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Causes and consequences

Causes and consequences

Conflict-induced displacement

Under Soviet rule, nationality was separated from the concept of citizenship.4 This enabled members of ethnic minorities in the USSR to retain their national identity as well as their political status as Soviet citizens.

Ethnic conflict has been the single most important issue of conflict-induced displacement in Georgia's post-Soviet era. Regional ethnic distribution is the main cause of the problem. As Georgia broke away from the former USSR, conflict began as different ethnic regions began to make claims to sovereignty on the basis of national difference.

The international community identifies five areas of conflict in Georgia. These are: the Abkhazia region; the South Ossetia region; the Ajaria region; Javakheti province; and Pankisi Gorge. The autonomous regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia deserve some detailed attention because tension between these republics and Tbilisi continues.

Ajaria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia were incorporated into the Republic of Georgia during the Soviet era. After Georgia gained independence in 1991, there was armed conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia, and Georgia and South Ossetia. Georgia did not win these conflicts, but both republics failed to gain recognition or independence.

South Ossetia

South Ossetia has long wanted independence from Georgia, but the recent conflict began in 1989, when South Ossetia, fearing that its political autonomy would be eliminated and its cultural identity destroyed, challenged the government of Georgia. In 1989 the Georgian Supreme Soviet adopted a law to strengthen the position of the Georgian language. In December 1990 Gamsakhurdia's regime swiftly abolished South Ossetia's autonomous status within Georgia. In December 1991 Georgian troops entered South Ossetia, and the Ossetians responded by demanding reunification with the republic of North Ossetia, part of the Russian Federation. The fighting that followed claimed the lives of thousands of people. The conflict created tens of thousands of refugees on both sides of the Georgian/Russian border. It is estimated that 40,000 South Ossetians crossed into the Russian Federation and sought sanctuary with their ethnic kinsmen in the North Ossetian Autonomous Republic of Russia. Equal numbers of ethnic Georgians living in South Ossetia and ethnic Ossetians living in Georgia swapped places, and several thousand people were displaced within South Ossetia itself.

Yeltsin mediated a ceasefire in July 1992, and this was enforced by Ossetians and Georgian troops, together with a Russian peacekeeping force that was deployed to monitor the region. Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) attempted mediation, but the two sides remained intractable. In July 1993 the South Ossetian government declared negotiations over and threatened to renew large-scale combat, but the ceasefire held. In 1996 both sides agreed to renounce violence and seek a political solution. A peaceful solution to this conflict seems possible, but the government of Georgia has been unable to fulfil its commitments to the peace agreement due to economic difficulties.


Conflict in the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic of Georgia started because, like the Ossetians, Abkhazian feared that the Georgians would eliminate their political autonomy and discriminate against their language and culture. The Abkhaz and the Georgians have a long history of ill will due to the minority status of the Abkhaz within the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic, the result of Georgianization campaigns of the Soviet regime and, later, the Georgian government. By 1978 Moscow was dealing with Abkhazian demands for independence by allocating up to 67 per cent of party and government positions to the Abkhaz, despite the fact that, according to the 1989 census, 2.5 times as many Georgians as Abkhaz lived in Abkhazia. This unequal distribution of political and administrative positions favouring the Abkhaz was resented by the Georgian majority.

Tensions in Abkhazia have led to open warfare on a much larger scale than in South Ossetia. In July 1992 the Abkhazian Supreme Soviet voted to return to the 1925 constitution under which Abkhazia was separated from Georgia. In August 1992 a force of the Georgian National Guard was sent to the Abkhazian capital of Sukhumi with orders to protect Georgian rail and road supply lines, and to secure the border with Russia. The Abkhazian authorities viewed this as a transgression of their self-proclaimed sovereignty, and armed conflict followed. Hundreds were killed in the fighting and large numbers of refugees fled across the border into Russia or into other parts of Georgia. The Abkhazian government was forced to flee Sukhumi.

