December 24, 2012

Caucasus Barometer Presentations

On Wednesday, December 12, staff members from CRRC-Armenia visited the Armenian National Agrarian University (ANAU) and observed presentations that students had prepared using the Caucasus Barometer. Eight pairs of students each presented their findings on statistics related to the social and economic standards among Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis. Each group had a unique hypothesis and analyzed different parts of the data set. There were interesting conclusions that took an impressive amount of time and effort to develop.


Using PowerPoint presentations, the groups investigated their hypotheses by creating relevant charts and graphs. CRRC-Armenia Director Heghine Manasyan and Research Director Drew Loizeaux were on hand to offer their advice on how to best utilize the Caucasus Barometer tool and conduct social science research.

Overall, the day was a great example of CRRC’s data in action and a great outreach opportunity for the institute. Thanks to ANAU for the invitation to attend the event, and to the students for their hard work and thoughtful presentations.

Currently, we are looking forward to the presentations of a group of master’s students at ANAU on the Caucasus Barometer, and will be sure to provide an update after we attend.

December 10, 2012

New Fellows at CRRC-Armenia

By Peter Jones, CRRC International Fellow

CRRC – Armenia is excited to announce the latest cohort of its annual fellowship program. The program was launched in 2004 to support researchers in the South Caucasus interested in pursuing original policy-oriented research.

For the 2012-2013 program, 9 fellows working on 8 distinct research projects were selected through a competitive process of peer review and a selection committee of leading practitioners and researchers. The topics range from political issues such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to social problems like the existing stigmas of Armenians toward homosexuality.

Anna Malkhasyan’s research will explore the relationship between online social networks and social capital formation processes. She will use a web survey of Facebook users and a series of qualitative interviews to understand how Facebook users promote their initiatives and engage their audience.

Artyom Mkrtchyan will explore the frequency that the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan refer to the Karabakh conflict and the context of these references. He will also investigate the rhetoric used when the conflict is mentioned and whether it is offensive or defensive in nature.

Arusyak Aleksanyan seeks to understand what political, social, economic, and educational developments, if any, precondition democracy or if democracy preconditions these factors. Her hypothesis is that each country’s democracy is formed from the specific national, cultural, and traditional conditions that are unique to that country.

Karine Markosyan’s research will focus on female sex workers in Armenia in order to understand the potential risks of a future HIV epidemic in the country. In particular, she will evaluate how frequently and consistently Armenian female sex workers refuse to provide unprotected sex to their male clients. She will also look at the demographic, psychological, and behavioral predictors behind their refusal to engage in unprotected sex.

Lusine Saghumyan will research the causes for homosexual-related stigmas in Armenia.Her hypothesis is that such stigmas among Armenian youth are based on national, cultural, and religious attributes.

Mariam Matevosyan is researching the relationship between trust and economic growth in the South Caucasus. Her research question explores how trust in core democratic institutions and economic growth relate. She is also investigating regional trends in the level of interpersonal trust and the level of trust in core democratic institutions.

Tatevik Zohrabyan will address two principal topics in her research: the socio-economic determinants of female labor force participation in the South Caucasus, and the factors that impact females’ perception that men are more entitled to employment when jobs are scarce.
Vanuhi Mnatsakanyan and Ruzanna Gabrielyan are exploring Armenia’s system of setting the minimum wage level. More specifically, their research question is whether the system must change and, if so, why and how to go about this.

These fellows are only in the beginning stages of their research. However, their topics are very unique and their findings could affect future public policy or decision making in Armenia. Fellows are required to submit their publications to a peer-reviewed journal in English, which CRRC sees as important for integrating the Caucasus into global academic dialogue and discourse. CRRC-Armenia wishes it fellows luck in their projects and is excited to see their finished projects next year. 

As these projects finish, many of our fellows will be presenting their findings. Follow our facebook page here for updates on these presentations and much more!

December 4, 2012

Building Skills and Knowledge: Demography Training for Government Staff

Recently, the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) - Armenia and the United Nations Fund for Population Armenia (UNFPA) organized series of lectures on "Demography Statistics", hosted by CRRC.

