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