Historic 1993 documentary VIDEO:         PART I  (54 min)         PART II  (54 min)                     PHOTOS

The Armenia-Azerbaijan Initiative

The Initiative | The Participants | People to Thank | Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) Interested in Conflict Resolution


(AAI Logo)
  1. Background
  2. Our Initial Trip to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. Phase I: The First Dialogue in California
  4. Our Second Trip to the Region
  5. Phase II: The Second Dialogue in California
  6. The NGO Assimilation Conference in California
  7. Our Third Trip to the Region
  8. Phase III: Reconciliation Training and Action
  9. Our Fourth Trip to the Region
  10. Our Fifth Trip to the Region

(Map of the Region)


This is an initiative to assist influential moderates in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Nagorno-Karabakh region in a non-governmental public peace process of face-to-face reconciliation, as a step and model for resolution of their eight year conflict and its more than one million displaced persons. The project began when, in Winter 1992, both the Armenian and Azerbaijani Ambassadors to Moscow requested the involvement of nongovernmental organizations to find creative solutions to their apparently irreconcilable conflict and war.

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Our Initial Trip to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh

In response, the Foundation for Global Community decided to explore the possibilities of such an activity by sending delegates to meet with the Ambassadors in Moscow in June 1993. The Ambassadors confirmed their need for assistance. They were particularly interested in the "public peace process" that the Foundation, the Stanford Center on Conflict and Negotiation (SCCN), and Dr. Harold Saunders of the Kettering Foundation had utilized together in an earlier non-government Israeli-Palestinian conference which produced an unprecedented signed document, Framework for a Public Peace Process.

The delegates traveled on to the Caucasus to meet with citizens and government officials in Baku, Azerbaijan; Yerevan, Armenia; and Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. Following up on the intense search for regional participants, begun from the U.S. by international telephone, fax, and e-mail communication, they met with potential candidates who were diverse, non-government, impassioned yet open opinion leaders devoted to non-military solutions.

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Phase I:
The First Dialogue in California

The first dialogue was convened in September 1993. The Foundation and SCCN, with the support of the Carter Center of Atlanta, Georgia and International Alert of London, convened the first group of eleven women and men participants for one week at the Foundation's Sequoia Seminar grounds in Ben Lomond, California. There was simultaneous Russian-English interpretation throughout. The participants met in a rustic, comfortable lodge. Meeting mostly in a large circle, together they also walked trails among the Redwoods, ate, and washed dishes.

In conclusion, the week was a very successful first step. It established relationships and advanced trust in each other, the process, and the sponsors. A signed Joint Statement document established several shared principles and confirmed their personal commitments to continue in this process. It was clear that most dialogue was still from strongly held positions. Relationships were still mostly intellectual and protected. There was limited ability to perceive a larger frame of reference - underlying needs and interests, another's views, or even how one's own psychological, social, cultural, or political life experience and conditioning affects his or her perception. Forgiveness was not within reach. It became clear that a problem often cannot be solved at the level at which it was created. Some broader or deeper knowledge, or organizing principle, is needed to reconcile the conflict.

After the dialogue, Russian and English language conference documents, and an archival videotape were produced. Back home in South Caucasia, the participants took part in television and radio programs, wrote articles, and held interviews. The Foundation kept continuous contact with the participants through electronic mail, phone calls, and fax transmissions. Three of the participants, one from Armenia and two from Azerbaijan, returned to the U.S. and visited the sponsors.

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Our Second Trip to the Region

In March 1994 a delegation of four members of Foundation for Global Community went to Baku and Yerevan to assess the future of the project. They had four goals: (1) to meet with Azeri citizens from Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh who had been prevented by their government from attending the September 1993 conference; (2) to see if Azeri government officials would support attendance at subsequent seminars; (3) to ascertain from the Azeri and Armenian teams their level of interest; and (4) to determine whether a Phase II was desired and feasible. The delegation received very positive responses to the concept of a public peace process from both citizens and government representatives and were encouraged to initiate a next phase as soon as possible.

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Phase II:
The Second Dialogue in California

In October 1994 the second dialogue convened an expanded, more representative team of participants, including Azeri refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, for another week at the Foundation's seminar site among the redwoods in Ben Lomond, California. New people added useful insights but needed time to build trust and begin contributing. The intellectual framework of the five-step process was presented and clarified. While increased trust and familiarity resulted in freer participation, it also exposed even stronger feelings and positions that lay beneath the surface. While the week built further trust and commitment to each other and the process, it revealed the truth of the supreme difficulty of "peace." Corroborating other Foundation experiences, it clarified that participants will require more frequent meetings, closer to their homes, to study and gain access to the intellectual and personal depth required to heal themselves and their relationships.

