March 9, 2015

“Missing Women in South Caucasus”: Presentation on Research Results

By Talar Kakilian, CRRC-Armenia International Volunteer

Talar Kakilian
About 60 leaders from local and international research organizations joined CRRC-Armenia at Yerevan State University to participate in the “Missing Girls in the South Caucasus” presentation on research results. 

The concept of “Missing Girls/Women” refers to the number of women who would have been born if their birth had not been interrupted by deliberate actions, specifically in terms of sex-selective abortions. Findings show that, in Armenia, there are currently 114 boys born for every 100 girls, leading the nation to have the third highest boy to girl ratio disparity in the world (behind China and Azerbaijan). Enabled through the World Bank funding, researchers from CRRC-Armenia and Yerevan State University partnered together to collectqualitative data on the expanding issue.

The opening remarks by Heghine Manasyan (CRRC-Armenia) were followed by the findings, presented by Laura Bailey (World Bank), Nistha Sinna (World Bank), Giorgia Demarchi (World Bank), Yuliana Melkumyan (Yerevan State University, Faculty of Sociology), and Anna Sarkisyan (CRRC-Armenia). The discussion covered various issues revolving around sex-selective abortions, including the economic, social, cultural, and health-related consequences the nation may face. 

From left to to right: Heghine Manasyan,  Laura Bailey, Nistha Sinna, Giorgia Demarchi 
Using focus groups, the researchers interviewed over 215 men and women from 4 different communities throughout Armenia (including Yerevan). Moreover, 25 experts, including doctors, lawyers, community leaders, researchers, and others of the like, were interviewed about their perceptions pertaining to the current rise of sex-selective abortions. The results showed that son preference, fertility decline, transitional periods and societal shocks (including the collapse of the USSR), and sex-detection technology are the top reasons as to why this has become such a large issue. Economic disruptions and future monetary security are among the top reasons that have affected the fertility choices of Armenian families. Importantly, the panel discussed how, at its core, the “Missing Girls” phenomena was highly influenced by patriarchal social and gender norms within Armenia, including the nation’s devaluation of women throughout the social sector, including the political realm.

Anna Sarkisyan (left), Yuliana Melkumyan
The panel concluded that the best policy option to begin rectifying the Missing Girls phenomena is to begin addressing the fundamentals of gender equality in Armenia. They believe that, through media and education campaigns, as well as an increase women’s economic independence and protection and support of women who suffer from domestic violence, Armenia will be able to raise the status of women and thus begin to decrease the high rate of sex-selective abortions. As an interviewee (a young woman from Yerevan) said, “ [Actions] should not be concretely focused on having/not having a child. Whatever is done, wherever it commences, the core should be the same: increasing the importance of womens role. 

(Photo credit: CRRC-Armenia)

February 20, 2015

The New Inhabitants of CRRC-Armenia Planet

By Talar Kakilian, CRRC-Armenia International Volunteer

For the first time in, well, ever, CRRC-Armenia has become a full house. Hailing from all over Armenia and the globe, the office has become a bustling hub of diverse experience, ideals, and goals. Seven Junior Fellows, International Fellows, and International Volunteers have joined the CRRC-Armenia family in the hopes of being able to research, learn, and integrate their ideas in a professional setting.  With intense social, political, cultural, and economic changes and developments taking place in Armenia right now, these young and bright individuals could not have come at a better time.

The use of social media has played an important role in CRRC-Armenia’s development, as many of the current fellows learned about the fellowship programs through CRRC-Armenia’s Facebook page. The CRRC-Armenia website was also useful for Anna Gradlyan, who would always use the CRRC Caucasus Barometer data while she was pursuing her Master’s degree in Political Science and International Affairs from the American University of Armenia.

Nevertheless, it was another important Armenian institutional figure that guided Nataliya Secretareva from Moscow,  a graduate from the Lomonosov Moscow State University faculty of law, to come to Armenia. Natalya was assigned to read Mkhitar Gosh’s code of laws. Written in the 12th century, Mkhitar Gosh’s code of laws pertains to civil code and Canon law and was used in Greater Armenia and Cilicia. Intrigued by the importance of these laws, Natalya became fascinated by the place that hardly anyone “…can point out on a map and whose people’s first names exist to torment, but also teach those with average linguistic abilities.”

