The Resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict: People's Voices

2006 - 2010

Very few initiatives have brought together Armenians and Azeris around the table of discussions on the resolution of Nagorno Karabakh (NK) conflict since ever. Such initiatives are usually limited to conferences and meetings held in a third country resulting in personal relations among Armenians and Azeris, the participants of these events. As a result of such interaction, the most difficult issues on the conflict are being passed over in silence. Meanwhile, the most difficult issues do not vanish merely as one does not voice them. While the decision makers are engaged in effort to resolve the NK conflict at the negotiation table, the people seem to stay alienated from the issue that has vital impact on each and every family in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. People in both societies needed effective mechanisms to get their voices heard by those who led the negotiations and strike the deal.

One of the most effective mechanisms enabling people to speak loudly and being heard by the decision makers is the ICHD's Town Hall Meeting (THM) mechanism. We have used the THM mechanism to get the opinions and perspectives of the people in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) on peaceful resolution of the NK conflict first ever in 2006-2007.

Supported by the Embassy of the United Kingdom, ICHD conducted THMs in four towns of Armenia (Ijevan, Gavar, Kapan and Meghri) in February-March 2006 and other three in NKR (Stepanakert, Martuni and Martakert) in January 2007. About 430 women and men in Armenia and 300 in NKR: teachers and health professionals, young people and students, engineers and brokers, civil servants and entrepreneurs, the working and unemployed people, the combatants of the war, soldiers and officers, participated in the discussions and generated over 3000 messages. ICHD have facilitated the discussion around five scenarios of the resolution process including: the status quo; the one ending up with NK as a part of Azerbaijan with highest level of autonomy; the third driving the NKR to an independent state or to a part of Armenia; the fourth concluding with NK under international surveillance and postponed consideration of its status; and, the final one considering a delayed final resolution along with intermediary compromises and guarantees.

“Hey, folks, don’t you mind! Through these people our opinions will reach the President”, encouraged his peers one of the participants. As the heated debates evolved people expressed more and more ideas and arguments exposing their emotions, phobias and concerns, turning again and again to their values, stereotypes and beliefs and digging deeper and deeper into interests, arguments, positions and intentions. The outcomes of the first seven THMs resonated in the Armenian decision making circles.

The ICHD and its partner "Youth for Development", one of the leading civil society organizations in Azerbaijan, decided to recall the innovative instrument of the THM offering solutions and formats for the discussion: debate and dialogue on the resolution of the NK conflict in early 2008. The partners agreed to build on Armenian success story of 2006-2007, and engage societies in Armenia and Azerbaijan into a remote dialogue through implementing the THM mechanism. The initiative considered simultaneously engaging common citizens in conflicting societies into open discussions on possible scenarios of the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The partners also considered presenting the outcomes of the THM discussions to decision makers in both countries, as well as to bilateral and multilateral stakeholders. This would make them aware of the real opinions and expectations in both societies. This initiative also exposed the thinking and expectations of people in each society to people in the neighboring country.

The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Armenia has supported the initiative through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool. In the framework of a two-year project the partners in consultation with respective governments and civil society organizations have firstly developed four indicative scenarios of possible resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Further, each partner in Armenia and Azerbaijan has implemented ten THMs, as well as three THMs in the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, thus engaging thousands of people affected by the conflict in the discussion. The ICHD have developed a unique methodology for the analysis of the THM outcomes. The THM Results Analysis Methodology (THM/RAM) enabled turning the parallel discussions in two countries into a joint dialogue, as if the Armenians and Azeris have been in the same venue while discussing the issue.

The analysts of both institutions will prepare the comparative analysis of the THM outputs. The analysis will be published and presented to all stakeholders in mid-2010.



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