The Abkhaz have long viewed Russia as a protector of their interests against the Georgians. So, following the Georgian incursion of 1992, Abkhazians asked Russia to intervene and settle the issue. Allegations of Russian interference in the ethnic crisis in Georgia have coloured the relationship between the two countries. In September 1993 Abkhazian forces captured Sukhumi and drove the remaining Georgian forces out of Abkhazia. By 1993 there had been three failed ceasefires. Abkhazia and Georgia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1993, and a peace agreement in 1994. They were followed in 1994 by the deployment of 3,000 Russian peacekeeping troops, representing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), along the Inguri River on the Georgia/Abkhazia border. The Russian troops were deployed with the agreement of Abkhaz separatists. In 2001 the Georgian parliament passed a resolution to remove the CIS (Russian) peacekeeping force from Abkhazia. Since August 1993 there has been a UN Observer Mission (UNOMIG) in Abkhazia. At present its role is to promote a peace settlement in the region.

The agreements outlined above provide for a political solution but are paralysed by two main issues: the political status of Abkhazia and the mechanisms for repatriation of the displaced Georgians.5 In March 1998 local elections were held in Abkhazia, but due to ethnic clashes between Abkhazians and Georgians, the UN Security Council declared the vote illegitimate on the eve of the elections. By May 1998 ethnic hostilities had broken out in the Gali district, and since then the situation has remained fragile. The UN Special Representative for Georgia reported in July 1999 that the general situation in the conflict zone of Abkhazia remained calm but unstable.


The dispute between Ajaria and central government is political rather than ethnic. The leader in Ajaria, Abashidze, has increased the de facto autonomy of the region slowly and peacefully. This region has the advantage of a fairly strong economic base supported by its agricultural production. Abashdze's power derives from a controlled political base in Ajaria, a Russian military base, efficient local services and alleged financing from Russian sources. Finally, it is reported that Ajaria is developing closer links to Javakheti province with the aim of establishing a common coalition against the central authorities in Tbilisi. The two areas have closer political and economic relations with each other than both of them have with Tbilisi. According to a USAID conflict assessment, a coalition between both ethnic groups is unlikely to happen due to religious differences. Furthermore, as the political and economic situation in Georgia stabilizes, Adjaria's importance as an independent power base will in time be reduced.


Javakheti province is an area of concern to the central government of Georgia on two major counts. First is the question of the Meskhetian Turks who originated from the north-western part of the province. The second issue is that the central government authorities' control of Javakheti province is weak. Armenians make up 90 per cent of the province's population and have strong ties to Armenia. The Armenians are politically organized under an umbrella group called Javakhk - its offical aim is the preservation of Armenian cultural heritage. The situation in the region is precarious due to the existence of a radical nationalistic group called Virk (which emanated from Javakhk) and because of the existence of paramilitary groups.

Meskhetian Turks

For Georgia the return of the Meskhetian Turks has been a critical issue since 1989 when the Turks became the targets of pogroms in Uzbekistan. The majority of them fled and became refugees in various countries in the region. The Council of Europe is concerned with the question of the repatriation of Meskhetian Turks, and this was one condition for Georgia's admittance to membership of the council. The condition remains unfulfilled though Georgia became a member of the Council of Europe in April 1999. Georgia is resisting the return of the Meskhetian Turks because of fears concerning the ethnic composition of Javakheti province and the reactions of the province's ethnic Armenians, who are traditionally considered anti-Turk. Another reason put forward by Georgia is economic difficulties. Finally, there is th issue of whether Meskhetian Turks want to be repatriated. This is difficult to assess. A document produced by the Council of Europe recommended conducting a survey to determine the precise number, needs, and intentions of displaced Meskhetian Turks throughout the territory of the former Soviet Union concerning resettlement (1998). In Azerbaijan and Ukraine, Meskhetian Turks have been granted citizenship, thus promoting their legal integration.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
Institute for War and Peace
US Department of State
UN Human Rights System
The Dynamics and Challenges of Ethnic Cleansing: The Georgia-Abkhazia Case By Catherine Dale, August 1997
USAID/CAUCASUS Georgia Strategic Plan 2000/2003. USAID 1999
Norwegian Refugee Council. Global IDP Project

Internally displaced persons: numbers and location

Numbers: Government figures (January 2001)
Total 272,101
Female 150,270
Male 121,500
Locations: UNHCR figures (26 January 2001)
Ajaria 7,946
Guria 587
Imereti 33,234
Kakheti 1,294
Kvemo Kvartli 11,185
Shida Kartli 9,364
Mtskheta-Mtianeti 1,292
Racha-Lechkhumi 1,364
Samegrelo 114,178
Samtskhe-Javakheti 2,977
Tbilisi 88,680

In Georgia there is a Ministry for Refugees. Its resource data on IDPs is used by national and international organizations (Dale 1997).