The Training of Trainers (TOT) (October 1-5, 2012) was conducted by an international expert on demographic statistics, Mrs. Svetlana Novoselova. The main target audience of this training was Armenian state civil servants from various state agencies that deal with demographic issues. Building on the success of the TOT, three more trainings (October 22-26, November 5-9, and November 19-23) were conducted by acknowledged experts R. Yeganyan, K. Kuyumdjan, L. Kharatyan, and others.

A comprehensive syllabus was created, addressing the need for state and public functionaries to have a deeper knowledge about the demography of Armenia, which they use in various aspects of their work. The course covered the basics of demographic data analysis, demography dynamics, population makeup and predictions, demographic policy making, and included a wide variety of practice exercises and lectures.

After the conclusion of the trainings, CRRC Armenia and UNFPA hosted a celebration dinner at “Camelot” restaurant, where all the participants were awarded with certificates of completion.

November 30, 2012

VET Graduates in Armenia: Unemployed or Underpaid

Given the important role of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in providing the necessary knowledge and skills to be competitive in today’s labor market, the European Training Foundation (ETF) contracted CRRC-Armenia to conduct a graduates’ tracer survey in Kotayk and Ararat marzes of Armenia. The survey focused on a wide range of issues important to VET in Armenia and discovered several key trends. Generally, there was a mismatch between VET training skills and employment types. Overall, graduates of some specializations had extremely high levels of unemployment, while others faired somewhat better. Similarly, graduates of certain specializations were generally satisfied with their education, while those from other areas often reported that they were not.

On November 22, 2012 CRRC-Armenia, in cooperation with the ETF and Global Developments” Fund (GDF), held a conference to present the “Tracer Study of Recent Graduates from Vocational Education Institutions in Kotyak and Ararat Marzes of Armenia”. The seminar gathered all relevant stakeholders in the scenic town of Tsaghkadzor. About 50 representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, state employment agencies, VET institutions, employers’ unions, ETF, CRRC-Armenia, GDF, United Nations Development Programme, as well as selected VET graduates and their parents, convened to discuss the survey’s findings. The event was chaired by CRRC-Armenia director, Dr. Heghine Manasyan.

 The survey and subsequent report sought to advance the knowledge about the relevance of VET programs offered in Armenia. The study targeted 2009 and 2010 graduates of 13 state VET institutions in Kotayk and Ararat marzes and covered 451 graduates, including 278 women. 
According to the research results, slightly more than one-third of graduates (35.9%) considered themselves employed and employment rates varied across fields of study. Agriculture graduates were employed at the highest rate (75%) and Education and Healthcare graduates at the lowest (26.3% and 22.6%, respectively). It is interesting to note that reported employment was higher among Pre VET graduates than Mid VET graduates. Pre VET graduates also earned 20% more on average than Mid VET diploma-holders. The average salary of most employed graduates ranged from 50 to 100 thousand AMD (120-250 USD) a month. Women were employed at a lower rate and earned less than their male colleagues, though the share of self-employed women was higher than that of men. In general, graduates from rural areas were more successful in finding jobs than those from urban areas.
While most graduates felt that “personal interest towards the profession” was a determining factor when choosing the field of study, nearly two-thirds of them (63.6%) admitted that their qualifications were not relevant to their occupation. As a result, the role of a diploma in finding a job was perceived as very limited. The survey showed that many VET graduates’ satisfaction with their education was not highly correlated to their current employment status, which indicates that they viewed their education as an “independent” or “formal” value rather than a decisive requirement for prospective career opportunities.
The reasons most commonly reported for unemployment were that it was “impossible to find any job” and “family circumstances”. Contacts from family and friends was mentioned as a useful resource in finding a job for the overwhelming majority of graduates (80.9%), followed by knowledge and skills acquired during education (23.5%). Employment services and career centers played a role in securing employment for only 7.4% of respondents.
Based on the survey’s findings, CRRC-Armenia made several key recommendations for VET in Armenia. The major proposed changes are curriculum revision (especially in fields such as Information and Communication Technologies, Engineering and Economics), more focus on the quality of core skills (i.e. foreign languages, communication, entrepreneurial and IT skills), increased career guidance, as well as a deeper involvement of the business community in educational content development.

