On the Ground in Tbilisi, Georgia

Posted by Cassandra Welch
September 15, 2010

About the Author: Cassandra Welch is the Assistance Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.Editor's Note: With the 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy's emphasis on preventing conflicts before they emerge and conflict and instability watch lists consistently identifying nearly one third of the world's countries as in danger of falling into conflict and instability within the next two years, there is a pressing need for the U.S. to engage in conflict prevention activities. Section 1207 funding managed by the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization seeks to do just that. To date, $350 million in 1207 funding has supported 25 conflict prevention projects in 23 at-risk or post-conflict countries. The following text has been excerpted from Ms. Welch's video remarks.

Hello. I'm Cassandra Welch. I'm the Assistance Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.

After the August [2008] conflict in Georgia with Russia, the U.S. Government pledged $1 billion to help reconstruct Georgia. Of that, a hundred million came from the 1207 funds, and that funding is actually the largest amount of money that 1207 funds have given to a particular country.

The conflict ended in August, and we got the first funding in October of 2008, and that funding allowed the Embassy, and particularly USAID, to start right away with a program that helped farmers who had fled from the conflict to go back to their fields. That helped in two ways: one, to stabilize the situation, because farmers had fled the administrative boundary line and we wanted to get them back into their homes and into their fields as soon as possible to make sure that that boundary line didn't encroach further into Georgia. And secondly, the August conflict was in the height of the planting season. So these farmers lost not only their crops for that season, but also the money to buy seed in the future.

The 1207 funding and the support from the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization allowed us to get on the ground almost immediately and help these farmers. And within the first two months, they planted a new crop for winter wheat and that meant that the farmers would not only be able to feed themselves and their families during the winter, but also would make enough money to plant in the summer. And, as I said, the funding helped to make sure that they got back to their homes and their families.

It's been about 18 months since this $19.5 million project was underway and it was a huge success. Not only did every farmer and farmer family that was affected by the conflict get assistance, but they also had a bumper crop of over $44 million. This is a crop that they never had in Georgia before and will help in years to come. The Georgian Government actually hailed this 1207 funded project as the most successful post-conflict assistance that the government received.



New Mexico, USA
September 16, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

To Cassandra Welch and the good folks @ State,

I'm glad folks could help minimize the long term disruption of lives and livelyhood.

I would in a nutshell have to consider this conflict to be one of the dumbest stunts ever pulled by two nations in a long, long time.

Regardless of who started it, or why. It served no one's good interest, and once again America foots the bill for trying to bring a little sanity back into folk's lives.

I don't have a problem with doing that because that's what we do best.

But there comes a point where America's level of public fatige for stupidity sets in and folks like myself honestly wonder when we start billing folks for starting wars that we clean up after and set folks back on their feet from?

The whole notion of us having a "national debt" becomes utterly moot when you think about the big picture of the global stability we offer folks.

I know this isn't you focus Cassandra, being mostly on getting aid where needed in time, but how else can we get nations to take responsibility for the reality they create for their citizens and other's?

We can't go around saving the world if it can't save itself the hassle in the first place.

Simple logistics dictate it's a lot easier to blow stuff up than it is to rebuild lives.

We may not be able to prevent folks from destroying economies, infrastructure, and lives simply because they are going to do what the will regardless of what we think, and I think an attitude adjustment is in order that will illuminate to others just how unacceptable being stupid is to us.

In comparison the program you speak of is similar to "crime victim's compensation" in which the innocent can use to offset disruption and loss in their lives to recover from insult and injury, but ask any DA how they recoop the taxpayer's money to sustain that public program with.

The answer to sustained reconstructive development funding can be found through similar means on the international stage.

If we cannot also use that as diplomatic incentive to maintain the peace among nations, that the "perp" may just get a bill from us that rocks their economic world and brings the house down, we arn't using all the tools at our disposal to keep the peace.

Maybe some would disagree with me @ State, but if they think this nation has a debt to pay, other than a moral responsibility to save lives, let me just suggest to folks we are like "Allstate" insuring the world has a good neighbor , and folks globally find themselves in good hands when everything hits the fan.

So why are we in debt to anyone?

Do a cost analysis and figure it out one of these days folks...Please?

The world is in debt to us, in a big way.


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