Friday, November 28, 2008

Weak State Institutions | Weak Social Capital?

What's the balance sheet of the Rose Revolution so far? There is agreement that there has been tremendous progress in some fields. The economy has grown, street-level corruption has evaporated, and in many other instances the state functions for the people.

However, it's also clear that state institutions remain weak. This general analysis (some progress, some failings) is borne out by the data we have collected. Often the failure to develop trusted state institutions is seen as a top-down failing, as the government not having done enough to put developments on track.

At the same time, there is also distinct civil society weakness -- not so much as a complaint about NGOs, but simply low levels of social capital. This weakness makes it hard to set up functioning and robust institutions in the first place.

The slides below illustrate this problem quite well.

Civil Society Data
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: crrc georgia)

With the trash picture we want to say that maybe the first step should be to focus on simpler local challenges, to illustrate to people that working together can have positive results. (If you want to see our comments to the slides, to get the full narrative, open the presentation in Slideshare, and click on the Notes, bottom right.)

Much of it ends up going back to Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in democratization in the region. There is a bigger debate that we are not having yet, or at least not on a high-enough level.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CRRC-Azerbaijan Past Events Summary

If you didn’t have time or are just too far away to attend a lecture at CRRC Azerbaijan, you can now get information about our past events from our main website.

We publish short stories about the lectures, presentations and seminars held at CRRC. You can also find event pictures and presentation slides there. Recent talks addressed topics such as public health, labor exploitation, and economic policy. To find out more, visit the Past Events section of our website.

How can you keep track, straight from your browser? Install an
RSS feed for the past CRRC events. That way the information comes directly to you!

Not yet signed up to our mailing lists on ongoing events? Oh dear. Please write to us at emin+signup [at-sign, written out to avoid spam]

And if you are interested in particular events, or want to present your ongoing research, let us know. We are extremely keen to support your work and research.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

EBRD Life in Transition Survey | worth analyzing!

One of the most impressive recent survey efforts, measuring attitudes about different countries in transition, has been undertaken by EBRD. Called Life in Transition Survey (LiTS), this is an attempt to look at how 29 'transitioning' countries have developed following 1989. The survey tracks "public attitudes, well-being, and the impact of economic and political change".

LiTS is both encouraging and sobering at the same time. What is encouraging is that overall people, in spite of many hardships, do not want a return to centralized, authoritarian systems. At the same time, incomplete transition has left many people equivocal with regards to market systems. EBRD also notes that social capital remains in short supply.

The basic idea is set out succinctly in this EBRD presentation.

Life in Transition 2
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: ebrd economy)

(Note that we really think such presentations should be available under a Creative Commons license, since technically we are not sure whether we're allowed to share this, although it's available online.)

But beyond this, LiTS offers much more, and much more detail on the Caucasus. Let's look at some of the findings in more detail.
  1. Satisfaction with life is relatively low in Armenia, and the old and poor tend to be most dissatisfied. Only 20% of those aged over 50 are satisfied with their lives. And among the poor, the situation is even worse: only 16% of those with lower income are satisfied with their lives. The situation is similar in Georgia, where only 12% of those aged 50-64 are satisfied with their life. By contrast, satisfaction with the economic and political situation is relatively strong in Azerbaijan, particularly among the 50- 64 age group. This seems to tally with what we saw in our own 2007 Data Initiative (although interesting to compare and contrast with Elvin Effendi's work).
  2. In Armenia support for democracy and a market economy is weak, with just one in four favoring a combination of the two. In Georgia, there are high levels of support for democracy, but less for a market economy, with those aged over 65 most strongly opposed to both (over 50%). In Azerbaijan, support for democracy and a market economy is high, with the middle-aged the most supportive. However, there also is little interest in the political and economic system, with four out of ten believing that the type of political/economic system does not matter.
  3. Azerbaijanis' trust in public institutions, especially in the presidency, government and the political parties is among the highest in the region. By contrast, trust in public institutions is very low in Armenia. The armed forces is the only public institution in Armenia that enjoys public trust.
  4. Georgians report a decline of corruption in the country and the frequency of “irregular payments” to the public officials is significantly lower than elsewhere in the CIS regions. “Irregular payments”, especially in the healthcare and education spheres, remain relatively high both in Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  5. In all three South Caucasus countries people surveyed are more optimistic about the future of their children. The optimism is significantly higher in Georgia, where almost 70% of those surveyed believe that their children’s lives will be better than their own.
Separately, we are really impressed by this entire effort. It is a genuine public good. EBRD is frank about discussing shortcomings and challenges in the societies (and therefore note that the views are those of the Office of the Chief Economist, not necessarily of the entire Bank). This is incredibly refreshing in an environment where blandness prevails. The data set is publicly accessible, there's detailed documentation about questionnaire, fieldwork, methodology. And most of the material is available online.