Make sure to follow us on facebook for updates on all of CRRC – Armenia’s activities and opportunities for Armenian scholars and students!

November 29, 2012

Open Skies for Armenia

By Anastasia Baskina, CRRC – Armenia International Fellow

On November 20, 2012 CRRC-Armenia, in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative Office in Armenia and the Department of Economics of the Yerevan State Universityorganized a public lecture on “Global, regional developments and their impact on Armenia”. The lecture was conducted by Mr. Guillermo Tolosa, the IMF Resident Representative in Armenia, and attracted students, researchers and business people interested in global economic developments and their effect on Armenia.

The IMF Resident Representative presented the recently issued IMF’s World Economic Outlook and Regional Economic Outlook. Mr. Tolosa began his lecture by reviewing major economic developments and key risks to global growth. Specifically, he highlighted the fact that global manufacturing continues to contract and world trade growth has come to a halt. As a result, the IMF’s global economic outlook has worsened. In addition, the protracted euro zone crisis, the “fiscal cliff” negotiations in the USA and rising global food prices have added to the challenges of emerging and developing economies.

Turning to the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region, Mr. Tolosa noted that despite worsening global economic conditions, the growth outlook in the CCA was generally positive. In the oil and gas importing states -Armenia, Georgia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan - overall growth is projected to strengthen next year. Growth in these countries is helped by two key factors: robust remittances from Russia and high commodity prices (e.g. metals, cotton).
However, significant risks remain, including: possible deterioration of the economic situation in Russia and its adverse effect on the CCA region due to their interconnectedness, a significant decrease in global commodity prices and trade volume, and/or a drop in financial flows. Volatile food prices also pose a major threat because of both inflation and the growth of current account balances. Global food prices are especially important for Armenia because, like Georgia and the Kyrgyz Republic, it is a large food importer. In addition, food constitutes a considerable share of people’s consumption baskets in these countries (over 45% in Armenia), which means that any increase in global food prices will seriously restrict the overall purchasing power of much of the population.

The informal sector in all CCA economies is another factor undermining social protection and further economic growth. The IMF’s empirical estimates show that the informal economy in Armenia accounts for more than 35% of officially measured GDP.

Mr.Tolosa concluded his presentation by giving key recommendations for rebuilding policy buffers, revitalizing the Armenian economy aimed at inclusive growth and job creation, and reducing the informal sector. According to IMF, policy makers need to increase exchange rate flexibility, build up foreign reserves, improve the quality of public spending, strengthening tax revenues, and improve competitiveness and the business environment.

The lecture was followed by a lively discussion and provoked many questions, mainly from the international economic relations students in attendance. The audience was particularly keen to know more about similarities and differences in economic development of the South Caucasus states. Mr. Tolosa, not speaking for the IMF at this point, highlighted Georgia, the group’s most robust and diversified economy. Fueled by reforms, strong investment and healthy activity in the services and manufacturing sectors, Georgia’s economy is expected to continue to perform strongly. Nevertheless, Mr.Tolosa expressed that he felt there was great growth potential for the Armenian economy, especially in the tourism sector.One specific policy he mentioned was removing the current restrictions on budget airlines in order to increase the air traffic between Europe and Armenia and open the skies for businesses and tourists alike.

To access the IMF Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East and Central Asia online please visit:

To make sure you know about the next lecture hosted by CRRC – Armenia, follow our facebook page here!

November 19, 2012

A Positive Future for Armenia?

CRRC-Armenia has recently released the 2011 Caucasus Barometer data to its website and to the Online Data Analysis tool on CRRC-Georgia’s website.The Online Data Analysis system allows users to adjust the parameters of charts directly from the website without having to download the database or own a statistical software program. The Caucasus Barometer has information about many aspects of Armenians’ lives including media sources, sense of satisfaction and happiness, and opinions about democracy in Armenia. It also allows users to adjust the parameters of charts from the website. When aggregated by age group, the data indicates a great discrepancy between the youth and those over 56 years old. In general, younger generations feel more positive emotions and are more satisfied with their lives.

