April 23, 2001
Teenagers learn skills to take to homeland
Alexandra Katsikis is an intern at the Carter Center.
Beset by ethnic and civil strife in their homeland, a group of 20 young people from both the Republic of Georgia and the region of Abkhazia came together at the Carter Center for three weeks in March to learn conflict resolution skillsand to teach others what they have learned.
Since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, the
Georgian government has faced an armed separatist conflict with the region
of Abkhazia, which is still recognized by the international community
as part of Georgia but which has its own government and is in negotiations
with Georgia for official recognition. Georgian families who fled Abkhazia
during the civil war in the early 1990s crossed the Caucasus Mountains,
settled in other parts of Georgia, and have been displaced since the end
of the war.
In connection with a project funded by the U.S. Agency for the International
Development (USAID), the Carter Center hosted the group of youth to teach
them conflict resolution techniques, which they may in turn share in their
home communities. Most of them had lost family members to the war and
other armed conflicts.
The teenagers learned basic conflict resolution skills with an emphasis
on how to train others. They participated in role-playing situations in
which they adapted the American style of training to their own culture,
said Susan Allen Nan, senior program associate of the centers conflict
The program gave them realistic hope and concrete ways to approach
problems in the future, Nan said. It was important that youth
from opposite sides of the conflict learn these skills together in order
to effectively support the resolution of the conflict in their communities.
We hope they will go home and tell their friends that the people
they thought were their enemies are actually real people, with real lives,
real families, and interests similar to their own, Nan continued.
Nana Kurashvili, a young woman from the city of Kutaisi, said, It
is important that the program is taking place at the Carter Center, which
is a world-renowned [nongovernmental organization] that is prestigious
and highly regarded in my country. Kurashvili felt the program will
help draw the attention of people in her community, and the skills she
learned will be very helpful.
Lasha Zantaria, a law student from the Black Sea port of Sukhumi, said
he has an obvious advantage over an outside negotiator because
he knows his peoples needs. Many external groups try to help resolve
conflicts, but most are far from gaining recognition from those directly
involved and, thus, accomplish little, he said.
Zantaria said the program was challenging, but after the extensive training
situations of conflict became easier to work through. Most importantly,
Zantaria said he wants to recognize and help others to recognize the importance
of open-mindedness in resolving conflicts.
The most important thing in resolving conflicts is tolerance, Zantaria said.
The most powerful aspect of this program is the fact that the youth will
return to their communities to teach the skills they learned. In addition,
they are going to lead Caucasus-wide peace dialogues with youth from other
conflicts in the region.
Yesterday we were students, Kurashvili said. Today we are teachers.