On the other hand, Dr. Emine Onaran Incirlioglu, professor of anthropology at Maltepe University in Istanbul, has joined CRRC-Armenia through the Turkey-Armenia Fellowship sponsored by the Hrant Dink Foundation. Emine hopes to use her socio-cultural anthropological background into her research so as to find a balance between academia and activism. She believes that, through Armenia’s and Turkey’s history and cross-cultural overlap, she can aid in finding a common language that can help mend the current issues.

As for our International Fellow,  Daria Vorobyeva’s, a PhD candidate at St. Andrews University in Scotland, has come to Armenia to complete her dissertation. Focusing on the change of identities of Christians who escaped the modern Syrian conflict, Daria wants to understand better the current state of the Syrian-Armenians upon their arrival to the country, as well as the future plans and the shift in the identity of these individuals.  

For many of the fellows, CRRC-Armenia is their first opportunity to get hands-on research experience in a professional setting. This is the time in which they can explore their passions while gaining valuable knowledge. David, who has a Master’s degree in International Relations from Yerevan State University, is excited about all of the sources he will be able to access through this fellowship Lilit Javadyan, who is working on her Master’s degree in Political Science from the American University of Armenia and wants to attain a career in the realm of public policy, is certain that the fellowship will prepare and train her with the adequate skills to find and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data.

The Fellows also believe that being able to meet and learn from professionals and fellow students is a very important factor as to why they chose this fellowship.  Samvel Hovhannisyan, who is currently working on his PhD at the Armenian State University of Economics, believes that CRRC will refine his skills as an individual. More importantly however, Samvel was excited about CRRC-Armenia because of the people he would be able to meet and network with. He understands that learning and developing research skills comes not only from individual research, but also from working with others, whether it be with fellows that are his own age or employees at CRRC. 

Nevertheless, each of these fellows are incredibly excited about this new path and cannot wait to see what the program has in store for them. Throughout the fellowship, the fellows are expected to complete their own research projects: David is hoping to conduct research and present a quantitative analysis of China’s military rise and the East Asian Security system; Lilit hopes to work on a project concerning Nagorno-Karabakh’s war veterans; Samvel wants to work on pension fund management issues in Armenia; Natalya is working on a project regarding the many interrelations of public policies, migration, and development; and Anna is working on local government development. These research projects are expected to develop the fellows’ skills so that they will not only learn how to research, but also analyze information that interests them.

For many, these research projects are not just a means to an end, but rather the first stepping stone in their future careers and postgraduate education.  Each with their own hopes, CRRC-Armenia is giving these 8 individuals the opportunity to get one step closer to their future goals.

CRRC-Armenia is also aiding me, Talar, an international volunteer, realize what my aspirations are for the future.  My position here is a bit different from everyone else’s, as I was placed at CRRC-Armenia through Birthright Armenia, a program created to help Diasporan Armenians volunteer, work, and get integrated within the homeland. As someone who studied history and public policy for my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, I am excited to have the opportunity to work at a fact tank like CRRC as it is a perfect stepping stone to my future career in public administration and policy analysis.

Throughout the last few weeks, CRRC-Armenia has become a newly budding family. Getting to know one another, we are all very excited for the opportunities that are about to come our way. The fellows and I all agree that CRRC-Armenia is one of the few organizations that enable young people to take a chance in the world and truly discover what it is like to work in a multifaceted field.  The organization has created a support-system for us, contributing to the development of high-level human capital in Armenia. As David believes, “[the] CRRC’s work is unparalleled in raising the quality of social research in the South Caucasus and particularly in Armenia,” and believes that such an environment will only provide benefits for all of the fellows and volunteers. We are all excited to see what the future holds for us at CRRC-Armenia.

November 19, 2014

IMF, World Bank, USAID Representatives in Armenia on Achievements, Challenges, and Growth

By Adrineh Der-Boghossian, Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows

A three-part series

CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan on September 29 and October 3 met with the heads of three major institutions in Armenia: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen R. Hilliard, and World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey to ask them about their institutions’ priorities and achievements in Armenia, challenges that were particular to their experience in the country, and what they liked the most and the least in Armenia.

