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Regional cooperation

The Tbilisi Initiative

Context and development of the project

The “Tbilisi Initiative” project was initiated by the Ministry of Education of Georgia in September 1997 at the first Regional Seminar on “The reform of history teaching in secondary schools” (Tabakhmela, Georgia) and supported by the education authorities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation.

The conditions that made it possible to launch the “Tbilisi Initiative” project successfully at that particular moment were:

From the outset, the “Tbilisi Initiative” project was seen as a process, and therefore comprised a wide range of activities including seminars and conferences, meetings of experts and teacher training workshops. All of them had a common goal – to promote new interactive teaching methods designed to help new generations better understand and fully appreciate factors such as cultural diversity, thereby creating a basis for a new understanding of history as reflected in Recommendation Rec (2001) 15 of the Committee of Ministers on History teaching in twenty-first-century Europe.

A crucial event in this project was the First Conference of the Ministers of Education of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Russian Federation, with those of Moldova and Ukraine acting as observers, which took place in Tbilisi in March 2000. As a result of this conference, the Ministers adopted a Declaration and underlined their full support for the “Tbilisi Initiative” project because they considered it of the highest importance in their efforts to strengthen mutual understanding between the peoples of the countries concerned and establish stability and security in the region.

the Tbilisi Declaration - Download the document

Russian version - Download the document

Following the Declaration by the Ministers, the “Tbilisi Initiative” project primarily focused on presenting history in the light of intercultural dialogue and creating a positive image of the Caucasus. In other words, its aim was to present the region not as a crossroads of conflicts, but rather as a melting pot of different cultures which have been enriching one another throughout their long period of historical development and interaction.

This project developed into a unique opportunity to bring together history educators from both North and South Caucasus – and create conditions in which they could work together, share experiences and discuss common approaches to, as well as differences in their views of, their shared past.

During the project, about 500 history educators from the Caucasus, along with specialists from Germany, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, took part in 21 activities. Long-term partners of the Council of Europe in history teaching, the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Germany) and the European Standing Conference of History Teachers Associations (EUROCLIO), were also involved.

Outcomes

The “Tbilisi Initiative” project has produced significant results and achieved the major part of the goals planned.

This project:

a) was the first to set up new methodological approaches for regional co-operation in history teaching within the Council of Europe’s programmes. The valuable experience gained within the “Tbilisi Initiative” was crucial to the Black Sea Initiative on History, which led to the publication in 2004 of the first set of pedagogical materials on the history of this region, prepared by the teams of authors from the seven countries involved.

b) helped to establish contacts between the Ministries of Education of the countries concerned. The first Ministerial Conference (Tbilisi, March 2000) led to a series of meetings of higher officials of the Caucasian countries.

c) promoted a new understanding of history teaching in the 21st Century based on the approach of multiperspectivity, which aims to bring people together rather than separate them. This understanding is at the basis of Recommendation (2001) 15 of the Committee of Ministers on History teaching in twenty-first-century Europe.

d) promoted a new image of the Caucasus through history which was no longer seen as a region of conflicts but, for the first time, as a melting pot of different cultures which have been interacting creatively through the ages.

e) drew special attention to the idea of cultural diversity in the Caucasus while emphasising the common roots and common heritage of this area and promoting a positive image of neighbouring countries.

f) promoted the development of new skills-oriented approaches in teaching history aimed at bringing up responsible and active citizens by developing their ability for independent and critical thinking and resistance to all kinds of political and ideological manipulations.

g) provided a basis for methodological changes with special emphasis on the development of interactive methods and the use of a dialogue style in the teaching and learning process.

h) showed that a basis for common work in a regional context can be provided only by respecting values such as tolerance and mutual understanding, and attitudes such as confidence, trust, open-mindedness and a willingness to compromise.

Finally, the only result which has not been achieved within the project was the publication of supplementary pedagogical material on the history of the Caucasus prepared by the teams of authors appointed by the Ministries of Education of the countries concerned. This material was intended to supplement and not to replace textbooks used in the countries involved in the project.

Link to the list of seminars and available reports