Since Georgia’s independence in 1991, an estimated number of more than 370,000 people have been displaced by several waves of armed conflict, first in what is now the self-declared autonomous region of South Ossetia and then the self-declared autonomous region of Abkhazia. The most recent conflict occurred in August 2008 between Georgia and the Russian Federation over South Ossetia. While the fighting quickly ended and negotiations continue, all of these armed conflicts remain unresolved and the return of IDPs is generally impeded.
In 2013, the Government of Georgia requested technical assistance from UNHCR regarding the protection of the housing, land and property (HLP) rights of IDPs. UNHCR asked Displacement Solutions to undertake a field mission in September 2013 to assess the current situation, especially regarding the archive of IDP HLP claims collected as part of the government’s “My House” project. That mission report was prepared by DS consultant Khaled Hassine, and concluded that work was needed to ensure that all these HLP claims were verified through, if necessary, the collection of additional information and documentation. The report concluded that a rigorous and transparent process of claims verification would make it more likely that the IDP’s HLP rights will be recognized in any future restitution process.
As a follow-up to this initial mission, also with UNHCR backing, DS consultant Chris Huggins undertook a mission to Georgia in May to work with the Ministry for IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia (MRA) to devise a results-oriented Action Plan for HLP restitution claims protection. The Action Plan indicates clear sub-activities, as well as the actors involved, kinds of expertise needed, the approximate duration of the activities, the kinds of resources necessary, and the outputs that would be expected. The document also identifies useful sources of information, particular challenges, or related examples from other countries.
The Minister for IDPs himself was directly involved in meetings about the Action Plan. Additional meetings were held with key stakeholders to gage the level of support for the key ideas in the plan, and to build support as much as possible. An Action Plan was submitted to the MRA at the conclusion of the mission, and Displacement Solutions will continue to advise the Ministry on a part-time basis for the remainder of 2014.