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The NGO Assimilation Conference in California

In March 1995 a national conference to assimilate expertise was convened by the Foundation and SCCN. Titled the Retrieval Conference, it was held at the Foundation's Center in Palo Alto, Calif. Experience, expertise, and roadblocks were shared by twenty women and men from ten U.S. groups endeavoring to help resolve similar international conflicts. Attendees discussed their own backgrounds and motivations and specific projects - methods, funding, solutions, mistakes, fears, disappointments, frustrations, successes and pleasures. A common theme was the importance of understanding cultural differences in conflict management. For example, verbal apologies, while highly valued by one culture, might be considered too humiliating by another, who would prefer restitution and face saving. At the close, the importance of the public peace process was emphasized in a talk at Stanford University by Michael Lund of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Dr. Harold Saunders of the Kettering Foundation further emphasized that governments increasingly face internal and external problems that cannot be solved without the engagement of the public. He said, "Only people - human beings, not government - can cause people to move into relationship of reconciliation."

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Our Third Trip to the Region

In April 1995 the Foundation sent a team of three to once again meet with citizens and government representatives in Azerbaijan and Armenia, to assess if this work should continue. "You should not stop. You should go on," said an Azeri from the Ben Lomond meetings. "Continue this work, please," said the Vice Speaker of the Armenian Parliament. "It is very important," said the Personal Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan. "The public must be involved for any peace process to succeed." These were typical of responses heard throughout the trip.

Interviewed participants felt there had been too much posturing at the two previous meetings in Ben Lomond. "They all spoke the party line," moaned one, a refugee hungry to go home. They saw how they have argued the rightness of their own sides, believing that if they talked long enough, the other side would see the light, or the Americans or international community would intervene on their behalf. They hoped desperately that the Foundation's stated neutrality could be overcome with facts and passion.

Neutrality, the very concept of equality of all voices at the table, the idea that they themselves are responsible, is all new. "It is your war," the travelling team made clear. "You must resolve it. All we can provide is a level table and a process." Toward the end of this trip, the team sensed something had changed, and that these public peace talks had begun to hit reality. Key participants expressed a sincere willingness to discuss self-esteem, national pride, true security - their selves.

For the first time, the parties are up against the hard realization that it is their own conduct which may have to change. This will be, of course, extremely difficult. It is also progress. The real exploration can now continue.

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Phase III:
Reconciliaton Training and Action

Ethnic Reconciliation was the proposed concrete context and project for Phase III. While not a substitute for the Minsk Process, it was a model for preparing citizens for reconciliation, which cannot occur without the proper public opinion and spirit.

This phase began in Spring 1996 when small professionally qualified personnel spent up to six months in the region, offering culturally sensitive relationship building skills that helped the participants prepare for their Joint Collaborative Team. Another goal which was accomplished was expanding the teams by having more people involved in participating in the team meetings which were held in Baku, Azerbaijan, Yerevan, Armenia and Stepanakert in the Region of Nagorno Karabakh.

At the end of the six months in the region, in September 1996, the third dialogue was held with representatives of the three regional teams. The group included some participants who had not attended the first two dialogues held in California. The participants new to the dialogue itself had been very involved with the project development and team meetings in their community. The group met in Tbilisi Georgia for five days. Participants brought joint project ideas to share with the combined team. The group decided together on which projects to pursue. All projects had as a primary goal reducing the image of the enemy that exists in their communities. The joint team worked very collaboratively. The American team made some suggestions for proposal writing and fundraising.

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Our Fourth Trip to the Region

In September 1997 one representative from the Foundation went to Baku, Azerbaijan, purchased a computer, modem and printer for the team from a grant provided by the Pike Foundation. While in Baku the representative meet with the team and with government officials in an effort to continually keep the lines of communication open.

The team used the computer to assist in the development of the joint projects and to communicate with both the other two regional teams and with the Foundation team. The Pike Foundation also supplied funded computers, printers and modems for the teams in Yerevan and Stepanakert.

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Our Fifth Trip to the Region

Two team members from the Foundation along with a professor from George Mason University's Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, who had attended the NGO Assimilation Conference in California in 1995, went to Tbilisi Georgia for the fourth dialogue. The dialogue was funded in part by the United States Information Agency's office in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Americans were brought to Tbilisi to facilitate the dialogue. The dialogue was attended by representatives of the three teams and included five Azeris, four Armenians from Yerevan and two Armenians from Stepanakert. There were three new participants in the dialogue. The five day dialogue advanced the projects into a new level of cooperation and communication. The participants decided to form one joint team. Individual team members showed high levels of leadership, they demonstrated their integration of skills shared with them by the Foundation team in 1996, they integrated the new participants effectively and they decided they would communicate weekly with each other by e-mail.

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