There are around 7,000 refugees from Chechnya living in Georgia. The refugees are concentrated in the Pankisi Gorge region and the majority (80 per cent) live with local families, most of whom are ethnic Chechens. The UNHCR local office in the town of Ahmeta remains open. The World Food Programme provides food rations for refugees.

Georgia does not have an effective law concerning refugee settlement or the granting of political asylum, in accordance with the principles of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. There is a Georgian-style asylum law, passed in 1998, which does not fully comply with international standards.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2002 Global Report 2001 - Strategies and Activities (Geneva: UNHCR)
Assistance Georgia Demographic Data for IDPs provided by the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation. January 2001

Internally displaced people: needs and responses

For humanitarian organizations such UNHCR the situation in Georgia is particularly problematic. On the one hand, the civilians, such as the South Ossetians, who fled across the border to Russia are internationally recognized as refugees - people who have sought refuge in another country. The large majority of people involved in this conflict zone, on the other hand, have been displaced within Georgia, their country of nationality, and are therefore classified as internally displaced people. Thus, Georgians are subject to different sets of rules and standards on the part of the aid agencies depending on whether they are recognized as refugees or internally displaced people. For UHNCR, Georgia is perhaps the only country in the world where the organization is involved in two simultaneous but separate ongoing conflicts.

Abkhazian conflict

The Abkhazian conflict has resulted in the movement of several different ethnic populations in various ways.


Georgians are certainly the largest group affected by the war in Abkhazia. The vast majority of Georgians who were living there left and settled in other parts of Georgia, while others fled to Russia. It is estimated that by 1997 there were around 140,000-150,000 internally displaced Georgians in Georgia (Dale 1997). Other sources put the number of Georgians that were uprooted in the 1992-3 Abkhazia war to more than 250,000.

There are large numbers of Georgian IDPs settled in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Zugdidi, and they tend to live in close proximity to one another. This is particularly true for the 40-50 per cent of IDPs living in collective centres. Collective centres accommodate IDPs in empty administrative buildings, such as schools, hotels, tourist camps, etc. The IDP residents of most collective centres come from various districts in Abkhazia, and here a pattern emerges. For instance, the IDP population from Zugdidi tends to come from the adjacent Gali district, and Kutaisi has a large number of IDPs from the Ochanshire district. Dale (1997) concludes that the pattern of settlement of IDPs throughout Georgia works to create a relatively bounded and identifiable population.

In April 1994 an agreement was signed on the Voluntary Return of Refugees and Displaced Persons under the auspices of the United Nations, the Russian Federation, UNHCR, and the parties to the conflict. According to UNHCR (2000) an estimated 40,000 Georgian IDPs had spontaneously returned to the Gali district of Abkhazia. It should be noted, however, that the Gali region - one of the most fertile in Georgia - is now considered one of the most militarily dangerous areas in the country. Parts of the area are no-man's land, often too dangerous to travel through by road, and mine fields are widespread. Dale (1997) has made the important point that people were returning to places which they could flee from quickly should the fighting start again. Returnees are in a highly vulnerable position and until now the pattern of return has been seasonal, that is IDP returning home in times of planting and harvesting, but not to settle permanently.

In Georgia IDPs are in many ways organized separately from the local population. This is particularly true for those who live in collective centres rather than with friends and/or relatives outside these compounds. Unemployment tends to be higher among IDPs than among locals. Throughout Tbilisi IDPs have set up improvised fruit and vegetable markets. Those who work also tend to sell cheap Russian cigarettes at these markets. The government pays an IDP pension which by 1997 was less than $7 per month (Dale 1997).

Specific needs such as housing have led IDPs to mobilize, including the organization and staging of a protest, which drew the attention of the authorities and NGOs. Many separate schools have been established for IDP children, complete with IDP teachers. Examples are the First Secondary School in Zugdidi and the Sixth Secondary School in Kutaisi. The intention seems to be twofold: to limit contact between IDP children and local children, and to prepare the IDP children for their return (Dale 1997).

The IDP population has ties to an official political structure, the Abkhaz Government in Exile. The cities of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Zugdidi have a double significance for IDPs. These cities have become the focal points of political organizations linking IDPs to the government in exile, and they are also economic centres for the displaced. The IDPs in Georgia reflect political and economic patterns which help to divide them from the rest of the population as a group and geographically to reorient the population towards Abkhazia.