Part 3. Being a high-level women official in Armenia.

Asked “What are some challenges that are particular to your experience in Armenia, a country where the majority of state and other prominent institutions are headed by men?”, all three interviewees said their experience of being a woman in charge of a major institution in an environment where many of the public officials are men is not unique to Armenia.

“I find that if there are any gender issues or if the men that I deal with have any particular attitudes about dealing with a woman, the polite nature of Armenian culture would prevent them from ever expressing it. And so, I discern no difficulty, challenges, or obstacles in my interaction with either men or women leaders in Armenia,” said the USAID representative, Hilliard, mentioning that her relationships with counterparts in all the countries in which she’s worked have been “very fluid, very easy, and based on mutual respect.”

The IMF representative Teresa Daban Sanchez was impressed by the high level of professionalism of the Armenian authorities. “When everybody behaves in a professional way, a gender doesn't matter, [if] you are a woman or a man,” she said, adding that she has a good working relationship with all her counterparts.

Ms. Sanchez, however, said it would be better if there was some diversity among decision-makers in Armenia in both the public and private sectors. As she noted, her impression was that Armenia is still in the process of empowering women.” Though, Armenia might be lagging behind other countries, Daban Sanchez opined, it’s only a matter of time until it catches up.

What the World Bank representative, Bailey, preferred to stress, however, were not the differences but the similarities between Armenia and other countries. These are some of her remarks on the issue:

“I think that when you are in a position of leadership you take very seriously the fact that you are representing not just your institution […], but also all the people who work with you.

When I go to a meeting with the government, when I sit in a meeting with ministers, I am representing not just the World Bank, this institution, I am representing every Armenian man and woman who works here in my office.

It’s my responsibility to represent them with integrity, to be very clear and honest in my communication, and to bring all of the best technical knowledge that we have and offer it, whether it’s in a discussion with the Minister for Energy or a discussion with an environmental civil society organization.

No matter who it is from the Armenian side, if I bring a great degree of technical value, if I bring a great deal of integrity, then my experience is people will listen. They will not perhaps worry too much about whether I am a man or a woman. What they are looking for is the value that I bring.”

CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows: Adrineh, Syuzanna, Julya, Vanuhi

November 11, 2014

IMF, World Bank, USAID Representatives in Armenia on Achievements, Challenges, and Growth

By Adrineh Der-Boghossian, Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows

A three-part series

Part 1 

Part 3

CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan on September 29 and October 3 met with the heads of three major institutions in Armenia: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen R. Hilliard, and World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey to ask them about their institutions’ priorities and achievements in Armenia, challenges that were particular to their experience in the country, and what they liked the most and the least in Armenia.

Part 2. Armenia: Pros and Cons

Interestingly, all three interviewees cited the warmth of Armenian people as one of the things they enjoyed most about living and working in Armenia.

“This is a very warm and welcoming country. When I walk into a shop, people smile, they say hello — it’s just very friendly. That’s a very nice thing. As a newcomer, you feel very warmly welcomed,” Laura Bailey said, adding that the second thing she liked most about the country was its beautiful scenery.

World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan (left) at the opening ceremony of the Gyumri Technology Center. Sept. 13, 2014. Photo: The World Bank.

The USAID Mission Director Karen Hilliard mentioned Armenia’s incredibly rich history and culture, a fascinating language, and the strength of Armenian family as positive disclosure, adding that "Armenians are such survivors". "It's a pleasure to work here", she confessed.

Dr.  Hilliard  speaks at the official launch of the USAID-funded Pension Reform Implementation Program, Sept. 11, 2013.
Photo: A.Karabekian, USAID/Armenia

While the IMF representative Tereza Daban Sanchez remarked that the quality of life was relatively good, there were certain situations reminding her Armenia still being a country in transition. She pointed to the lack of social cohesion and difficulties for communities to get together, and poor efforts and resources to increase the nation’s welfare collectively. As an example, she mentioned people’s reluctance to follow traffic rules, as drivers do not consider the impact their behavior has on the community’s safety. 