The full printed report (soon in our libraries, if you find it too expensive) is written so well that it makes engaging bedtime reading. Our only huge regret is that these discussions seem not to have been carried into the relevant societies. If any donor is short of creative ideas, surely this is a way to go: let's get this data studied and analyzed locally, and let's get the discussions onto TV. (If anyone needs help with the dataset, let us know, or come to our offices.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Iakobashvili on the Current State of the Conflict

I attended State Minister Teimuraz Iakobashvili’s talk held at the Institute for European Studies at TSU on November 14. Overall, the talk was the first talk in Georgia I have seen where the majority of people who attended were Georgian students. Despite the fact that the audience was overwhelmingly Georgian, Minister Iakobashivili spoke entirely in English. Additionally, the Minister was very generous with his time and engaged in an extensive Q&A session with students who also asked questions only in English

Iakobashvili’s main points (in note format) are as follows

1. Russia is in a state of decay. This decay will take time, but things are bad in Russia. They lost political and economic ground and the war revealed Russia’s military weakness. According to Iakobashvili.

From a military perspective

  • Over 2,000 Russian soldiers were killed
  • The 60 number quotes by Russians were only from Yamadayev’s troops
  • Georgia destroyed Khrulyev’s column included 30/35 armored vehicles each carrying at least 8 people for a minimum of 240 dead from this column alone
  • Russia suffered major hardware losses including: 17 airplane, 1 strategic bomber, 3 helicopters
  • Russian soldiers are starving in Akhalgori and have resorted to raiding local Ossetians
From an economic perspective
  • Gas prices have led to major budget shortfalls in Russia
  • Europe will not ultimately be reliant on Russian gas
  • No liquefied natural gas terminal and no ports for them in Russia
  • China can get gas from Central Asia
From a political perspective
  • Demographic tides are promoting separatism
  • Only Moscow, St. Petersburg and Muslim dominated parts of Russia are growing. Muslim areas in Russia are demonstrating more ethnic homogeneity and anti-Russian sentiment
  • High birth rates in Muslim Russia are leading to more unemployment and dissatisfaction
  • 15% of Russian conscripts from the North Caucasus—many refusing to eat pork and stationed in Siberia
  • Ingushetia has all signs of civil war
  • Ossetians and particularly Abkhaz are angry at Russia
  • Russia has upset Abkhaz political dominance by either 1) Installing a Russian second in command 0r 2) Directly taking over certain operations
2. Russia is angry now and was angry before and this is particularly dangerous for Georgia in the coming winter months

Russia was angry before because Georgia’s strategy of “soft power was working”
  • Sanakoyev and Upper Kodori were successes
  • “Boney M, swimming pools and cinemas” were a success
Russia is angry now because of all the bad results of the war
  • This makes Russia very dangerous in the short term
3. Georgia’s strategy going forward – “Crisis gives you opportunity”

Build bridges to Abkhaz and Ossetians
  • Georgia has a mission to save Abkhaz and Ossetians from Russian domination
Georgia is not a member of NATO and doesn’t have the “goddamn plan” MAP
  • But MAP was only created recently under specific circumstances and should not be for Georgia
  • A special GAP or specific technical goals should be given to Georgia – it should be a political decision
  • Better than NATO, however, would be two American brigades in Georgia
  • Georgia should “fight when the fight makes sense” – Georgia should not argue with the EU resuming talks with Russia – but should seek to influence the process

Q & A and Other issues

Q: Why didn’t the Georgian Government heed the European Commission’s recommendations about Upper Kodori and South Ossetia?

A: The EU is a “status quo” organization. “We would have to abandon our people” if Georgia listened to them.

Q: What about Georgia and Georgia’s future image and what about Swiss inquiry?

