February 27, 2011

Armenian Civil Society Index

In 2009, Counterpart International Armenia was given the rights by CIVICUS to use their methodology to conduct a public opinion survey and measure the Civil Society Index (CSI) in the Republic of Armenia. On February 22nd, Counterpart International Armenia presented the respective report.

While presenting the report, Lusine Hakobyan, lead CSI coordinator for Counterpart International, acknowledged the local and international organisations that joined in evaluating the state and trends of Armenian civil society. Particularly, thanks were addressed to CRRC-Armenia for assisting with the sampling for the public opinion survey throughout Armenia.

According to CIVICUS, 'the two primary goals of the CSI are to enhance the strength and sustainability of civil society, and to strengthen civil society’s contribution to positive social change' ('Introduction to the CSI', http://www.civicus.org/csi). Counterpart International has also examined the strength of Armenia's civil society in comparison to Turkey's, which is addressed further below.

The CSI assessment combines multiple indicators to provide a visual display of five following key dimensions:
1. Civic Engagement: 'The extent to which individuals engage in social and political initiatives.'
2. Level or Organisation: 'The degree of institutionalisation that characterises civil society.'
3. Practice of Values: 'The extent to which civil society practices some core values.'
4. Perceived Impact: 'The extent to which civil society is able to impact the social and policy arena, according to internal and external perceptions.'
5. External Environment: 'The above four dimensions are analysed in the context of "external environment", which includes the socioeconomic, political and cultural variables within which civil society operates (CIVICUS Civil Society Index, 'Armenian Civil Society', Analytical Country Report, 2010. pp. 6.).

The five key dimensions are plotted in order to produce the 'Civil Society Diamond diagram'. Armenia's 'Civil Society Diamond diagram' looks like this:

What the diagram shows is that, while Armenia's dimensions of 'Level of Organisation', 'Practice of values' and 'External Environment' demonstrate similar levels of development, the dimensions of 'Civic Engagement' and 'Perception of Impact' are lacking (CIVICUS Civil Society Index, 'Armenian Civil Society, CIVICUS Civil Society Index, 2010. pp. 6.).

According to the study, the weak score for 'Civic Engagement' is due to the lack of participation in civil society by the civilian population. Despite this, those who do participate do so 'frequently and extensively'. Also worth noting is that the 'Practice of Values' dimension shows a 'considerable level of internalisation and promotion of values in Armenian civil society'. The 'Perception of Impact' dimension is the lowest score and the 'External Environment' dimension continues to be obstructed by corruption and lack of devotion to the rule of law, according to the report (CIVICUS Civil Society Index, 'Armenian Civil Society', 2010. pp. 7.).

The event was attended by H.E. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch of the Embassy of the U.S.A., who gave the keynote address. The report was officially launched by the Head of Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Sergey Kapinos. The study was implemented by Counterpart International with support from USAID, CIVICUS World Alliance for Civic Participation, OCSE office, UNDP, Civic Development and Partnership Foundation, NGO Center/northern branch, Partnership and Teaching NGO, Professionals for Civil Society NGO, the Caucasus Research and Resource Centers, Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation and Antares Holding.

- 'Armenian Civil Society' from Transition to Consolidation', CIVICUS Civil Society Index, Analytical Country Report, 2010.
- 'Introduction to the CSI', http://www.civicus.org/csi.

February 11, 2011

Corruption Trends in South Caucasus - BEEPS Recent Report

Already for the fourth time the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank initiated the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS). The purpose of this survey is to collect data about the business environment and corruption. In 2008 11000 interviews were conducted with different firms compared to 9637 firms in 2005.
The questionnaire and the sampling methodology have been changed compared to 2005. In 2008 stratified random sampling was used instead of simple random sampling. In 2008 firms included in the sampling had 5-10000 employees, were not 100% state owned and had been operating for three years or more.
During the latest 2008 survey 374 firms were surveyed in Armenia (351 in 2005), 380 firms in Azerbaijan (350 in 2005), and 373 firms in Georgia (200 in 2005).
The results show, that administrative corruption has declined in 2008 compared to 2005, however countries of the former Soviet Union as a group have not made significant improvement.

As it is seen from the figure below, the frequency of bribe has risen in Armenia since 2005, in Azerbaijan it has slightly declined and in Georgia it is significantly low, on the same level with Eastern European countries.