Moreover, Bailey also pointed out the traffic, saying that one thing she would change in Armenia was the “crazy drivers in Yerevan”!

IMF Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez (left) and IMF mission chief for Armenia Mark Horton (center). Press conference. Sept. 30, 2014. Photo: IMF Office to Armenia.

Furthermore, Ms. Hilliard  expressed a concern with regard to high level of corruption. “Armenia faces a lot of external obstacles, which have an impact on economic developments,  but the level of corruption is self-inflicted, it is something that holds Armenia back. What is the thing that I would change? - it will be that”, she said.

November 6, 2014

IMF, World Bank, USAID Representatives in Armenia on Achievements, Challenges, and Growth.

By Adrineh Der-Boghossian, Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows

A three-part series. 

CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows Julya Sahakyan, Syuzanna Smbatyan, and Vanuhi Matevosyan on September 29 and October 3 met with the heads of three major institutions in Armenia: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen R. Hilliard, and World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey to ask them about their institutions’ priorities and achievements in Armenia, challenges that were particular to their experience in the country, and what they liked the most and the least in Armenia.

Part 1. Priorities, Achievements, and Assistance to Armenia

The World Bank and USAID's priorities in Armenia are manifold: for the World Bank, these include fostering an investment climate and working not only on economic policy, but also in such sectors as education, health, social protection, and regional development, among others. USAID Armenia, in turn, identified priorities in the areas of private sector competitiveness, improvement of the business environment, financial services for small and medium enterprises, improved primary health care and social services, rural development (particularly in remote corners of Armenia), tourism, civil society development, and local governance. Past USAID activities include cross-border business promotion, civil society and cultural exchanges, but recently, Hilliard said, USAID has decided to focus on the business aspect, leaving the cultural and political aspects to the Public Affairs Section of the US State Department.

Dr. Karen Hilliard, USAID/Armenia Mission Director, presents to the public the USAID assistance strategy for Armenia for the years 2013-2017 at an official event on December 11, 2013. Photo: M.Khachatryan

Hilliard also highlighted the USAID’s endeavors in the energy sector; specifically, helping Armenia link its energy grid more closely with that of Georgia, so that Armenia is not dependent on one source of electricity and the two countries can actually help each other when they have shortages. She mentioned Armenia’s relationship in the energy sector with Iran, but said USAID is not involved “for geopolitical reasons.” However, she added, USAID believes that by forging business and cultural ties to increase tourism, it is preparing for the day when Armenia will no longer be blockaded.

Bailey, in turn, mentioned some of the more tangible areas of the World Bank’s work in Armenia, identifying the reintroduction of preschools and improved access to health (by rehabilitating 10 regional medical centers). “But it’s also important the things that are invisible: like changing the tax law. Sounds very abstract but it turns out that having a good modern tax code is incredibly important to getting businesses to grow,” she added.

The issue of energy dependence was also mentioned by IMF Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez, who identified it as a key priority of the IMF’s agenda with the Armenian authorities. Under the IMF-supported program, the authorities are encouraged to develop a strategy to improve the sustainability and efficiency of the energy sector. Preserving macroeconomic stability and working with the authorities on structural reforms were the other priorities of the IMF in Armenia that Daban Sanchez identified.More specifically, she cited economic growth, job creation, and tax reform as areas in which the IMF focuses and works with the Armenian authorities.

(left to right): Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, IMF mission chief for Armenia Mark Horton, and IMF Resident Representative to Armenia Teresa Daban Sanchez. Sept. 30, 2014. Photo: IMF Office to Armenia.

Asked in which areas their institution made the greatest strides, Bailey, the World Bank representative, identified competitiveness, while Hilliard, the USAID representative, mentioned disaster relief (following the 1988 earthquake) and growth of civil society, in addition to significant structural reforms such as the modernization of the energy sector, management of natural resources (particularly water), “transitioning from a Soviet-style health system to a more modern primary healthcare system,” and strengthening the pension system.

