Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is the South Caucasus a homogenous region?

In a recent datablog, the Guardian published a map visualizing how the former Soviet countries are doing 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The map compares the 15 former Soviet countries in terms of economic development, demographics and democratic transition. It also divides the countries into five regions: Russia, the Baltic countries, the EU borderlands, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. While the countries in the EU borderland region (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) are depicted as going in very different directions, the other four regions are presented as fairly homogenous. This blog will focus only on the South Caucasus region. Is it really a homogenous region as depicted? Survey data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB) shows that there are striking similarities and differences in the region. This blog will show this by using some questions on gender issues and the perception of the greatest threat to the world in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as examples.

The Guardian’s datablog compares the performance of the former Soviet countries by making use of statistics from various sources. The result is a map that divides the countries into five geographic regions consisting of countries sharing a specific path of development. The Baltic republics turned west and “never looked back”, Central Asia remains “nostalgic”, and Russia and the Caucasus have “mixed fortunes”. Only Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine – termed the EU borderlands – develop in different directions, according to the datablog.

The perspective is, of course, a rather general one. However, there are differences with regard to the three countries of the South Caucasus. Georgia is slightly more Western oriented. Azerbaijan also stands out in other respects with population and economic growth since 2000. Nevertheless, in comparison to the other four regions, the Caucasian countries seem to be fairly close to each other in many respects. Live expectancy has risen sharply and infant mortality rates have improved. Furthermore, Armenia and Georgia show a very similar development with respect to GDP per capita.

Source: The Guardian Datablog, 17 August 2011, "End of the USSR: visualising how the former Soviet countries are doing, 20 years on"

Does this picture of a homogenous region persist when we look at the values and perceptions of citizens in the South Caucasus? The 2010 CB shows a mixed picture. For example, a vast majority of citizens in all countries agree that a man should normally be the major breadwinner in a family (83% of Georgians, 84% of Azerbaijanis and 85% of Armenians). The perception that women and man equally share the responsibility for earning the income of a household is supported by 14% of people in Georgia and Armenia and 16% in Azerbaijan. There is also overwhelming disapproval for a woman being the major breadwinner of a family – only 2% of Georgians, 1% of Armenians and 0% of Azerbaijanis support this idea (see below).

While people in the South Caucasus largely agree on the question of who should normally be the major breadwinner, there are considerable differences in perceptions of who the actual breadwinner in the majority of their country's families is. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, 75% and 65% of people, respectively say that the man is the actual breadwinner. Only 6% and 17%, respectively say a woman. The situation in Georgia, however, seems to be very different. 39% of Georgians believe a woman is the actual breadwinner in the majority of Georgian families. This is followed by 36% who say a man is the breadwinner and 20% who think there is an equally shared responsibility among women and men.

Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians also show significant differences in the way they perceive the growing gap between the rich and the poor. In the 2010 CB, they were asked to choose the greatest threat to the world on a list of five dangers. The spread of nuclear weapons was the greatest threat for a plurality of respondents in all three countries. However, in Armenia and Azerbaijan the growing gap between the rich and the poor ranks second with 25% and 21% respectively, while this was the least important of the five dangers to Georgians (7%).

These are only a few examples of similarities and differences among the countries of the South Caucasus. Further similarities (mostly on moral issues) and differences (e.g. western orientation or language preferences) can be examined using our Online Data Analysis tool (ODA).
What similarities and differences do you find most interesting?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Georgia's desire for NATO membership

On September 15th 2011, the former American Ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, delivered a speech at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies about NATO’s past development, present capabilities and future challenges. The second part of the speech addressed relations between NATO and Georgia. According to Ambassador Volker, the enlargement of the alliance will not be on the agenda during the next summit in Chicago.

Even though there is no indication of Georgia’s possible membership in the near future, the majority of Georgians continue to support their country’s membership in NATO.

So what does the data tell us about Georgian support for NATO membership? Data from the 2009 and 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB) again allows a closer analysis of three aspects that influence Georgian attitudes: age, education and trust towards the executive government.

According to the 2010 CB, 70% of Georgians support NATO membership and this number has increased by more than 10% since 2009 (from 59%).