The Abkhaz did not leave the territory of Abkhazia but experienced substantial internal displacement both during and after the war. After the war, many Abkhaz returning home found themselves unable to do so due to the scale of destruction of living space and economic infrastructure that had taken place. In fact, some parts of Abkhazia are simply depopulated, as is the case with the industrial city of Tkvarcheli, whose pre-war population of 22,000 has been reduced to about 8,000 due to the total collapse of industry, and communication and transportation networks (Dale 1977). The other phenomenon is that many urban dwellers have left cities for rural areas to work the land and produce food. And where rural homes and villages have been destroyed, Abkhaz have left for the cities.

Dale (1997) points out that the solutions Abkhaz have found in order to survive in the post-war setting involve subsistence agriculture, not sustainable incomes, and temporarily occupied housing, not reconstruction.

Other official nationalities affected by the war were the Greeks, Russians, and Armenians. Greece evacuated the entire Greek population of Abkhazia (around 15,000). Most of the Russian and Armenian populations, consisting of about 75,000 people in each case, seem to have left for Russia.

International organizations, particularly UNHCR, faced a difficult, highly politicized scenario. On the one hand, Georgian officials argue that the failure of international organizations to repatriate the displaced is deliberate unwillingness to recognize a clear case of ethnic cleansing. On the other hand, Abkhaz officials argue that UNHCR's sole purpose is to repatriate all IDPs without any concern for the social, economic, or political consequences of such a programme (Dale 1997).

South Ossetian conflict

In this conflict South Ossetians and Georgians switched places: entire all-Georgian villages in South Ossetia headed for the Georgian control areas, while South Ossetians living in Georgia moved back to South Ossetia. At the same time, several thousand people were displaced within South Ossetia itself. The situation in this region is calmer than in Abkhazia, and this may have contributed to the return of several thousand refugees from across the border in Russian and some IDPs from Georgia proper. UNHCR and other agencies are helping with the reconstruction of homes, protection work, and medical care, and are providing other assistance to facilitate the return process. There are still many problems to be resolved, for example property disputes, but the main reason blocking the return of most IDPs is fear of a repeat of the ethnic violence of the early 1990s.

In general, the situation of IDPs is very difficult. The Georgian government and the South Ossetian and Abkhaz regions are too poor to support their displaced populations in any way other than by providing token support. Lack of adequate shelter is a major problem. Many IDPs have lived for years in squalid collective centres and have few rights. IDPs find it difficult to access health care, which aggravates the effects of poor living conditions. In some regions, such as Abkhazia, health care facilities have seriously deteriorated. In Georgia proper IDPs have neither the right to vote nor the freedom to start their own businesses. The most vulnerable, such as the sick, the elderly, and the disabled, rely almost entirely on food parcels and other basic items provided by international agencies. Until recently, the attention of government and international organizations has been mainly directed towards Tbilisi and the places in western Georgia (e.g. Zugdidi) where the majority of IDPs from the Abkhaz and Ossetian conflicts have settled. More recently, some developmental work is taking place in areas of potential conflict such as Javakheti in south Georgia. Some humanitarian agencies are concentrated in particular regions - for example, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which works primarily in Abkhazia. Security constraints affect the delivery of humanitarian assistance, particularly in western Georgia (Abkhazian border).

Assistance Georgia
Norwegian Refugee Council. Global IDP Project
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Georgia Briefing Notes on South Ossetia 2001
U.S. Department of State 2001, Georgia Country Report on Human Rights Practices -2000, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2001
World Food Programme (WFP), 1999, Emergency Food Assistance for Internally Displaced Persons and Other Vulnerable Groups in Georgia
The Dynamics and Challenges of Ethnic Cleansing: The Georgia-Abkhazia Case By Catherine Dale, August 1997

Internal legal framework

The current constitution of Georgia does not address some critical issues relating to the ongoing conflicts in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These issues are territorial arrangements, decentralization, and local government. These are considered too politically sensitive to be dealt with. The constitution does envisage eventual political settlement in the separatist regions. Following this, the Georgian parliament will be transformed into a bicameral body consisting of a Council of the Republic and a Senate, the latter representing the various territorial units of Georgia, such as Abkhazia and Ajaria. The constitution has a firm stand on secession movements, affirming in its second article that 'the alienation of the territory of Georgia' is forbidden.

