HL Deb 10 December 2003 vol 655 cc65-6WA
Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government: What initiatives they have supported to build democracy and civil society in the southern Caucasus. [HL25]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

The UK has done much to support the development of democracy and civil society in the south Caucasus. We have funded a number of initiatives both on a regional level and on a national level with each of the three countries.

On a regional level:

We have provided funding for the South Caucasus Parliamentary Initiative (SCPI), through the UK Global Conflict Prevention Pool. The SCPI is a framework for dialogue, contacts, exchange of views and joint analysis between parliamentarians from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The next meeting of the SCPI will take place in December in Scotland.

We will be funding a £2 million three-year project aiming to improve the prospects for a permanent settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The purpose of the project will be to improve understanding of the conflict among all stakeholders, to improve the conflict sensitivity of national and international actors in the region and to implement a number of activities which will contribute to the development of constituencies for peace in the region. A significant part of this project will focus on the development of civil society.

We have provided the OSCE with 10 per cent of the election observers in all rounds of the recent elections in each of the three countries.

On a national level:

We have supported a number of projects.

In Azerbaijan:

We sponsored the training of election officials in conjunction with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). We also sponsored the publication of an IFES guide to help observers to monitor the elections.

We co-funded an OSCE long-term observer to monitor the implementation of the unified election code in advance of the recent presidential elections.

Together with the Dutch Government, we funded the provision of transparent mobile ballot boxes.

We have sponsored a number of NGO resource centres aimed at strengthening civil society, particularly in the regions. The centres provide a focal point for NGOs and individuals to meet and discuss common problems and as a form of citizens' advice bureau for poorer citizens.

In Georgia:

Our approach to civic society building in Georgia has largely been concentrated on encouraging dialogue across the various conflict divides (e.g. study visits by Georgian/Abkhaz officials and politicians to Northern Ireland) and on developing the capacity of NGOs, journalists and other key groups to better address conflict-related issues so as to take responsibility for resolving them.

We also funded a Georgian NGO (The International Society for Fair Elections) to conduct a media campaign raising awareness of the democratic process.

In Armenia:

We contributed to a project to update the voters lists in key population areas for both the presidential and the parliamentary elections.

We contributed to the provision of transparent ballot boxes for the parliamentary elections.

We supported the opening and running of an NGO training centre to promote human rights protection and the development of civil society in a region of Armenia where the NGO sector is poorly developed and which was a key problem area during the elections.

We are supporting the promotion of grass roots democracy at community level through a local NGO.

Finally we are promoting good environmental practice and supporting anti-corruption research and public awareness through television adverts with the local branch of Transparency International.