Additionally, full support for NATO membership has increased among young people. The 2009 CB shows that one third (33%) of Georgians between the ages of 18 to 35 fully supported Georgia’s NATO membership, followed by 31% between the ages of 36 to 55 and 20% for those aged 56 or more. However, according to the CB 2010, full support among the younger generation has increased to 44%, while this figure is 29% for the other two age groups, respectively.

Apart from age, education level influences support for Georgia’s accession to NATO. People with higher education are more supportive of Georgia’s NATO integration. Specifically, 44% of Georgians with higher education fully support Georgia’s membership in NATO (37% in 2009). There is a small difference between people with secondary education (29%) and those with secondary or lower (32% and 22%, respectively in 2009) education.

Trust towards the Georgian executive government is a third pattern that affects support for membership. 61% of Georgians who fully trust the executive government fully support Georgia’s membership in NATO. This figure is 34% among those who fully distrust the executive government.

Thus, the majority of Georgians support joining NATO even though Georgia does not have official candidate status for membership and will not obtain candidacy status during the next NATO summit in Chicago.

The dataset is available online, if you want to pursue further analysis on factors influencing. [LINK]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Isolation and Opportunity in Eastern Abkhazia. A Survey of Community Security

The Institute for Democracy and Saferworld recently published a report entitled “Isolation and Opportunity in Eastern Abkhazia. A Survey of Community Security” (2011). This blog focuses on four aspects from the report: most urgent problems facing communities in Eastern Abkhazia, perceptions of personal safety and the role of security actors, potential increased tension, and contact between ethnic groups.

People living in Eastern Abkhazia view bad roads (49%) as the most urgent problem facing the area. According to the report, roads in Eastern Abkhazia have not undergone renovation since conflict in the 1990s, with some exceptions. Consequently, this has created a feeling of isolation, particularly among people residing in villages located far from towns. The second most urgent problem is the closure of the Inguri bridge, mentioned by 32% of respondents. While the first two issues highlight insufficient or poor quality transportation connections, the following three problems refer to concerns about the unresponsiveness of authorities, extortion and lack of potable water. Ethnicity-based discrimination (9%) was the lowest-rated result for this question.

The second aspect is perceptions of personal safety and the role of security actors. Overall, people do not feel their physical security threatened, but they report a wide range of security incidents such as agricultural theft, robbery and gunshots. Also, about a third of respondents (33%) prefer to rely on relatives and friends or no one (26%) for protection, and 10% of people answered that their local government is responsible for protecting them.

Apart from individual security, a majority of respondents (80%) do not expect to see a deterioration of the overall security situation. However, there are concerns about possible triggers that may increase tensions or renew the conflict. For example, 40% of respondents consider that further political escalation between Moscow and Tbilisi may increase tensions or renew the conflict, while shootings (36%) or clashes between armed forces along the Inguri river (30%) are considered to be possible triggers for increased tensions. Additionally, 27% of the surveyed population thinks that further escalation between Tbilisi and Sukhumi may increase tensions or renew the conflict.

According to the report, hostilities and mistrust between ethnic groups in Eastern Abkhazia are low. People are also supportive of any measure to increase the level of contact. While 9% reports mistrust towards other ethnic groups, no respondents noticed any “open hostility”. Over half of people (60%) in Eastern Abkhazia maintain contact with people from other ethnic groups. 28% of people report friendships with people from different ethnicities. This figure is 21% for family ties and 11% for trade and business relations. However, 29% of respondents have no relation with individuals from other ethnic groups.

In addition, half of those interviewed remarked that the protection of human rights would build trust and confidence with other ethnic groups. This is followed by 21% of respondents who believe this could be accomplished by creating community-level mechanisms to resolve local disputes and 18% who think a better economic situation will achieve the same goal.

This is not a survey undertaken by CRRC, thus we cannot comment on methodology or other aspects of the undertaking. However, we did want to highlight this survey as relevant material that may be of interest. You find a link to the publication here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Does Refusal to Recognize Elections in Abkhazia Reduce Prospects for Resolution?