Chapter 2 of the constitution is devoted to provisions for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as they can be found in international human rights instruments: for example, 'torture, inhumane, brutal or degrading treatment or punishment is impermissible' (article 17) and 'every individual has the right to freedom of speech, thought, conscience, religion and belief' (article 19). Article 6 states that international treaties or agreements reached with and by Georgia take precedence over domestic normative acts as long as they do not contradict the constitution of Georgia.

The Constitution of Georgia, English version
Georgian Parliament Homepage

International legal framework

Georgia is a state party to the following international conventions:
Convention Date
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) May 1994
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) May 1994
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) May 1994
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990) June 1994
Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (1979) October 1994
Convention on the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) October 1993 (ratified)
Convention on the Non-applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity (1968) May 1995
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) October 1994 (ratified)
European Convention of Human Rights May 1999

Georgia is inter alia not state party to the following conventions:

the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless

the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination

The 1952 Convention on the Political Rights of Women.

Georgia Parliament Homepage
The Constitution of Georgia, English version

Disaster-induced displacement

Earthquakes and landslides in mountainous areas present a significant threat to life and property. Among the most recent natural disasters were massive rock and mud slides in Ajaria in 1989, which displaced thousands in south-western Georgia, and two earthquakes in 1991, which destroyed several villages in north-central Georgia and South Ossetia.

The last earthquake took place on 25 April 2002 in the capital Tbilisi, but did not provoke large-scale displacement. Victims included many IDPs living in the capital who were relocated due to unsafe dwellings. Urgent relief needs, such as food, tents, beds, clothes, hygiene kits, etc., were identified and the Disaster Management Team (DMT) distributed emergency relief aid to victims.

International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
International Federation of the Red Cross

Development-induced displacement

Development-induced displacement, which may result from initiatives such as dams, urban renewal, transportation projects, national parks, and so on, does not seem to account for any significant displacement of people in Georgia. One of the most important development projects currently taking place is the construction of the oil pipeline from Azerbaijan and Central Asia to a port on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. This project may attract migration to the construction sites, rather than cause displacement. Many of those who will seek work will be IDPs.

US Department of State
Eurasia Organization

Human rights

The new constitution of 1995, which provides for an independent judiciary, the creation of democratic institutions such as the office of public defender (ombudsman), and a separate constitutional court, provides the foundations for the protection of human rights in the country. However, the legal instruments to protect human rights in Georgia have not led to significant changes in practice (e.g., Amnesty International Annual Report on Georgia 1999, US State Department Country Report on Georgia 2002). Human rights protection has been hindered in post-Soviet Georgia by political and military emergencies, and by the existence of semi-independent military forces. International human rights organizations have limited access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Consequently, there is little information on the human rights situation in these regions.

Both sides of the Abkhazian conflict claimed military abuses of civilian rights on the part of their opponents. Among the charges were abuse of military prisoners, taking civilian hostages, and shelling and blockading civilian areas. In 1993 the Shevardnadze government began addressing claims of human rights abuse against its military and police. In the case of the Abkhazian conflict, the challenge for the Georgian government is to tread the line between necessary wartime controls and the need to protect human rights.

During the 1992/3 fighting both Georgians and Abkhazian laid tens of thousands of landmines. The 2000 Landmine Monitor Report stated that in 1999 and 2000 this activity was continued by Georgian groups allegedly connected to the Georgian government.

In January 1993 the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights and Ethnic Minority Affairs formed the Council of Ethnic Minorities, which met with representatives of the Meskhetian urk exile population to resolve the grievances of that group. At the same time, the Interethnic Congress of the People of Georgia was formed to improve ethnic Georgians' appreciation of minority rights.

In 1996 a decree was issued authorizing the return of 1,000 Meskhetian Turks per year for five years. The decree has never been implemented, and to date the few hundred Meskhetian Turks who have returned are still illegal immigrants. In Georgia there is official and public opposition to their return, probably due to fear of a violent reaction on the part of the ethnic Armenian inhabitants of the Samtske-Javakheti region.

