Caucasus Cooperation Organization: Designing a Model for Regional Multilateral Collaboration
Mandana Tishehyar, Faculty member, ECO College, Allameh Tabataba’i University
The exceptional cultural and civilisational features of the Caucasus region have turned it into a treasure trove of cultural, linguistic, racial, and religious diversity throughout history. The peoples of this civilisational sphere have been heirs to the ancient traditions of peaceful coexistence and unity against common enemies. However, in contemporary times, the media and the public tend to emphasise the differences among Caucasian peoples, both at regional and international levels.
Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, despite the numerous international and regional organisations that emerged among the newly independent republics and the South Caucasian countries that joined them, we have not witnessed the establishment of an independent regional institution and the formation of a mechanism for dialogue in this part of the globe. For the same reason, in the post-independence years, political divergence and security rivalry have been heard more than anything else in the region.
On the other hand, efforts to provide opportunities for the countries of the region to have economic cooperation with their neighbours and other countries of the world have not led to the formation of efficient economic unions and economic convergence at the regional level, either. Therefore, the relations between civil societies in these countries have been affected by security and political approaches, and a huge gap has emerged between the peoples of these regions, preventing these communities to obtain a better understanding of each other. Academic and cultural institutes also have sometimes paved the way for the emergence of theories that emphasise divergence rather than facilitating cooperation between these countries.
Given the developments that occurred in recent months among the countries of the Caucasus region, it seems that for achieving lasting peace and stability across the region, providing the ground for economic cooperation, and reducing political and security tensions, it is urgent to provide an infrastructure for dialogue between the civil society representatives at the region. In fact, the scientific, cultural, and media elites can play a vital role in constructing a new model of communication, understanding, and dialogue among the thinkers and media leaders of the region through leveraging the potentials of the new patterns of mass communication.
Dialogues among academic and media representatives throughout the region might contribute to forming a new discourse that emphasises regional convergence. This convergence is embedded in the history and cultural traditions of the region and might be the basis for the formulation of new theories and models of cooperation. Therefore, it seems to be the right time for the establishment of an institution consisting of representatives from the cultural, academic, and media sectors in the three Caucasian republics and their neighbours and discuss the existing challenges and possible solutions to increase the understanding and relations between civil societies in the six countries. This regional organisation, which would need serious government supports, can build more trust through various joint programmes and visits with the presence of representatives from various sectors of society, including the youth, women, journalists, professors, writers, and other social groups in each of these countries.
During the recent crisis in the Caucasus region, we are aware of how the false news and reports negatively affected public opinion formation and led to social crises and even wrong political decisions. A more accurate portrayal of the current situation and efforts to invite the elites and individuals in charge of societies’ intellectual leadership can reduce political and security tensions and increase economic and social cooperation in the Caucasus region.
Thus, in the first step, it is possible to form brainstorming sessions among academics from the six countries of the Caucasus region and provide the ground for designing an organisation for regional cooperation in the social and cultural fields. As the largest humanities and social sciences university in Iran and as a university that has had extensive academic ties with universities in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia, and Armenia, Allameh Tabataba’i University is pleased to announce that it is prepared to hold the first brainstorming session in which academics from different countries of the region discuss scientific and cultural issues and the ways of the regional integration. I hope this measure would be a significant step towards enhancing the lasting peace in the Caucasus region.