A recent New York Times article argues that the failure of Western governments to recognize the latest presidential elections in Abkhazia on August 26, 2011 may hamper conflict resolution. According to the authors, Cooley and Mitchell, Western governments have a “counterproductive disdain” of developments in Abkhazia and isolating Sukhumi will reduce prospects for conflict resolution. The article also sparks a debate about the degree of democratic competition in Georgia and Abkhazia by saying that the recent elections in Abkhazia seemed to be fairly competitive by the standards of countries in the South Caucasus. This all comes at a time when popular perception in Georgia is such that the prospects for reintegration with Georgia have decreased over time and there is no preferred method for finding a solution to the conflict.

According to the article, failure to recognize Abkhazia’s efforts to hold somewhat democratic elections is counterproductive in various ways. First, it unintentionally reinforces Russia’s growing influence in Abkhazia. Second, it “further entrenches the counterproductive position that nothing that happens in Abkhazia, or even the views of the people there, have any bearing on any potential resolution to the conflict” (New York Times, Aug 31 2011, "A Counterproductive Disdain"). This argument raises the question of the EU’s strategy of “engagement without recognition” since European governments have shown little engagement before and after Abkhazia’s presidential elections.

In another article from 2010, the same authors point out that Russian-Abkhaz relations have dramatically changed since the 2008 war. According to their view, the ongoing delegation of basic state functions from Sukhumi to Moscow has further reduced prospects for conflict resolution. Russian troops guarding Abkhazian borders, the Russian ruble in the pockets of Abkhazians, and Russian telephone prefixes (+7) in the region are the most visible signs of this change.

With all of these developments, have the prospects for conflict resolution changed? What do Georgian citizens think are the most important activities to solve the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict? According to CRRC’s 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB), 41% of Georgians think the prospects of Abkhazia becoming an integral part of Georgia have decreased since 2008. 35% think prospects have stayed the same and only 9% believe prospects have increased (14% remain uncertain). Also, a 2010 survey among IDPs in Georgia by CRRC shows that 12% believe Abkhazia will be reintegrated with Georgia within the next 5 years.

When asked what they think is the most important activity as a solution to the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict, 1% of Georgians says recognition of Abkhazia’s independence. An equal amount of the adult population (18%) say civil society should be given a greater role and that a non-use of force agreement should be signed with Abkhazia. A smaller proportion of the population thinks that commencing negotiations with Russia (14%) or signing a non-use of force agreement with Russia (12%) is the most important activity. It is important to note that 17% of Georgians are not sure what would be the most important activity.

What do you think is the most promising approach to resolve the conflict? Do you think the prospects for resolution have decreased?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

How Does Gender Determine Roles and Behaviors of Women in and outside of Georgian Families?

We would like to present the third report from the Caucasus Barometer Report Writing Competition held by CRRC in spring 2011 and written by Mariam Naskidashvili. The first and the second reports were published earlier this summer. The report concerns the roles and behavior of women in Georgian society. Here is a short summary of the report:

Only 1 percent of Georgians say that the main decision maker at home should be a woman, and only 2 percent consider a woman an ideal breadwinner. A majority of the Georgian population does not expect women to drink strong alcohol, smoke tobacco, have premarital sex, or live separately from their parents, according to data from CRRC’s 2010 Caucasus Barometer Survey. Georgia is a traditional society where normative roles are strongly attached to gender, and there are quite different forms of behavior expected from men and women. However, the situation is much more complex than it first appears, with more women than men being seen as the primary breadwinners in Georgian families, and some 60 percent of Georgians being comfortable with the idea of having a woman as an immediate boss. While traditional gender roles are still held to be ‘ideal’, the realities of life supersede this, and strong majorities of Georgians say that women should not face obstacles receiving an education or finding work.

When it comes to social mores, it is clear that Georgia remains a conservative country where the majority of people say it is never acceptable for women to have sex outside of marriage. However, Georgia is not monolithic; young Georgians are less conservative, as are those who live in Tbilisi, and those who are more educated. It is possible that these seemingly deeply entrenched attitudes may be changing.

Access the full report here.