Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Attitudes in the South Caucasus Towards NGOs and International Organizations

CRRC Researcher and Fellow Irakli Sakandelidze recently conducted a study analyzing the attitudes of the local populations toward social institutions and the role of international organizations in the capital cities of the South Caucasus. The researcher used various research methods to analyze the determinants of trust towards non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In Armenia, confidence in NGOs is predominantly determined by age; respondents under 40 display higher levels of trust than older generations. Sex is also a determinant of trust in NGOs as women had higher confidence levels in NGOs than men. Similar to the results of the Armenia study, trust in NGOs in Georgia is mostly determined by age. In contrast, in Azerbaijan, the study results indicated that education is the only determining factor.

On a curious sidenote, it turns out that people working for international organizations are more likely to think that "things in our country are moving in the right direction". Arguably, working for an international outfit really sets people apart from their society. Below a slide from our 2006 Data Initiative, showing Armenian data.

(CRRC Data Initiative, 2006, open for extra resolution)

These discrepancies would merit a little more digging through the dataset, which we may do soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

World Bank Governance Index, 1996-2006

In a further round comparisons, we have looked at the World Bank's governance index. This index uses six dimensions (voice and political participation, political stability, government effectiveness, rule of law, regulatory environment, control of corruption) to capture the quality of governance. Data run from 1996 to 2006. Armenia, generally, seems to have had the best governance. Georgia, however, is developing dynamically. In Azerbaijan, the index records little movement.

Note the intuitive presentation of the data, where red indicates a ranking in the very low percentiles.

By comparison Azerbaijan is fairly red, although there is progress with the regulatory environment.

Georgia shows a fair amount of development in all sectors.

The interactive website allows users to explore features in much more detail. Below is a map that shows regulatory quality in 2006.

But it's also possible to compare dimensions across countries.

Charts can be downloaded -- a wonderful tool for researchers looking for information. Follow this link if you want to play with the data.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2007 Index of Democracy

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released its 2007 Democracy Index ranking 165 countries and two territories on their degrees of democracy based on a number of indices, scales, and scoring. An index of “democracy,” a broad term sometimes ill defined, can be a tricky task without a universal definition. Indeed, the United States uses "democracy promotion" as a primary component of its foreign policy objectives, but there, too, are internal disagreements about what it actually means.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's measure is a snapshot index of the present state of democracy worldwide. The index offers a range of possible scores: (i) electoral process and pluralism, (ii) the functioning of government, (iii) political participation, (iv) political culture, and (v) civil liberties. There are admittedly simplifications with these rough categorizations, and the EIU acknowledged problems with several of their scoring scales because of the difficulties in devising analogous criteria and guidelines, which can result in what they called "arbitrary, spurious and non-comparable scorings." The scoring can also be potentially unreliable as different experts may rank the same indicators variably. The EIU integrates public opinion surveys into their index, a unique attribute that is lacking in Freedom House's index.

Not surprisingly, hybrid and authoritarian regimes dominate in the countries of the Former Soviet Union. In the South Caucasus, Georgia and Armenia are classified as hybrid regimes, ranked at positions 104 and 110, respectively, out of the total 167 entities surveyed. Azerbaijan is categorized as an authoritarian regime and placed at 129, just after Belarus. Russia actually does better than any country in the Caucasus, being at 102.

To get a better look, let's disaggregate: with "functioning of government", Azerbaijan does very badly at 0.79, Georgia is also poor with 1.79 (implying that territorrial integrity factors here), Russia and Armenia are doing much better at 3.21.

Georgia by far had the highest ranking in regards to a fair and free electoral processes at 7.92, as compared to Armenia’s 4.33 and Azerbaijan’s 3.08. (Armenia was on the negative watch list prior to the parliamentary elections this May for fear of flawed elections and likely there will be disagreements on how to evaluate the recent elections.)

Georgia scores 6.74 on civil liberties, Armenia has 6.18, Russia and Azerbaijan rate at 5.59.

Somewhat implausibly, policitical participation is rated at similar levels: Azerbaijan and Georgia with 3.33, Armenia at 3.89 (Russia is at 5.56). Surely, that is not plausible. According to our 2007 data, interest in politics (which surely is a reasonable proxy) certainly is not that homogenous across the three countries.

Even on an anecdotal level there are fundamental differences with political participation. So we would be curious how exactly the EIU comes up with this data. Maybe some adjustments are necessary.

For further reading, the full article can be found here.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

ICG: new report on South Ossetia

The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently released an analysis of the current situation in South Ossetia. Although we normally focus on social sciences, we are happy to offer a quick summary.

ICG asserts that the conflict has entered a new phase, and not necessarily for the better. ICG believes Tbilisi is escalating tensions by refusing to engage with the de facto government in Tskhinvali and not allowing negotiations to continue without South Ossetia explicitly recognizing that it is territorially part of Georgia. According to ICG, Tbilisi’s actions, while not violent, are being imposed aggressively and unilaterally and as a result are estranging the South Ossetians.

ICG suggests Tbilisi engage with Tskhinvali and validate Ossetian ambitions and concerns rather than conditioning the negotiations on South Ossetia’s declaring it is part of Georgia. The South Ossetians have rejected Tbilisi’s discussions of territorial status but have cooperated on development and rehabilitation, confidence building, and demilitarization.

By way of background, South Ossetia has sought either independence from Georgia or reunification with North Ossetia, located within Russia, since 1990. After the Rose Revolution President Saakashvili made the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity a major priority of his new administration. Tensions peaked in the summer of 2004 and armed conflict erupted. Two rival governments emerged in November 2006 after there were parallel presidential elections and status referenda.

The de facto South Ossetian government of Eduard Kokoity is backed by Russia. The Georgian government is dismissive of Kokoity and is attempting to delegitimize him by declaring him a criminal. Kokoity’s administration on the other hand is suspicious of any Georgian peace initiative and believes it is only an attempt to appease the international community.

Tbilisi has endorsed the establishment of a temporary administration unit run by Dmitri Sanakoev who now has wide support from and leads the Georgian-controlled areas of South Ossetia. According to ICG, however, his actions have disaffected the South Ossetians. Sanakoev pledged allegiance to Tbilisi, and the Georgian government believes Sanakoev breaks Kokoity's monopoly and can therefore help to "unfreeze" the conflict.

In the zone of the conflict, the Tskhinvali district, villages inhabited by ethnic Georgians and Ossetian-inhabited villages are intermingled in nearby proximity of one another. What is worthy of note is that there is, however, no actual agreement on clear lines of delineation of control over the extended areas. The report shows two very different maps. The first is by the Joint Peacekeeping Force’s (a peacekeeping force of Georgian, Russian and Ossetian troops) map.

By contrast, the Georgian government’s map indicates a much larger swath of land under Georgian control. It is also much more cohesive.

Again, maps themselves tell the story of two very different views colliding with each other.