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South Caucasus Peace Initiative

Tbilisi Forum on Peacebuilding in Multicultural Societies

Tbilisi, Georgia - At the Sheraton Hotel in Tbilisi, UPF-Georgia held a Leadership Conference on “Peacebuilding in Multicultural Societies: The South Caucasus Peace Initiative.” The international event on May 31, 2012, gathered participants from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, France, Japan and USA.

The conference was timely since the situation in the conflict zones of the South Caucasus remains tense and dangerous. The tension threatens international peace and security, brings harm and suffering to the civilian population, and multiplies mutual animosity and hostility between parties involved in the conflict. Insufficient attention to the international and intercultural dimensions of these relationships leads to political and economic instability and consequently generates more conflicts and crises.

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The South Caucasus Peace Initiative event was chaired by the President of the Universal Peace Federation Dr. Thomas Walsh continuing his tour around the South Caucasus from Azerbaijan on to the capital of Georgia. In the course of his stay in Tbilisi, he gave an interview to the Georgian media, had meetings with Tata Khuntsaria, Deputy Public Defender of the Republic of Georgia; Dr. David Jalagania, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the nation; and Shota Malashkhia, Chairman of the Parliamentary Interim Commission on Territorial Integrity. Such served both as fact finding and partnership building measures for future cooperation.

Some 80 NGO leaders and academia gathered at the program to discuss the trends of social development in the South Caucasus region. Mrs. Dalila Khorava, President of the Georgian National Peace Council, opened the conference. She described the activities of the Ambassadors for Peace in the country as very important for the stability in South Caucasus. She stressed that it is of utmost importance to continue people-to-people diplomacy efforts in order to promote the culture of peace.

Among the speakers was Prof. Nodar Sarjveladze, Chairman of the Foundation for the Development of Human Resources. He made a presentation on the approaches and prospects in the sphere of interethnic relations in peacebuilding in the South Caucasus based on his numerous educational projects for the internally displaced people in the nation. The state governments are making important contributions to peace; however, they face serious limitations in their attempts to achieve mutual harmony and unity. From this he concluded that the establishment of a culture of peace requires the systematic and consolidated efforts of the entire society, especially the non-governmental sector.

Prof. Salome Kapanadze of Grigol Robakidze University spoke on the role of culture in the process of peace talks. She pointed out that tragic aspects of Georgian reality such as the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are matters for negotiations and still unsolved. In her opinion, there is a real stagnation on this end, but public diplomacy and cultural dialogue may have positive results. For evidence, she spoke about a number of cultural aspects and the importance of the conflict resolution process though cultural dialogue as a positive phenomenon. People in an atmosphere full of hate and dehumanization have to find solutions, and she asserted that the way to get down to the “temple of peace” is through art and literature. The artistic intimations of writers of various nationalities and ethno-psychologies focus the common idea that mankind must be devoted to the value of humanity, she said.

The participants of Tbilisi conference unanimously appealed to the governments of South Caucasus countries to use the global network of Ambassadors for Peace and people of good will who work to support the renewal and strengthening of the family as the most fundamental unit of society; encourage reconciliation and cooperation beyond traditional boundaries of religion, race, and ethnicity; and promote the ethic of "living for the sake of others" as the essential ingredient for building a world community. They can be the mediators, committed to the path of promoting reconciliation, overcoming barriers, and building peace.

Both Eiji Tokuno, Chairman of UPF-Eurasia, and Jacques Marion, Eurasian Secretary General, addressed the guests of the event representing the Ambassadors for Peace and Universal Peace Federation of Eurasia. They conveyed UPF’s message about the valuable role of families and schools in cultivating moral values and educating citizens in modern multicultural societies. They called upon communities to study the successful experiences of multicultural education in modern schools.

The participants adopted a resolution to affirm the importance of international and interreligious dialogue in overcoming mutual distrust and cultivating mutual understanding between nations and peoples based on universal values. In the name of this idea the participants called upon all who desire peace, mutual understanding, and cooperation in the South Caucasus to join this endeavor, including joint efforts of governments, parliaments, NGOs, businesses, and the private sector. Ambassadors for Peace reaffirmed their commitment to contribute to international efforts to resolve the ongoing problems in the region.

The conference was one of the outcomes of the academic and intercultural activities of UPF headed by Vitaly Maximov in the Republic of Georgia. To put the above ideas into practice, this UPF chapter is organizing a Religious Youth Service project to take place July 21-30. Youth of various ethnic groups and religious backgrounds, inspired by UPF’s family values and the importance of people-to-people dialogue, will convene in Zugdidi in the Samegrelo region of Georgia for a series of service and educational activities in order to promote peace in South Caucasus both in word and action.

For more information about UPF-Eurasia's South Caucasus Peace Initiative, click here.

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