The 2002 annual report of the US Department of State identified several areas where human rights records remain poor or have worsened. These include serious irregularities in the October 1999 parliamentary elections and the April 2000 presidential elections. Security forces continued to beat and otherwise abuse detainees, to force confessions, and to fabricate or plant evidence. Several deaths in custody were blamed on physical abuse, torture, or inhuman or life-threatening prison conditions. Some reform of the prison system is taking place. Arbitrary arrest and detention continues. The press has generally been free, but on occasion security forces have intimidated and used violence against journalists. There is limited information available on the human rights situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia due to problems in accessing these regions. Corruption at different levels of society is pervasive and still remains significant within the law enforcement agencies.

Amnesty International Annual Report on Georgia 1999
Civil Georgia On-line Magazine,67349,
U.S. Department of State 2002, Georgia Country Report on Human Rights Practices -2001, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

National security and international support

One main issue that colours Georgian/Russian relations, notwithstanding Georgia's independence in 1991, is the perceived threat of Russification to Georgian national identity. Despite this, Georgia and Russia have had close links. In 1993 Shevardnadze appealed to the Russians for military assistance when the Republic of Georgia was in serious danger of disintegration, and at its weakest because of the advance of Gamsakhurdia's rebel forces in western Georgia and the defeat of Georgian troops in Abkhazia. Russian military and technical assistance helped to bring an end to hostilities on the part of Gamsakhurdia's forces.

More recently, following the events of 11 September 2001, Georgia has entered into military partnership with the USA. The Georgian Training and Equipment Program (GTEP), which was officially launched in Tbilisi on 27 May 2002, is an extension of the ongoing cooperation between Georgia and the USA. Georgia has received $100 million in aid and ten Huey helicopters. The main area of concern for both parties is the Pankisi Gorge, which is affected by the anarchy of neighbouring Chechnya.

Civil Georgia On-Line Magazine< link>
Library of Congress Country Studies
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Religious minorities

Georgia experiences problems with discrimination and harassment of some religious minorities, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, the New Apostolic Church, and Hare Krishnas. The Georgian Orthodox Church has lobbied parliament and the government for laws that would grant it special status and restrict the activities of missionaries from 'non-traditional' religions. There are no laws that require the registration of religious groups, unless they are involved in charitable work.

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)
UN Human Rights System 1999, Georgia Thematic Reports
U.S. Department of State 2002, Georgia Country Report on Human Rights Practices -2001, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor


Two main problems affect the rights of women in Georgia: violence and/or discrimination against them, and trafficking in women for the purpose of forced prostitution. There are no laws that specifically criminalize spousal abuse or violence against women. Domestic violence continues to rise, and women are reportedly discriminated against in the workplace, with many employers withholding gender-specific payments such as maternity benefit. Trafficking in women for forced prostitution is a feature of organized crime. Women, primarily Georgian women, are taken from Georgia to Turkey, Greece, Israel, and Western Europe. Women from Russia and the Ukraine have been taken through Georgia to Turkey. The government programme to combat violence against women, including measures to eliminate trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation, has not been implemented due to financial limitations. Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in combating trafficking and helping the victims. In 2000 the NGO Women Aid Georgia launched a public information campaign to educate women about the dangers of trafficking.

The economic effects of forced migration among displaced women who have fled Abkhazia and South Ossetia have led to changes in gender roles. Women have tended to adapt more readily to their new situation as displaced persons than men and have become the main household earners. They work on tea plantations and farms, or as market traders or sellers on street corners. Many of those who have crossed the border into the Gali region of Abkhazia to tend family farms abandoned during the conflict are women. Prior to displacement 72 per cent of women were fully employed, but in 1999 60 per cent were formally unemployed. IDP women are beginning to set up organizations to care for the specific needs of IDPs.

IDP Project Norwegian Refugee Council
U.S. Department of State 2002, Georgia Country Report on Human Rights Practices -2001, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Women Aid International

Civil society organizations in Georgia

With considerable assistance from USAID and other international donors, civil society organizations have mushroomed in Georgia since the mid-1990s. In 1995 there were four NGOs in Georgia. By 2000 this sector had grown to more than 3,000. According to international experts, however, most of these NGOs are in the initial stage of their development. They are having to cope with a lack of knowledge, skills, and experience of NGO work. Only a handful have reached the level of experience, organizational strength, and professional performance to have a tangible impact on their target groups. Recently, the State Ministry (Chancellery of the President) established the Department for Political Parties and Non-governmental Organizations. It is responsible for the promotion and coordination of relationships between NGOs and governmental bodies.

