From 2009 to 2016 inmedio cooperated with the Catholic University of North Rhine-Westphalia (KatHo) in a project funded by the program Conflict Prevention in South Caucasus of the German Academic Exchange Service. Seven workshops took place that brought together Armenian and Azerbaijani youth, University lecturers and NGO representatives. The joint conflict resolution training focused on the Nagorno-Karabakh situation, a so-called 'frozen' conflict that still runs the high risk of escalation, as demonstrated by the incidents in 2016. The two countries are officially at war and have a closed border with soldiers being shot by snipers at the line of contact every month. Over 200 people were killed in April 2016 during the biggest clashes since the 1994 ceasefire. The aftermath of the April clashes and their effect on both societies were at the center of the 2016 workshops.
Since 2018, in cooperation with the Civil Society Institute and the Humanitarian Research Public Union inmedio berlin has been working on the project ‘Reviving confidence among border villagers’. In November 2018 after preparatory seminars in Armenia and Azerbaijan, a group of 18 participants living in different villages close to the border/cease-fire-line, including individuals from Karabakh, were brought together in Berlin. They are particularly affected by the conflict – living under a constant security threat through exposure to snipers or the line of fire of military posts from the other side.
"When you celebrate a wedding we can hear it ... we just cannot attend"
This was one of the heart touching statements made by a participant. Only 400m lie between her village and the one on the other side of the closed border. The workshop contributed to empowering the villagers and helped them to cope with the constant security threat they face. Various ways how they could help each other to avoid unwanted escalation were discussed.
A lively discussion took off when the participants presented pictures from their everyday life. Sometimes issues were controversially discussed, but more often people began to laugh together, find commonalities, talk about a shared past, hopes or concerns for the future and started to tell personal stories. Participants told us that this was a crucial element for trust building. Here is the photobook that was created on that basis.
The project was funded by the German Federal Office. For 2019, inmedio, CSI and HRPU plan to train people from the border villages, NGOs and academia as dialogue facilitators who afterward implement small cross-border dialogue projects financed through micro-grants.
For more information, please contact Dirk Splinter (Splinterinmedio.de)