A: Russia saw they were getting beat in the press. Iakobashvili has a list of PR agencies Russia has engaged in. Russia allowed the NYT to swallow a story from a guy who no longer works for the OSCE. Russia is also influencing press freedom abroad. Berlusconi has censored debate in Italy.

Georgia should work hard to build relations with Obama’s foreign policy team

As a result of the war, the level of awareness about Georgia has significantly increased.

Q: Does government have scenarios, even worse case scenarios?

A: Yes. The government learns quickly. Reservist system needs to change. The war showed MANAGEMENT problems. The reservists were not the problem. The war showed us “who is worth what”

Q: What about the Armenians in Abkhazia. Who do they support?

A: They leave the politics to the Abkhaz, though the status quo has been good to them, since they generally live in the north of Abkhazia. 30 or 31 out of 35 members of Abkhaz parliament are ethnic Abkhaz. This is called “apartheid.”

Q: What about the EU Monitors?

A: It would be better if they were armed and in Tskhinvali, But they are much better than the OSCE or UN, because they are free from Russian influence. UN cannot help solve the problem.

Q: What about the Geneva negotiations?

A: Georgia expects 3 countries (US, Russia, Georgia) and three int’l organizations (EU, UN, OSCE). They will not accept SO or Abkhazia. Russia can have whatever technical experts they want on their team. But there should be parity, so if Kokoity is attending, so should Sanakoyev.

Q What is with the UN?

A: UNOMIG was asked to leave Kodori. To justify this, they issued a “ridiculous report.”
UN will not play a significant role politically because of Russia, but they have been very helpful on the humanitarian front.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Migration Impact Research in Georgia | Update

As you may recall, we are conducting migration research in Georgia, together with the International School of Economics in Tbilisi (ISET). Here is an update on this larger, Global Development Network-funded project, from a recent GDN Newsletter.


'Development on the Move' gains global exposure
Representatives of the ‘Development on the Move’ project management team from GDN and ippr shared their research and its methodology at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), attended by over 200 international experts and stakeholders in Manila, Philippines from October 27 - 30 ,2008.

'Development on the Move' was recognized as an innovative and ambitious cross-country research effort to measure migration's impacts and create new analytical tools. The conference participants were provided with a summary report of the early findings from the Jamaica pilot as well as a description of the project.

Meanwhile, the project's country studies are continuing successfully. Approximately 3,000 Colombian and Georgian households have been screened to participate in a national household survey on migration and will shortly provide valuable data on this topic. The surveys in Fiji, Ghana, Macedonia and Vietnam are now completed. The analysis will start in the upcoming weeks and the teams are already looking toward the Development on the Move project workshop in Kuwait, February 1- 2 2009, in conjunction with the GDN Tenth Annual Conference.

For more information on 'Development on the Move', please visit:

For more information on the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GMFD), go to:

In their last newsletter, GDN also highlighted the ongoing work over the summer. Here, directly from their newsletter:


Development on the Move: Deeper into the field
Do you live in Colombia or Georgia?

If you do, you may receive a visit from a survey fieldworker for the Development on the Move project, wanting to ask migration related questions.

During the entire month of September, research teams located in Colombia, Georgia, Ghana and Macedonia have been working hard to prepare themselves for the fieldwork. Planning has required the teams to make arrangements with their respective National Statistics Office to access national data on migration/immigration, define a sampling strategy, produce a questionnaire and hire interviewers.

Today, approximately six thousand Fijians, Ghanaians, Macedonians and Vietnamese are familiar with our questionnaire and have agreed to contribute to the project by providing valuable data on migration.

Despite the recent political crisis, the team in Georgia has managed to keep the project going. The Development on the Move management team would like to take the opportunity to express its esteem and support to the survey group in Georgia.

A little self-advertisement, maybe, but I also wanted to thank my colleagues for truly exceptional work, under trying circumstances. Are you interested in this migration work? Send us an email, so that we can keep you in the loop.

World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index | a few surprises

Indices are engaging and instructive, but some really baffle us. The World Economic Forum (WEF), the organisation that organises the annual high-profile Davos meetings, has come up with a gender index, and the Caucasus is featured. The index is intended to measure how the world is closing the gender gap in education, health, and political and economic participation. In principle, this is a great idea, since there are significant challenges and discrepancies (as our data itself shows).