Ms. Sanchez also mentioned Armenia’s transition from the Soviet period, saying the IMF supported Armenia’s efforts to overcome the challenges of transitioning to a market-based economy and more recently Armenia’s recovery from the global economic crisis. However, despite these achievements,  she said, significant challenges remain. “Growth and inflation remain volatile. Real interest rates are high. Financial markets are under-developed and highly-dollarized. Business climate remains challenging. Poverty and migration continue to be high. Therefore, the IMF is determined to continue to support Armenia with a new three-year arrangement approved in March 2014, which includes policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and structural reforms,” she said.

Regarding the World Bank’s assistance, Bailey mentioned helping Armenia “change the way the economy is structured by reforming the government regulations and providing the incentives for businesses to create jobs.” Though this work is invisible, what is visible, she said, is addressing vulnerability, as the results are more immediate. The World Bank, she said, works with the government on social protection schemes such as the family benefit scheme. In addition, as a result of projects supported by the World Bank, pensioners receive their pensions in a timely manner, and 1 out of every 4 people throughout the country benefitted from temporary employment, many of whom later transferred to a permanent job.

(left to right): World Bank Country Manager Laura Bailey, World Bank Regional Director for South Caucasus Henry Kerali, and RA Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. Sept. 11, 2014. Photo: The World Bank.

The World Bank’s assistance to Armenia has been growing; however, there was a “brief dip” from 2013 to this year. Bailey said the reason for this was technical. There are two “buckets” of funding that the World Bank provides: one to middle income countries; the other, to lower income countries. Until last year, Armenia was eligible for assistance from both funds; however, this year, it is no longer eligible for funding provided to lower income countries. The World Bank believes this is a sign of maturity and evidence of Armenia’s growing economy. It has compensated for a little bit of the loss of funding by offering other resources specific to countries interested in investing in renewable energy resources.

The overall support USAID provides to Armenia also decreased; however, Hilliard said this “reflects the natural evolution of things.” The USAID’s assistance to Armenia in the early years of independence was greater simply because the country’s needs were greater. Over time, Armenia has progressed, and “it’s now about to graduate from lower middle income country to middle income country status. So it’s only natural that foreign assistance would decrease proportionally,” she said.

October 22, 2014

Modern Problems of Socio-Economic Development in Armenia

(review of a Doctoral thesis by Amalya Saribekyan)

By CRRC-Armenia International Volunteer Varak Ketsemanian

Varak Ketsemanian
The problem of Armenia’s social and economic development has been on the political agenda of the Armenian ruling elite and the Diaspora, since the country has regained its independence in 1991. Given the unfavorable well-known geographical, geopolitical and historical developments of the Armenian Republic during the past years of independence, the economic and social progress of the country currently remains a lingering problem for the Armenian reality.  Thus, the local scientists quite often try to analyze the public policy to suggest models that will support further development.

One of such works is the Doctorate thesis, written by Amalya Saribekyan. She argues that the effective usage of the social potential of the country would account to a new qualitative progress that will enhance the social and economic structure of Armenia. The study reveals the peculiarities of economic growth and pre-crisis (2008) developments while analyzing the trends of economic development in transition countries, including Armenia.

Apart from providing a theoretical basis for her work and reviewing development theories by W. Rostow, the author relies on empirical data, arguing for a necessity in the structural change in Armenian economics, and societal management and dynamics. Moreover, this study is an attempt to bring into the scene the importance of society when it comes to modernization and economic development. It provides some new insights concerning the role of society in a post-crisis Armenia, and calls for the necessity to find new ways for the further development of the country leading to economic modernization and progressive development, based on new resources, new approaches and principles.

Considering the specifics of the newborn Armenian Republic and the harsh realities of the transitional period it found itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the research underlines the necessity for revamping the social-economic structure of the country. In this respect, it tends to merge different scientific and social approaches urging for the development of new social and political mechanisms and principles that would shape and enhance the economic structure of Armenia.  Justifying the importance of modernizing the national ideology under the modern theories of social economic developments, this work discusses a necessity of transition to mobilized economics as a safeguard for the maximal realization of the national investment potential.

