate sources to evaluate historical events objectively, the source that would show us both sides of the story, an independent, credible media outlet that would create a vivid picture of each other's lives today. We felt like we were in an information vacuum, and it continues to this day. All groups mentioned this problem at least once when we were offered to think of new initiatives during the session. 

 We were thinking of creating a new platform that would enable constant dialogue and information exchange. We felt that we should collect the stories of the past, analyze them and write about them, make a film that would give a clear idea of the conflict, the mistakes, the future vision, and desires. It is an incomplete list of the initiatives driven by the desire and need for constant communication.

We have a lot in common

Aside from the goal that brought the participants together in one city, I found that we have a lot in common as humans. The conflict of the past and the present alienation did not prevent us from talking about everyday issues, walking together, and showing each other the way. Talks about sports, music, and cooking were hope-giving and promising to achieve peace between us that seemed realistic. We can be an empathetic, wise, and future-oriented society. We have the ability and desire to maintain and strengthen ties; use all the resources we have, and that third parties offer us. The Peace Workshop was just such a resource for me. Thanks to each of the organizers and participants for this unique opportunity without whose common desire and hard work it would never happen.