When asked whether the statement “I experience a general sense of emptiness” describes them or not, respondents were quite split with their answers. Overall, 46% of all respondents stated that this statement does not describe them with the remainder stating that it either describers them completely or more or less does so (26% each), and 2% did not know. However, when split by age group, the data shows that those 56 years old and over are more likely to agree with this statement (36%) than those between ages 18 and 35 (19%).

A similar outcome occurs for the topic of feeling rejected. In total, 62% agreed that the statement “I often feel rejected” does not describe them while fewer respondents answered that it more or less describes them (20%) or describes them (18%).” Yet again, when split by age group, older generations responded more that they do, in fact, often feel rejected. While only 12% of respondents aged 18-35 say that this describes them, those aged 56 and over were more than twice as likely to claim that they often feel rejected (27%). 

Two possibilities could be behind such a gap in generations. First, it could solely reflect the respondents’ mentality and enthusiasm or lack thereof. Younger people in Armenia might be more content with their lives and more optimistic about the future. Older people have experienced the tough economic and political transition from Soviet rule to democracy, and this may have instilled in them a more negative outlook on life. The second possibility is that the older generations are ignored in policy making or in society as a whole and therefore, have a weak support system. Thus, they encounter more difficulties in their daily lives and truly feel empty and rejected.

Two other sets of data from the questionnaire display a similar disparity between the young and the old. When asked to rate their overall life satisfaction on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being “not satisfied at all” and 5 being “completely satisfied,” the most frequent response was a 3 (37%) followed by 4 (20%) and 1 (18%). But, when the data is separated by age, the youngest category responded more positively with 41% giving a rating of either a 4 or 5. On the opposite end of the spectrum, almost half of respondents 56 or older (47%) rated their satisfaction as either a 1 or 2.

The questionnaire also asked respondents how happy they consider themselves to be on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being extremely unhappy and 5 extremely happy. The overall results were quite optimistic with the rating most often selected being  3 (33%), with 85% of respondents rating themselves as 3 or higher. While the 18-35 group consider themselves quite happy (only 6% gave a rating below 3), the 56 and older group is more evenly distributed with 1 and 5 appearing at the same frequency (19%).

When compared with the other two South Caucasian countries (Azerbaijan and Georgia), the results show that there is also a gap between the younger and older generations. However, it appears that Armenians generally have a more negative outlook on life. The data from Azerbaijan indicates that 9% of total respondents experience a general sense of emptiness while 13% of those aged 56 or over say they do. Similarly, 13% of Georgian respondents claim they experience a general sense of emptiness while 20% of older respondents claim they do. Yet, the response from Armenia revealed a stronger feeling of emptiness with 26% of total respondents and 36% of respondents from the oldest age category answering that this describes them.

If you found these statistics and graphs helpful or interesting, go to CRRC’s ODA system and create your own!

November 12, 2012

Despite the Rain: Lifelong Learning Days in Armenia

On November 10, 2012, CRRC-Armenia participated in the Expo of Non-Formal Training Providers as part of the Lifelong Learning (LLL)  Days in Armenia. The event was organized by the Armenian Lifelong Learning League with the support of DVV International (Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association) office in Armenia with an aim to contribute to increase availability of LLL and particularly adult education for all individuals. 

Despite bad weather and the rain, the event was held in the open air, at Boghossian Gardens, and besides official opening ceremony and expo, included also master classes, performances, and film demonstration. 

November 8, 2012

Migration in Armenia: Young and Ready to Work

Many Armenians are having difficulty finding work and are looking to migration as a way to increase their quality of life. Though there are differences in the demographic characteristics of migrants as well as many reasons for this migration, key trends have been found from this project that can help shape policies for Armenia’s future. Read on for a more in-depth look at CRRC’s recent project initiated and funded by ETF on migration and skills in Armenia.

CRRC– Armenia has recently released the findings of a survey on migration and skills. The project was initiated and funded by the European Training Foundation (ETF) and was part of a larger, multi country, set of similar surveys. The survey focused on the relationship between skills, migration and development in Armenia. Just over 2,600 potential migrants and 1,400 returned migrants were interviewed.  The project’s overall objective was to contribute to the improvement of evidence-based policies on migration, skills and employment by investigating the links between migration and skills and by supporting stakeholders in Armenia.