With the introduction of this idea, Saribekyan highlights the necessity for a multilateral evaluation of the constituent parts of socio-economic potential, and defines their role in the formation of national investment potential. In other words, discussing the necessity for harnessing the national investment potential, the author marks the development of human potential (culture, ideology, and knowledge), as a priority and necessary condition for the economic growth. Thus, considering the development of social apparatus as a condition for economic development, the marking of conceptual characteristics of long-term national development assumes great importance in Saribekyan’s work, particularly the priority of individual interest over social interest, consent, and effective cooperation of political and economic systems on the basis of the principles of democracy, legitimacy and transparency. 
Finally, this work argues for the necessity of structural changes along the following lines:

    - The creation of a subsystem of cultural and spiritual development, aimed at shaping national ideology as well as at acknowledging the role of Armenian nation in human civilization;

        - The establishment of a subsystem of provision of social understanding and society – state cooperation, aimed at promoting communal involvement in the decision making process and increasing the effectiveness of these processes; finally, the necessity of revamping the subsystem of social economic strategic development, aimed at differentiating between strategic and administrative levels.

Hereby, throughout this brief introduction to Saribekyan’s work, we would like to invite economists, sociologists, social scientists and all those concerned with Armenia’s social-economic development to, not only freely exchange their ideas, opinions and comments regarding the problems raised in this work, but also to suggest new ways, methods, mechanisms and principles bringing some new insights in efforts to address the problems mentioned above.

October 21, 2014

Armenia ranks the lowest in South Caucasus: Some Observations from the Global Competitiveness Index 2014/2015

By Syuzanna Smbatyan and Julya Sahakyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellows

Main message

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015, Armenia’s competitiveness is ranked 85th out of 144 economies, which means that it lacks behind its two neighboring countries: Georgia and Azerbaijan (69th and 38th correspondingly). Meanwhile, according to the previous report of the year 2013-2014, Armenia was the 79th, which means that it recorded a decrease by 6 point compared to 2014-2015, making its regression even concerning. Let’s see how the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) is measured and which sectors affected significantly the index for Armenia and its neighbors.

It is an annual comprehensive assessment based on competitiveness performance of the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. It involves static and dynamic components (12 in total). In order to measure components, the report uses statistical data such as government debt, enrollment rates, budget deficit and life expectancy. Data are acquired from international agencies. 

Armenia’s GCI’s Recent Trends Compared to Neighbors

The table below shows how both the overall competitiveness indices  and the ones for each of the 12 pillars of competitiveness vary in three South Caucasian countries (note that (+) means upward change and (-) means downward change). It is apparent, that in case of the most of 12 pillars Georgia and Azerbaijan are doing better than Armenia in the recent two years.  Only in Business Sophistication and Innovation Armenia’s rank is better than Georgia’s. Armenia compared to Azerbaijan has higher grade in Health and Primary Education, where the latter was ranked the least in the South Caucasus region.

Overall Competitiveness Indices

Compared to 2013, Armenia had the highest downfall in Macroeconomic environment, Health and primary education, Labor market efficiency and Financial market development (-13,-14, -24 and -21 respectively). While Georgia recorded significant improvement in institutions (+16) and macroeconomic environment (+13). Azerbaijan mostly was affected negatively by business sophistication which was improved only in Georgia (+7).
It is also noteworthy to mention that according to this report Armenia is in the backyard by export’s share in the GDP, which is one of the important indicators for economic growth of countries.  

On the other hand, it is the first out of 144 countries having the lowest percentage of HIV prevalence (0.2%). The report indicates that there are some sectors such as infrastructure, protection of the investors and documentation days of starting new business in which, Armenia recorded improvement compared to 2013.

October 17, 2014

Determining the Internet Penetration Rate in Armenia

By Adrineh Der-Boghossian, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

An article recently published on revealed that the internet penetration rate in Armenia in 2013, according to the country’s Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), was 45%. How does this compare with data from the Caucasus Barometer?

According to the 2013 Caucasus Barometer, 59% of respondents said their household had internet access. The official government figure is different from not only the CB data, but also the rate provided by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency responsible for ICTs. According to the ITU, 46% of individuals used the internet in Armenia in 2013.

The ITU gets its data from “administrative sources” — mainly telecommunications operators and internet service providers collected by national regulatory authorities and ministries. As per the ITU’s Handbook for the collection of administrative data on telecommunications/ICT: “In most countries, the national telecommunication regulatory authority (NRA) is responsible for collecting, compiling and disseminating statistics covering the telecommunication/ICT services sector.” In Armenia, the ITU has traditionally relied on data provided by the National Statistical Service, the Ministry of Transport and Communication, and the PSRC, government bodies that technology scholars and experts are not inclined to trust as data collection processes have been neither transparent nor objective.

