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The Right Way to Rebuild Georgia

NEW YORK – At the recent donors’ meeting on Georgia, aid pledges rolled in, totaling $4.5 billion – about $1,000 per citizen of Georgia. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the meeting was restricted to donors and Georgia’s government, with Transparency International criticizing its opaque decision-making process.

Lack of transparency and accountability in how money is spent in wars, and in the rebuilding that takes place after them, no longer play well with taxpayers. In light of increasing global demand for aid and falling supply (down 12% over the last two years), its effective and transparent use is becoming more imperative. And governments that are not accountable to their citizens will most likely fail in this regard.

Before these “pledges” become “commitments,” donors should carefully examine Georgia’s economic development strategy and assess its plans for humanitarian and reconstruction aid. They should ask whether aid for Georgia contributes to peace and stability or, on the contrary, whether it will impede a political solution to the conflict and keep investors away.

Russia’s recent recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as separate republics, despite their de facto autonomous status within Georgia since the early 1990’s, will make it more difficult to find solutions to the problems of internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and the resident population in the conflict zones. But reintegration of conflict-ridden groups into productive activities is a sine qua non for political, economic, and social stability. The UN reckons that countries that fail in this endeavor have an even chance of reverting to conflict.