Within the framework of the Italian OSCE Chairmanship in 2018, one of the priorities was to maintain a high focus on protracted conflicts in Europe and their impact on the lives of the affected populations. In the context of Georgia, this meant addressing the practical consequences of the unresolved 2008 conflict and supporting mutual trust-building activities between divided communities.
In this context, Italy decided to financially support the initiative of ‘Rondine – Citadel of Peace’ aimed at promoting the management and preservation of cultural heritage and fostering cooperation on cultural issues between divided communities in Georgia with a Project entitled ‘Support to the Geneva International Discussions. Management and Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas’. The activities proposed by Rondine corresponded to Italy’s objectives as OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office, as they emphasized the mitigation of the impact of conflicts on the civilian population and, at the same time, the protection of cultural heritage. Italy has a rich tradition in terms of expertise and commitment, including at international level, to the protection of cultural heritage, a very important issue in the context of the South Caucasus.
The Conflict Prevention Centre – CPC of the OSCE provided the technical support for the preparation and implementation of the project, but the role of the association Rondine was crucial to the success of the initiative: Rondine is a civil society actor that works directly and informally in the field with civil society, especially with young people; moreover, the association has been engaged for many years with activities in the South Caucasus aimed at achieving peace and reconciliation through an informal and ‘bottom-up’ approach.
By involving and training young experts in cultural heritage, museology and related professions from communities in conflict areas in the South Caucasus, the project helped to increase mutual knowledge and trust between communities and to promote a common understanding of how to best integrate cultural heritage protection into conflict management. The participants, who benefited from the experience of professors and experts from all over the world, expressed their desire to continue and deepen this journey.
Both main ‘ingredients’ of this project (youth involvement and heritage protection) play a key role in creating a culture of peace, dialogue, justice, peaceful coexistence, trust and reconciliation.
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