Furthermore, “some governments have reason to inflate penetration rates and there are few checks on this by the ITU,” writes Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Washington and South Caucasus technology media expert Katy Pearce in this article from 2012.

There is, however, other data apart from household internet access that might help to provide a more comprehensive picture of internet access in Armenia. For instance, according to the 2013 Caucasus Barometer, 62% of households have a personal computer and 28% access the internet from a cell phone. Though having a computer at home doesn’t mean it’s connected to the internet, there’s a good chance that at least some of those computers are connected to the internet. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that internet penetration increased in Armenia primarily due to mobile internet access. Many Armenian internet users, in fact, access the internet only via mobile device (Pearce and Rice, 2013). All things we need to keep in mind when trying to determine the level of internet access in Armenia.

Another, perhaps more useful indicator is frequency of internet use.

Additional data can be found by looking at the findings of another nationwide household survey conducted by CRRC-Armenia in 2013, the Alternative Resources in Media survey. Here too, respondents were asked about device ownership, and internet use and frequency. Specifically, 47% of respondents said they used the internet in the last 12 months, with 48% of them reporting they used it daily. Asked about device ownership, 24% of respondents said they had a notebook, 6% had a netbook, 42% had a desktop computer, and 4% had a tablet.

The Alternative Resources in Media survey also asked about frequency of internet use (with slight variation in the response options):

No matter how you look at it, the claim that 45% of Armenia’s population are internet users is simplistic and not wholly accurate. Besides, internet penetration rates on their own mean nothing if we also don’t look at internet frequency and online activities. Device ownership is also helpful but not the best measure of individuals using the internet.

Why aren’t devices a good way to measure internet use? Well, for one thing, individuals have multiple devices, and for another, they sometimes share devices (say, a household computer that several people use). LIRNEasia, an ICT policy and regulation think tank covering the Asia Pacific, proposes a new model that estimates the proportion of individuals using the internet based on income and education level data, particularly in cases where there is no survey data. LIRNEasia refers to previous research that found the main factors driving internet penetration are income and education. This paper points to the problems of relying on ITU data and number of internet subscriptions.

A good measure of internet use is the activities people do online. The 2013 Caucasus Barometer asked respondents which activities they do most frequently when they’re browsing the internet. To find the answer to this question and compare results from Armenia with those of the rest of the South Caucasus, go to and use the CRRC’s easy-to-use Online Data Analysis tool.

October 14, 2014

Can Researchers Find New Ways to Approach Ethnic Conflict?

By Kendra Dias, CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

“Mercy on the old master building a bridge,
The passer-by may lay a stone to his foundation.
I have sacrificed my soul, worn out my life, for the nation.
A brother may arrange a rock upon my grave.”
-Sayat Nova

In the first days of 2012 I took my first fieldwork trip in the Caucasus; two weeks from Tbilisi, across Yerevan, through Karabakh (Artsakh), and back. I had not yet applied for an M.A. in Nationalism Studies. I had not yet read Smith’s Ethno-Symbolism, Brubaker’s Ethnicity without Cognition, or Tajfel’s Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. I had no formal knowledge of the constructivists or de Saussure’s work on Language and Symbolic Power. In fact, I knew very little about Armenia or the conflict over Karabakh (Artsakh) which is exactly what I intended to remedy with my earnest boots-on-the-ground approach. 

What I found on that trip were gracious and generous people, many who were very personally affected by the war over Karabakh (Artsakh); some resigned to it, some either not able to forget, or not wanting to remember. I heard stories from the battlefield, diatribes on ethnography and genealogy, and hope for the future. There is no doubt that many of these accounts may be considered less than accurate, fallible as memory is, subjective as historical injustice can be framed. When it comes to conflict however, it is important to consider the voices of those who are affected by the conflict - even if only symbolically so. Indeed, there is much dubious ethnographic research throughout the history of the Caucasus; both of Soviet invention and into the present day. From the manipulation of census data to folk tales of the chosen nation, it seems no one is unbiased. 