So how does the Caucasus do? Azerbaijan does best, ranking 61, followed by Armenia at rank 78, and Georgia at 82. Surprising, no? Arguably a lot of data (including ours) would suggest exactly the reverse order.

Well, as it turns out the Caucasus says more about the index than the index says about the Caucasus. Let's look more closely. So in which neighborhood is Azerbaijan ranked? Well, it is following Hungary, but ahead of Ukraine, Slovak Republic, Luxembourg, Italy, the Czech Republic, Romania and also Greece. Armenia and Georgia are grouped with Ghana, Suriname, Bolivia, Malawi and Malta. Without even looking at the data, I suspect that female childhood literacy is way ahead in the Caucasus compared with that peer group, and arguably this should be weighed more heavily.

So where could the Caucasus turn to learn how to do it better? Well, according to the report, the Caucasus could start by emulating Mongolia (40), Kyrgyzstan (41), Kazakhstan (45) or even Uzbekistan (55). All of these do much better than the countries of the Caucasus (and, remember, better than many EU countries, too).

Let's look below the hood, to find out what's going on here. Four sub-indices assemble to create the full gender index. Economic Participation, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. They are meant to measure equality of distribution within the country (not against an external benchmark).

Now looking at Azerbaijan, what happens is that two of the indicators under Economic Participation are missing, but this does not seem to weigh against Azerbaijan's score. So where does Azerbaijan end up on Economic Participation? World rank 4, just missing bronze in the Gender Equality Olympics, even ahead of overall champion Norway.

Uzbekistan? Same story, ranking 11 worldwide on equality of economic participation. Again, see the missing lines of data.

Other data does not even stand up to a basic sniff test. Health and Survival? Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan get perfect scores, giving them highest rank (with several other countries). Now maybe they ARE doing better than Georgia ranked at 127 for Health and Survival, or Azerbaijan (129). But does anyone believe that Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan (or Tajikistan, at 55) do better than Netherlands at 72, or Germany at 57? Equality of distribution may be a nice idea, but what precisely do we end up measuring here? The equality of shared misery is not a meaningful guide to discussion or policy.

So it appears that the ENTIRE rankings that the World Economic Forum suggest are based on a hodgepodge of incomplete data that doesn't get balanced out.

This is a real shame. First, gender indeed is an incredibly important issue and one cannot talk enough about it. Bad quality rankings undermine the cause, rather than supporting it. Secondly, these misconstrued rankings obscure that there could be more nuance in the discussion, which the actual country reports could provide (if, that is, they are to be trusted at all). Unfortunately, Armenia is missing from the country reports.

Or did I get this wrong? Check it out yourself, and stay tuned, we will write to the WEF to find out.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

World Public Opinion: Azerbaijan in Focus

World Public Opinion is the initiative of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland that explores public opinion on a variety of topics in 25 countries across the globe, including Azerbaijan, the only South Caucasus country represented in the survey. Russia and Ukraine are the other two former USSR countries that the project includes.

The International Center for Social Research, a local research organization, is PIPA’s partner in Azerbaijan. The Center’s recent and current research projects include, among others, CIVICUS - Civil Society Index Report for Azerbaijan, World Values Survey and a survey on gender based violence for UNFPA.

Based on a poll conducted in January-February 2008 among 602 respondents in Azerbaijan, and at different times in 2008 in other countries, World Public Opinion periodically releases the survey results on various issues.

For instance, it was found out that large majorities in 16 nations around the world are in favor of equal rights for women. In Azerbaijan, 85% of respondents believe that equality of rights is important and over three quarters think that government should protect women from discrimination.

Global opinion on governance and democracy was released in May 2008. Among all surveyed countries, Azerbaijan has one of the largest majorities of people who believe that the will of people should be the basis of authority of government, with 76% thinking that it should have greater weight than it currently has.

A more recent publication tells us what people in six predominantly Muslim countries think about globalization. Surveyed Azerbaijanis view international trade as mostly good for their economy, companies and consumers. 63% see globalization as mostly positive.

The project also publishes questionnaires and short information on methodology. The survey methodology is not entirely uniform since it is administered by different organizations in all countries. Still, it provides another good source of data on a number of topics. To explore global public attitude to torture, treatment of widows and divorced women, global leadership, oil and other energy sources, racial and ethnic equality and a host of other exciting issues visit the website of World Public Opinion.