Conflict analysis - Example: Participatory Editing of a Local Conflict Analysis: A Process Carried Out in Marneuli and Gardabani District
This Application Example provides an overview of an innovative approach to building consensus between the various parties involved in a Local Conflict Analysis. The Local Conflict Analysis (LCA) in question was conducted in the Marneuli and Gardabani districts of Georgia in 2003. The approach, dubbed the “Editing Process,” engaged local stakeholders in discussion of the conflict potentials identified by the LCA in a manner which promoted feelings of ownership and provided an opportunity for stakeholders to reach consensus on important issues.
Background on Local Conflict Analysis
The conflict analysis examined regional conflict dynamics resulting from the break up of the Soviet Union and the stresses of the subsequent transformation process, as well as the general dynamics of a multi-ethnic society.
While there are no open conflicts in the region, there are serious conflict potentials, which can be divided into two groups:
2) Discontent caused by unemployment, widespread emigration, and destroyed public infrastructure such as roads and irrigation systems.
A series of changes occurred throughout Georgia after the 2003 LCA was completed. The “Rose Revolution” of 2003 led to new elections and ultimately, a new government. As a result, it was in question whether the results of the LCA were still valid and useful or some aspects of the initial LCA report became dated. Additionally, those involved with the LCA wanted to make the report accessible and acceptable to the wider stakeholder community so it would not simply be shelved and forgotten. Whereas as under the previous regime the Editing Process would not have been possible, the Rose Revolution provided an opportunity to re-examine the LCA report and commence the participatory Editing Process.
The process of reviewing and updating the report was undertaken with two objectives:
Because the existing conflict potentials are multi-dimensional and ethno-politically complex, they were addressed gradually. Initially, identified conflict potentials were grouped according to their similar characteristic under several headings where related sub-topics were consolidated. The following three sectors were identified:
The Editing Process comprised the following steps:
Editing process on land distribution
The first topic selected for the Editing Process described here was land distribution, specifically the distribution of land in the context of the general economic reforms occurring in the post-communist society. This topic was selected because it was perceived to be the most acute problem in the region, causing estrangement between and within different layers of the population and the state authorities, including riots, clashes and general discontent. As the majority of the population in both regions is engaged in agriculture, it is natural that the land is the most vital resource for community.
From independence until 1996, government regulations created a border zone 21 kilometers wide in which the state reserved the right to control land resources. Control over the land in this zone was handed to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense, in turn, created military agrarian farms on these lands. In 1996, a new law was enacted which abolished these border zones. Under the new policy, land was available for rent on a competitive basis, a process which was controlled by local authorities.
Given the complexity of the land distribution issue, the variety of stakeholders involved, and the diversity of cultures in the regions, selection of appropriate local partners was critical. The partners selected had to serve as informal intermediaries between FRCS and the stakeholder community, be knowledge about local land issues, and capable of eliciting specific information regarding conflict potentials from respondents.
Because the Editing Process aims not just to produce a study of existing conflicts but to start a productive dialogue, the information provided should be as inclusive as possible. Respondents were selected to represent all different perspectives and to have a equal representation between the conflicting parties. Respondents were thus selected from formal power structures, such as local governments, and informal leaders, such as the Akhsakalis -- the respected elders who represent local population and articulate their concerns to governmental authorities. Also included were members of the aggrieved/disadvantaged population, who could not obtain land at all, and those who had no stake in the conflict but observed it from outsider’s perspective. The primary source of the information used in selecting respondents was local NGOs that operated in the region and worked on the issue concerned. Other stakeholders recommended during interviews were also included in the process.
Round table meeting
As mentioned above, one objective of the exercise was to create grounds for a constructive dialogue, which occurred at a round table meeting. All the stakeholders involved in the process were invited to the round table meeting. The stakeholders’ involvement in the process created a feeling of ownership which enabled them to speak more freely and comfortably with opposing parties to the conflict. It also helped create a respectful atmosphere among the participants. It should be noted, however, that civil society representatives and informal district leaders were initially reluctant to attend the meeting. Previous experience led them to believe that little could come from such meetings and that without the will of the central government, the problem could not be resolved. In some cases only after intense explanation of the purpose of the meeting their participation could be assured.
The agreement and discussion of the round table meeting were integrated into the final version of the analysis for publication and distribution to concerned parties and decision makers. At the end all stakeholders agreed that the paper was the most comprehensive one available on the subject. As they stated at the end it helped them to develop and understand additional aspects of the issue.