In 2008 around 65% of the firms in Armenia said that courts, access to lands, and business licensing are not a problem, while in 2005 42%, 39% and 32% consequently said so. In this regard, Azerbaijan has substantially improved results for tax administration from 2005 (38% vs. 10%), and customs and trade regulations (58% vs. 32%).
Both in Azerbaijan and Georgia bribe frequencies have declined with 7% and 6% consequently, while in Armenia it has increased from 10% to 16%. In Azerbaijan in 2008 bribe frequency was 23% and in Georgia only 4%, thus much lower than the mean value for bribe frequency for European countries surveyed - 13%.
Unofficial payments for securing government contracts are high in all South Caucasus Republics, as well as in other countries studied, on average 20-21%. 16% of firms in Armenia, 13% in Azerbaijan and only 3% in Georgia said bribery is frequent in dealing with taxes.
In terms of employees with university or higher degree, Armenian companies are the pioneers. Thus, 55% of employees in Armenia have university degree or higher (in Azerbaijan 31%, in Georgia 46%). Worth to note, that in 2005 it was only 22% in Armenia, 43% in Azerbaijan, and 57% in Georgia.
Armenian firms are also pioneer in spending funds on research. Thus, 24% of firms surveyed in Armenia during 2008 have spent funds on research and development during past three years (in Azerbaijan 7%, in Georgia 16%). The top three problems for doing business in Armenia are tax rates (72%), access to finance (59%), and corruption (52%); in Azerbaijan - corruption (66%), tax rates (65%), and access to land (61%); in Georgia - electricity (65%), access to finance (55%), and tax rates (51%).
On average, tax administration and corruption are common problems in the countries of former Soviet Union and Eastern and Central Asian countries.
Hopefully during the next survey we will witness substantial improvements not only in South Caucasus countries, also in all other countries surveyed. As for South Caucasus Republics, Armenia and Azerbaijan can benefit from studying the experience in Georgia, especially in fighting corruption and tax administration.

*All data and graphs are retrieved from Business Environment and Enterprise Survey. For full country reports click here.

February 9, 2011

Publication Fellowship for Researchers in Armenia

The CRRC Armenia office has just completed its eighth round of the Research Publication Fellowship Program. Through this program, research grants are provided to outstanding individuals or a group of individuals to conduct independent research studies and write a research paper. All of the applicants went through a pre-application training and consultation process which was done through the Moodle e-learning platform. After this, an independent fellowship selection committee reviewed and evaluated the applications. The following five researchers were granted the fellowship for 2010:

The Relation between Millennium Challenge Corporation Aid and Control of Corruption in Armenia

This research project will examine the relationship between the MCC funding policy and improvement in anti-corruption aims in Armenia.

Anna Minasyan

MA in International Business from the University of Konstanz Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Post-Crisis Development in Armenia

The study will examine crisis and post-crisis developments of the Armenian economy in the framework of sectoral diversification, GDP structure, regional integration and emerging debt crisis issues. The team will build an econometric model to show the main trends observed in major sectors of the economy. The project will employ macroeconomic variables and provide possible scenarios regarding post-crisis developments.

Vilen Khachatryan

PhD in Economics from the Institute of Economics of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia

Poverty and Growth Dynamics in Armenia

This research project assesses the dynamics of poverty and its main driving forces in rural and urban areas of Armenia with regard to economic growth.

Nelly Gasparyan

MA in Economics from the International School of Economics in Tbilisi, Georgia (will be mentored by Dr. Karine Torosyan, ISET)

Religious Tolerance and the Dominant Armenian Apostolic Church in Desecularizing Armenia: the Case of Shatin Village

This project presents a case study of Shatin village which has recently faced desecularisation. In contrast to many other Armenian villages, it espouses religious tolerance. This project will reveal the determinants of religious tolerance in the village and uncover new aspects of desecularisation in Armenia.

Meri Yeranosyan

MA in Social Sciences from Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany

Personality and Leisure Choices in Armenia

This paper will explore why certain people choose less common types of leisure activities over the more popular ones. The insights of motivation theory and leisure studies are combined to find correlations between the self-actualizing type of leisure and personality.

Tamara Tsaturyan

MS in Marketing and Management from Stockholm University, Sweden

The fellows are expected to finish their research projects by the end of 2011 and to seek a peer-reviewed publication for their papers. We wish our fellows in Armenia productive work and success with their research.

February 3, 2011

Round Table Discussion on "Designing and Managing Courses"

On February 1, 2011, CRRC-Armenia organized a round table discussion on "Designing and Managing Courses," conducted by Kristine Antonyan.

During the meeting different topics were discussed, among them the challenges of modern education system, the aims of the courses thought and their results, methods of teaching, the types of instructors and other relevant issues.

Ms. Antonyan presented the book on "Designing and Managing Courses" (Ms. Antonyan is one of the coauthors), as well as the web site for university instructors (www.teaching.am).

The participants were different instructors and professors from different universities and initiated discussions around different topics brought up by Ms. Antonyan and exchanged their own experience with other participants.