Most of the Georgian NGOs were originally located in the capital Tbilisi. In the last couple of years, and due to international agencies' initiatives in rural areas, there has been an emergence of local NGOs. They face particular problems, such as the availability of support and their acceptance by local state authorities. In general, in most of the country NGO work is still practically unknown.

Most Georgian NGOs work in the fields of environmental issues, human rights, and civil society building, as well as on social and educational issues. One main problem for the work of NGOs in Georgia is related to the role of the third/independent sector; the idea of civil society is still hardly understood.

Three Georgian NGOs often referred to in the development literature are: the Centre for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG); the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA); and the Farmers' Coordination International Centre (FCCI), formerly the International Centre for Coordination of Farmers' Education and Training (ICCFE).

Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD)
Open Society - Georgia Foundation
International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA)
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

International organizations


UNHCR is present in Georgia in six locations. The main office is in Tbilisi, and smaller offices exist in the towns of Zugdidi, Gali, and Sukhumi (north-west). It also has two mobile teams in the north, based in Tskhinvali and Gori. UNHCR's programme in Georgia consists of activities relating to IDPs and returnees, the capacity building of authorities, and the establishment of a legal framework for the repatriation of the Meskhetian Turks. Georgia is perhaps the only country in the world where UNHCR is involved in two simultaneous but separate ongoing conflicts, and where the organization is directly involved in peace negotiations to end these crises. In addition, it works to assist displaced civilians both as refugees (those who fled to Russia) and IDPs (the majority who remained inside Georgia).

The European Union

Tacis is a specific programme of the European Union (EU) for the Caucasus region. Tacis activities are concentrated into six areas: institutional, legal, and administrative reforms; private sector and economic development; the consequences of change in society and infrastructure networks; environmental protection; the rural economy; and nuclear safety. Funding is allocated through national country programmes: regional programmes and small-project programmes. Georgia received a grand total of 332.6 million Euros for the period between 1992-2000. The focus of EU assistance to Georgia has shifted from humanitarian assistance to promoting trade and investment. It is also involved in rehabilitation of conflict areas by promoting regional cooperation and by linking assistance levels to progress in conflict resolution.

The International Monetary Fund

In January 2001 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a three-year loan of about $141 million to support the Georgian government's new Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Programme for 2001-2003.

The World Bank and other agencies

The World Bank has implemented sixteen large projects and allotted $567 million since 1994. Early in 2002 it began to prepare its FY02-04 Country Assistance Strategy for Georgia, after having decided to continue financial support.

The World Bank, IMF, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have been working on the macroenvironment in areas such as economic restructuring, the policy and institutional reform needs of the social safety net, health reform, and education. The UN, EU, and a number of bilateral donors (such as USAID, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy) have worked on various aspects of local community development.

The World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the EU, and USAID among others, are assisting parliament and the judiciary in implementing internal reforms. UNDP, for instance, assists with civil service reform and other improvements aimed at eliminating the permissive climate and opportunities for corruption.

The World Bank focuses on municipal infrastructure development, which should improve economic conditions in key municipalities over the strategy period. Other donors fill equally valuable niches. For example, the UNDP is prominent in its support of Georgian think-tank publications which enrich current political analysis, and Great Britain gives support for tailored skills training in journalism.

Regarding the targeting of assistance, a key problem is that the most vulnerable populations have not been identified and kept track of (USAID 2000). Former Soviet social categories such as pensioners or multi-child families were initially used to target assistance, but proved unreliable.

The EU, UNDP, Great Britain, Germany, the British Know-How Fund, the Soros Foundation, and other private foundations have been active in their support of civil society and citizen participation. Local government strengthening is a new area in which international agencies (e.g., the EU, UNDP, and USAID) are starting to develop programmes.

The primary components for assistance are the same as for Azerbaijan: the assistance of communities in their transition from relief to longer-term development by encouraging self-sufficiency, especially in potentially volatile regions of the country and/or among the most vulnerable groups. In addition, international humanitarian agencies continue to maintain the capacity to respond to emergencies, should they arise.

A number of programmes are encouraging and supporting the process of dialogue between conflict groups in the Caucasus region. One example was the Georgian-Abkhaz meeting on environmental problems organized by LINKS in Turkey on 9-10 April 1999.

Last updated Aug 17, 2011