What is interesting in the so called ‘frozen’ conflicts of the Caucasus, from Abkhazia to Karabakh (Artsakh), is the lack of agency granted those who actually live on the land. From an international standpoint there is a strong reason to forge on feining diplomatic means to resolution and soft-power tactics in more salient cases. Since Kosovo, and admittedly prior, to be decisive about ending conflicts where national sovereignty may be disrupted is to open a pandora’s box of minority claims for territorial shift. On the other hand, it is remiss, particularly for researchers, to continue on writing about the implications of this political arrangement or that without accounting directly for the needs and aspirations of those native to the land. 

There is no question, the policies of the Soviet Union have had lasting and destructive effects on former Soviet nations. One of the most explosive and painful results of this legacy has been the nationalization of territory which is now inhabited by myriad ethnic groups. With such a diverse and complex arrangement of ethnic and linguistic groups, each with their own historical legacy and interests in justice, how can we hope to make sense of these conflicts? In the case of Abkhazia, it is no secret that diplomacy has rarely included representatives of the Abkhaz people or their express interests, although they are clearly recognized as a distinct ethnic group. Instead they watch as Georgia- largely backed by the west- and Russia volley for serve over their homeland. Can we find this trend in the case of the Karabakh conflict? Who are Karabakhians and are their interests represented? 

One way researchers can broach this issue is through a study of folk-linguistics; that is to say, to study the way non-specialists think about and use language. The link between language and identity is irrefutable. This type of study can tell us not only a lot about the population of Karabakh but also about how they - and other closely involved parties - feel about the current state of affairs and the direction approaches to resolution may take to yield more sustainable results. By taking the focus off the question of territory and its entrenched symbolic meanings, we can seek to understand more about where Karabakh is situated on a sociolinguistic map of the region. Looking to complexities such as the massive population transfers resulting from the war, we may also identify potential minority rights issues irrespective of resolution. 

I am excited to begin my work with CRRC Armenia and look forward to building close relations with communities interested in the unique sociolinguistic profiles throughout the Caucasus. Although solutions to long-standing conflicts won’t be found in the simplicity of a single study, I believe it is the responsibility of sociological researchers to set the trends by reminding tendentious actors of who they are meant to serve. 

As a researcher, I have had the privilege of traveling across the North and South Caucasus conducting interviews on issues surrounding nationalism and sociolinguistics. I have been able to use the knowledge gained through these experiences to write for publications such as Georgian Times, take part in anthropological conferences in Europe, contribute to an introductory textbook on Caucasian Studies, and complete my Master’s thesis on multilingualism and identity in contemporary Dagestan. With the skills I will develop working as a member of the CRRC Armenia team, I hope to continue on with doctoral research involving similar themes next fall. 

October 6, 2014

Former CRRC-Armenia Fellow Publishes Groundbreaking Study on Armenian Female Sex Workers

CRRC–Armenia is very happy to announce that one of its senior fellows, Karine Markosyan, recently published her article titled "Correlates of Inconsistent Refusal of Unprotected Sex among Armenian Female Sex Workers" in Volume 2014 of the AIDS Research and Treatment academic journal. Ms. Markosyan's research at CRRC-Armenia in 2012 also explored refusal of unprotected sex by Armenian female sex workers (FSWs). The data she used for her research at CRRC-Armenia was from a study done in 2010 that interviewed 120 sex workers over the age of 18. 

For the study published in AIDS Research and Treatment, 118 female sex workers in Yerevan, aged 20–52, completed a questionnaire that assessed their demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral characteristics, in order to analyze the differences between those that consistently and those that inconsistently refused unprotected sex (52.5% of the sample).

As stated in the discussion part of the paper: "Findings of the current study suggest that FSWs, who inconsistently refuse unprotected sex, can be characterized as those who have experienced more types of abuse, have more impediments to condom use, and charge lower fees for service." 

We congratulate Ms. Markosyan, as well as CRRC-Armenia, for the support it provided to Ms. Markosyan to conduct this very important research, one of the first studies of its kind investigating important HIV-risk behavior.

Full article is available here