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Occupied Abkhazia Restricts USAID Funded Projects, Declares USAID Regional Director Persona Non-Grata

In response to concerns about “non-transparent activities and perceived misinformation”, Abkhazia’s de-facto top diplomat, Inal Ardzinba, announced a new approach to dealing with international NGOs and UN agencies and declared USAID Regional Director Persona Non-Grata on December 7. According to Ardzinba’s statement, the decision was in particular prompted by ‘discrepancies found in project questionnaires’, notably the ones from the UN Development Programme’s Partnership for Sustainability, which is funded by USAID.

In his statement, he said that “by formulating vague goals and objectives”, the project managers were misinforming the so-called Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order “to achieve the main goal of creating public conditions for the promotion of Georgian policy in Abkhazia.” He noted that “this is confirmed by the official USAID strategy published on the agency’s website”. Ardzniba also complained that Abkhazia is referred in this document as the “occupied territory of Georgia” and that “all activities are aimed at restoring territorial integrity “to counter the harmful influence of the Kremlin”.

Ardzinba said that representatives of USAID and UN agencies and “especially their regional representatives”, are engaged in “collecting and analyzing information regarding current trends on the economic and political development” in Abkhazia stressing that “it was for this purpose” that USAID representatives visited Abkhazia in 2021. He complained that the information on USAID’s official website referred to the visit as a US government visit to the Georgian region of Abkhazia.

Ardzinba expressed concern about the new Mission Director for USAID Caucasus, John A. Pennell, noting that during his tenure as a Deputy Director of the USAID Mission in Ukraine and Belarus “a network of NGO” was established in these countries which “actively interfered in the internal affairs of these countries, contributed to the destabilization of the socio-political situation, discredited the authorities, and made efforts to change the country’s leadership.”

In the same vein he also lamented that funds continue to flow through USAID mechanisms to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, “directed against our main ally, the Russian Federation” and against the residents of Abkhazia who are participating in a “special military operation.”

Noting that “USAID activities in the Russian Federation have been banned since 2012 and in the Republic of Belarus since 2019” Ardzinba cited the “opinion of Russian and Belarusian colleagues” that “Western NGOs aim to change values, discredit cultures, falsify history, and disrupt relations between peoples”.

Stemming from the above, the de-facto minister of the occupied region, has announced the following:

  • Declare USAID Regional Director John Pennell persona non-grata in Abkhazia;
  • No new projects with partial or full USAID funding will be certified by the so-called ministry;
  • Prohibit the implementation of projects aiming to establish contacts between residents of Abkhazia and citizens of Georgia;
  • The de-facto ministry will not approve projects with vague or inaccurate information that does not fully reflect the goals and objectives.
  • Prohibit the financing of media projects covering “issues of domestic and foreign policy” of the occupied Abkhazia.
  • INGOs and UN agencies should coordinate with the so-called ministry “the allocation of funds for initiatives of Abkhaz non-governmental organizations, as well as any activities carried out within the framework of agreed projects”.

Commenting on Ardzinba’s recent decrees, Arda Inal-Ipa, a director of a local organization working on humanitarian issues in occupied Abkhazia expressed her lack of surprise at the decision citing the de facto minister’s “long-standing efforts to quit working with international organizations” and isolate Abkhazia. She said that these actions undermine the achievements of previous de-facto ministers “in building complex relations with various international organizations.”

Inal-ipa questioned whether Ardzinba, who is “obsessed” with the idea of restoring his career in Moscow, “really understands the consequences of his actions”.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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