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 Program Resume - VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES IN THE CAUCASUS REGION (LINKS)

 Duration: 31.05.1998 - present
 Location: Baku
 Sectors: Community development

VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES IN THE CAUCASUS REGION

NATIONAL MINORITIES, REFUGEES AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS IN THE CAUCASUS

The 'Vulnerable Communities in the Caucasus Region' programme is currently LINKS/Caucasus Links' largest area of work and brings together a number of projects focusing on national minorities, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The programme is launched in June 1998 and is currently funded by European Union through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human rights and the UK National Lottery Charities Board.

National minorities, refugees and IDPs are the most vulnerable parts of society throughout the Caucasus. The programme highlights their problems and advocates their rights. We understand that such objectives are not short of controversy. Majorities in these countries have legitimate concerns as well. The political agenda of vulnerable groups, particularly IDPs and minorities, has on many occasions been hijacked by extremists. The purpose of the programme is not to exacerbate this situation, but rather to bring the political debate on these issues to a higher qualitative level: working with both majorities and minorities, with refugees and permanent residents. Despite its advocacy dimension the programme is therefore also aimed at building confidence between the different nationalities and communities in the Caucasus.

The 'Vulnerable Communities in the Caucasus' programme has four different focuses:

Improving the level and quality of debate on the subject matter

Discussions on current issues related to minorities, refugees and IDPs in the Caucasus is usually highly charged and full of emotion. At best this hinders debate and dialogue, and at worst instigates conflict even outright war. LINKS/Caucasus Links programme aims first and foremost to improve the level and quality of the debate on national minorities, refugees and IDPs in the Caucasus through conferences, seminars and publications.

Since this is not solely an advocacy programme, we seek to work not only with leaders and representatives of the target groups but also with governments and leaders of majorities with whom they interact.

Capacity Building

A key role for the programme is capacity building of the different stakeholders. On the one hand these are first and foremost the vulnerable communities themselves, their leaders and organisations. Yet this is only half the story. In the present situation of transition in the Caucasus, governments and political leaders of the majority communities, as well as ruling elites, are themselves trying to define policies on such issues as national minorities and refugees. Interacting with this sector is therefore essential for our programme to be successful. This period transition, in a sense, also offers a unique opportunity to influence policy at a time when new countries are defining themselves and their position in the world.

The capacity building dimension of the programme provides training for NGOs from vulnerable groups, as well as workshops for officials and parliamentarians for small groups particular organizations.

LINKS/Caucasus Links has also found that one of the best ways of increasing the capacity of organisations, institutions and individuals is through the joint organisation of activities. Our main activities are therefore organised in collaboration with local partners be they other NGOs, parliaments or governments.

Increasing awareness

A key objective of the programme is to increase awareness of the background and issues surrounding national minorities, refugees and IDP communities in the region. This is done both locally, where much prejudice and inherent hostility on many occasions blurs the suffering, concerns and aspirations of vulnerable groups, and also at the international level where many issues connected with the Caucasus have either been completely neglected or relegated to the realm of generalities. LINKS/Caucasus Links offers a platform and a framework for community leaders to air their view.

In order to help with the flow of information on the issues covered by the programme, a number of resource centres are being set up enabling researchers to have access to a variety of publications and documents that are otherwise difficult, or sometimes impossible to find.

Networking

The programme seeks to assist networking by groups interested in issues affecting vulnerable communities in the Caucasus.



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