A shared statement by peacebuilders working in the South Caucasus
As peacebuilders working in the South Caucasus in an independent, non-governmental capacity, we have sought to support people affected by conflict in the region to overcome violent legacies, and develop peaceful, more constructive relations with each other, based on mutual understanding and respect.
Our collective experience demonstrates that, however protracted the conflicts can seem, progress can be made thanks to the efforts of officials and civil society representatives who engage in dialogue to promote peace and security and to improve the lives and economic wellbeing of people affected by conflict.
However, our experience also shows that language, names and symbols often lie at the heart of these conflicts, and that actions, particularly when taken unilaterally, can have unintended consequences that set back relations. Fragile trust is easily broken.
War memorials are of great significance: they remind us of the terrible cost of war and demand of us every effort to avoid violence in the future. Whilst the legacy of wars is inherently political, politicising war memorials does nothing to address the causes of violent conflict or to further the cause of reconciliation.
We are saddened that a memorial to people who lost their lives in Abkhazia has apparently been removed without prior consultation with all those who have an historical and emotional connection to it. We understand that no decision has been taken by East Ayrshire Council and call upon all concerned to reinstate it so that dialogue can then take place to find mutually-acceptable and appropriate ways to respect the memory of all victims of the violence of the early 1990s.
We urge all sides to respect the war dead, find constructive ways to address the legacies of the past, and work towards lasting peace in the region.
Andrew Nethercott - Conciliation Resources
Bruno Coppieters – Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Craig Oliphant – Peaceful Change Initiative
Doireann Cooney - Conciliation Resources
Jonathan Cohen - Conciliation Resources
Mira Sovakar – Conciliation Resources
Rachel Clogg – Conciliation Resources
Sabine Fischer – Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik
Sophia Pugsley – International Alert
Susan Allen – George Mason University
Thomas de Waal – Carnegie Europe