Dialogues of Peace in Tsalka Region by Maura Morandi, Project Coordinator, Tbilisi roject Summary The aim of the three months "Dialogues of Peace in Tsalka Region" Project is to carry out peace education activities in order to stimulate children from different ethnic community to interact, work and cooperate in groups and to achieve an improving atmosphere of understanding and confidence towards diversities. The intent is to contribute to increase community awareness on the importance of the education and culture of peace and dialogue as a positive tool in conflict prevention, confidence building and successful integration of ethnic minority communities into the social life and basic educational services. Within the region children from various ethnically oriented schools are brought together to work upon the preparation of one cultural event. The cultural event will consist of activities like a drawing exhibition, traditional dances, theatre sketches, traditional music and songs and the like. All those will be performed by the various ethnic and cultural groups. The event represents an opportunity for people from different backgrounds to get a further understanding and respect for each other’s traditions. The preparation for the event consists of peace education, conflict prevention and confidence building activities including: get to know each other games, confidence games, cooperative games, communication games, creativity games, educational games, art workshops, drawing exhibitions. This preparation is coordinated by four open-minded persons (three educators and one local coordinator) from the different ethnic groups who can cooperate with the representatives of all ethnic groups involved on an unbiased and impartial basis. ackground and justification Since its independence, Georgia has been making unfortunate news in the sphere of ethnically based tension and conflict. Such is not only evidenced by the factual secession of two territories, but also by less clearly definable tensions between various ethnic groups within other regions like Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli. Although hardly predictable, concern does exist about the possible outgrowth of some of these slumbering frictions into expressions of violence. Keeping in mind the tragic nature and blind ferocity of too many ethnic conflicts that have occurred in recent history, it becomes clear that any such tensions deserve attention and prevention. Even if the situation will not exacerbate strongly, the attempt to create a society in which people live in mutual tolerance and without pervading negative prejudices is a goal to strive for. ne of the regions that might be defined as a "problem" area is Tsalka in the Kvemo-Kartli region. Tsalka has originally been inhabited by Greeks and Armenians who had fled the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the 19th century. Only one village in this area is actually ethnically Georgian from its foundation. Greek legislation on citizenship allowed many of the Greeks in the area to depart Georgia for their official homeland, an outflow which has cut the region’s inhabitants approximately by half – the 1989 census gave a population of 44.438 while one conducted in 2002 came up with only 20.888 persons. n place of the departed Greeks, Georgians have been entering the territory from the 1950s onwards in several migratory waves. Lately, primarily as a result of soil erosion, avalanches and landslides, mainly the inhabitants of Svaneti and the mountainous parts of Ajara have come to settle themselves in the houses deserted by the Greek. On the part of the Armenians there has been some emigration too, though far from extensive, which has left them to reside in relatively mono-ethnic communities. According to a 2002 census the ethnic composition of the Tsalka area is the following. Georgians Azeris Armenians Greeks Russians 12.02% 9.54% 54.98% 21.97% 0.60% hese figures need to be treated with great caution though. There is a great likelihood that the actual percentage of Greeks is far lower – many houses and even villages that are still registered on Greek families have been abandoned. On the other hand, the percentage of Georgians is likely to be greater due to on-going migration and due to the fact that the migrants often unnoticed take their residence in former Greek houses. urrently, in comparison to other areas in Kvemo-Kartli, inter-group tensions seem to be most articulate in the Tsalka region, which in addition seems to be a place ‘forgotten’ by civil society and governmental organizations. "Typically conflicts have broken out between the original inhabitants (mainly Greeks and Armenians) and the newcomers (Georgians from Ajara and Svans) […].The Greek community feels particularly under pressure as most are elderly and unprotected, and therefore feel threatened by the influx of newcomers. Elderly Greek residents in one village claimed that new settlers from Ajara had been occupying their houses, stealing their land and livestock and even physically assaulting them". Also, there is a general fear from the side of the Greek and Armenians of a directed policy of "Georgianization" of the region through the instrument of resettlement (a popular policy in Soviet times). The incoming Georgians on their side claim experiencing difficulties in adapting to the new surroundings and circumstances. Several outbursts of violence between the various groups have been recorded over the preceding years. Just recently, in the beginning of March 2006 a fight took place between Armenian and Georgian inhabitants of the region. This unfortunate event resulted in several injuries and in the death of one Armenian young man. Partnership Approach The project is defined and promoted by: > Centro Studi Difesa Civile (CSDC - Civilian Defence Research Centre), Roma, Italy. The CSDC was founded in 1988 and since then has contributed to the development of social research on peace and security issues in Italy. Since the year 2000, CSDC members formed a cooperative enterprise, called "Mediazioni", to deal with operational, administrative and organizational aspects of training and communication activities. CSDC mission is the spreading of constructive conflict management tools to overcome intra and inter state tensions. CSDC operates in the fields of research and training to promote collaborations at a national and international level. Principal aims of the CSDC are: - to promote non armed civilian defence (or non violent popular defence); to analyze the transition from armed to non armed defence; to promote the research concerning non violent conflict management; to develop historical researches on non armed cases of Resistance. The CDSC working method is inspired by Gandhi’s principle that a seed is equivalent to a tree. > Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre (HRIDC), Tbilisi, Georgia. The HRIDC was founded in 1996 as a non-profit NGO in Tbilisi. The purpose of the organization is to defend human rights and basic freedoms in Georgia. The main priorities of HRIDC are: - to promote civil education and support the victims of human rights violations; to cooperate with local human rights organizations. The HRIDC has also organized training seminars for the empowerment of the NGO sector with participation of experts from the Council of Europe, the UN and other international organizations; to monitor human rights violations, studying the facts in cases of violations and spreading this information. The HRIDC also have a corresponding database and provides impartial information on human rights in Georgia to the Council of Europe, European Union, OSCE, UN. The HRIDC has established a Georgian-English on-line magazine and database at www.humanrights.ge which is daily updated and highlights the human rights situation in Georgia.