Caucasus Business and Development Network appeared on the television talk show ‘Studio RE’ on December 19th 2014 to present their work and discuss the role of business in peacebuilding. The programme was broadcast on Georgian channels ‘Palitra’, ‘Maestro’ and ‘Rioni TV’, among others. The show aimed to raise awareness about CBDN’s work, and support for our mission of promoting regional cooperation (the show’s title) through business initiatives. The programme took the form of a round table led by presenter Zviad Koridze. CBDN representatives from Baku, Kars, Kutaisi and Tbilisi participated in the discussion.
The show began with an introduction to the Network’s history and philosophy. Participants explained that CBDN was formed in 2005, and remains the only regional organisation that promotes peacebuilding in the South Caucasus through business cooperation. The Network focuses on building an atmosphere of trust between opposing sides of the conflicts and preparing society for a peaceful future through finding common interests among business communities. Despite the difficulties in the Caucasus, CBDN is now in its tenth year of work and has a long list of achievements.
A montage of clips followed from our recent outreach events in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Yerevan. This gave viewers a chance to hear the views of other Network participants, as well as visitors’ reactions to the Caucasus Brands. One attendee from our May 2014 Kutaisi event remarked of the “Caucasus Tea“: “It’s very interesting that here are all different regions of the South Caucasus. It’s great that even if just within this collection of tea we are all together and I hope that one day we can be together as friends in reality too!”
CBDN’s work in beekeeping was given particular focus within the discussion. We carried out research into the state of the sector across the South Caucasus and found that beekeepers throughout the region face many of the same problems, such as aging technology and beekeeping methods, structural under funding and lack of support from the state and other stakeholders. We realised that regional problems like this are best addressed through collective efforts. We reached this conclusion as the result of consultations with beekeepers from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and Georgia, all of whom contributed their own experience and expertise. Subsequently, these experts worked together to create the “Caucasus Honey” brand. We piloted an example-setting nomadic apiary in Gardabani in 2012, using the Caucasus grey mountain bee species. The honey extracted from the CBDN apiary is ecologically clean and corresponds to EU standards. The Caucasus Honey collection also contains honey from Abkhazia, Gyumri, Kars, Lanchkhuti, Nagorny Karabakh, South Ossetia and Zaqatala.
Our Kars representative joined on Skype to speak about some of CBDN’s successful projects to date, in particular the Gyumri-Kars Business Forum. This forum is composed of around forty-five business actors who are instrumental in facilitating cross-border cooperation. The creation of the “Caucasus Cheese” brand and the new Turkish-Armenian culinary project “Recipes for Peace” are just some examples of the initiatives which emerged from the forum. The Caucasus Honey brand was also identified as a success, as it has shown that high-quality results come best from cooperation.
The topic of discussion turned to the meaning of the Caucasus Brands, which, as we emphasised, are not primarily for commercial purposes. While the final products in themselves serve as a visual representation of the benefits of cooperation, the most important element is the process of their creation. The Brands provide a means to bring together sectoral experts and professionals from across the South Caucasus in pursuit of a shared objective. This creates a platform for dialogue around common interests and ideas, that in turn results in the building of trust and positive, human relationships.
At the same time, we work with sectors which are suffering from particular obstacles, and for which the results of conflicts and other political factors have undermined development. Ultimately, our work aims to improve efficiency and profitability in those sectors, through the cooperation which we promote. Our work is also instrumental in highlighting the existing obstacles (such as regulations and closed borders) to economic cooperation and development of the region as a whole.
As CBDN remarked, the interest of not only professionals from various sectors (tea, honey, wine, cheese), but also observers of our work, has demonstrated the abundance of commonalities between people in the region. While negative stereotypes and difference dominate the rhetoric across borders, it is the rediscovery of these shared cultures, practices and professional interests that have the power to unite people. It is precisely this goal that drives CBDN’s promotion of joint business initiatives and the creation of common brands.
The full show can be viewed (in Russian) here.