UNDP Helps Georgia Overcome Impact of Conflict
New York — Six months after warfare in Georgia displaced tens of thousands, and caused widespread social and economic disruption, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) continues to help local authorities restore livelihoods, repair infrastructure, and provide basic social services. Early recovery efforts, set in motion already in September 2008, barely six weeks after the ceasefire, have provided timely assistance to farming villages before the onset of winter. These activities are now set to expand, thanks to Euro4.5 million in fresh funding from the European Union (EU).
Assistance to farmers in the Shida Kartli region.
November 2008 (Photo: UNDP/David Khizanishvili)
In the weeks immediately following the hostilities, the pressing humanitarian challenge of providing food and shelter to the displaced and vulnerable was the focus of the UN response. Most of the 190,000 people who fled the fighting have since returned to their homes, however, and the Georgian Government has built temporary housing for the 30,000 people (mainly from South Ossetia) who remain displaced.
As the humanitarian crisis eased, UNDP sought to help Georgia address the longer-term challenge of restoring livelihoods and improving the delivery of public services in conflict-affected regions. Early efforts focused on the Shida-Kartli region, which borders separatist South Ossetia. Drawing on US$1.2 million of internal funds earmarked for crisis response, UNDP’s project “Fostering Sustainable Transition and Early Recovery,” also known as FOSTER, aims to ensure food security, repair infrastructure, and help local authorities provide needed public services.
The results are already tangible. In Shida-Kartli, FOSTER has benefitted some 10,000 people by rehabilitating 12 critical facilities, including school buildings, and municipal offices, and repairing drainage and water pipes. At the same time, in an effort to provide skills to those left jobless by the conflict, FOSTER has worked with the University of Gori to design and deliver short training courses in masonry, painting, plumbing, and other construction trades.
As jobs in agriculture are the dominant occupation in the conflict-affected regions, the project has also sought to help farmers who had lost their harvests, and often livestock, orchards, and equipment, put a new crop into the ground before winter. By the end of 2008 UNDP had provided seeds, plowing, and other services to enable 1,100 farming families to sow winter wheat crops, restoring a vital source of income.
The conflict left many residents of conflict-affected areas with a lingering sense of insecurity and vulnerability. To help address human rights concerns, UNDP helped to extend the services of the Public Defender’s office to the Shida Kartli region, and provided support to the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Aid service. UNDP also supported the creation of a regional Gender Equality Resource Center in Gori.
“UNDP pays particular attention to the effective functioning of national and local institutions in the region. They are critical for recovering from the conflict and for providing public services to the affected population,” said Robert Watkins, UNDP Resident Representative in Georgia. “Our goal is to handle the immediate needs of people and to ensure smooth transition to long-term development following recovery.”
UNDP now aims to build on these achievements to expand recovery activities, both more broadly in Shida-Kartli and in two other conflict-affected regions: Mtskheta-Mtianeti, east of South Ossetia, and Samegrelo, adjacent to Abkhazia. These efforts, supported by Euro4.5 million in EU funding, will help construct a bridge from crisis to development by rebuilding infrastructure, providing vocational training to the jobless, and expanding microfinance programs to promote the creation of small businesses.
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For more information about UNDP’s work in Georgia, please visit http://www.undp.org.ge/