Over the last few weeks, CRRC – Armenia director, Dr. Heghine Manasyan, has presented the findings of this project to several different groups in the region. On October 16th, Dr. Manasyan presented; along with ETF expert, Arne Baumann; the results of the project within an international conference hosted by ETF called “Skills and Employment for Returning Migrants.” On October 30th, Dr. Manasyan gave a presentation at The World Bank office in Armenia as part of their brown bag lunch series and was encouraged to find the audience excited and asking many questions throughout the session.  Most recently, on November 2nd, she participated in a conference in Tbilisi, Georgia hosted by GIZ and was asked to report the main findings of the project in Armenia and Georgia to the audience.

Dr. Manasyan and other panelists at GIZ conference in Tbilisi

Some of the most interesting findings of the project are:

Who is considering migration?
The desire to migrate varies greatly depending on age, gender and education level. For men, those who are highly educated and those who just finished basic schooling are the most likely to consider migration (see graph below), while those who completed secondary school are the least likely. In general, women are less likely to consider migration, but this difference is especially stark among poorly educated women, who unlike their male counterparts show very little desire to migrate. The education characteristics of potential migrants show that while there are some highly educated people who want to leave, a brain drain is not the primary concern for Armenia. A more worrying trend for Armenian policy makers is that unlike migration from Armenia in the past, the current migrants are much younger. These younger migrants are much more likely to move permanently to the host country than older migrants, which will further add to the declining population in the country.

Russia was both the main destination for returned migrants as well as the most likely destination for potential migrants. Despite this similarity, a large difference is noted in the percentage of those who desire to go migrate to Russia and those who have returned from Russia (60.4% and 85.2%, respectively).  When compared to migration in Georgia, as shown below, migration in Armenia is much less diversified in terms of location.

Skills and support:
The overwhelming majority (98%) of the returned migrants had done so without any prior training to prepare them for living or working abroad. Only around 1% attended language training. There were great differences in the responses when returned migrants were asked if their education and qualifications corresponded with their work abroad, though a basic trend can be found. Many (81.4%) of the poorly educated migrants said that their qualifications matched their work while the highly educated answered this way only 29.8% of the time. Obviously, the poorly educated have corresponding qualifications to low skill jobs and the combination of this matching and the lack of correspondence between work and qualifications for the highly educated indicate that many Armenians are working low skill jobs abroad.

Returnees: Correspondence of Work with Education Level

Returned migrants’ assessment:
Given the difficulties that many migrants face during their time abroad, it would not be shocking if they returned with negative feelings towards the experience. However, large-scale negativity was not found; 82% of returned migrants reported that their migration was successful while only slightly over 1% answered that their migration was either unsuccessful or extremely unsuccessful.

These responses show that even though there currently isn’t a great deal of support for them, the Armenian population continues working and feels that they are succeeding in creating better lives for them and their families.

September 27, 2012

Public Lecture by the World Bank Representative Dr. Souleymane Coulibaly

On September 18, 2012 CRRC-Armenia in cooperation with the World Bank organized a public lecture at the Yerevan State University on ”Fiscal Consolidation and Recovery in Armenia. Impact of Global Crisis on a Small Open Society”. 

The lecture was conducted by Dr. Souleymane Coulibaly, the World Bank’s Senior Country Economist, and Europe and Central Asia regional trade coordinator. He is also team leader of the "Fiscal Consolidation and Recovery in Armenia" study, and one of the principal authors of the World Development Report 2009 "Reshaping Economic Geography".  

During his speech, Dr. Coulibaly concentrated on the current challenges for Armenia’s fiscal policy, sustainability of Armenia’s external debt, as well as on the key policy recommendations on re-balancing fiscal situation in Armenia. 

The lecture was followed by discussion and QA session, actively participated by the audience, consisted of students, academic community, international organizations, NGOs, and other interested public. 

September 26, 2012

Webinar on How to Raise Funds from the European Commission

On September 24, 2012 CRRC–Armenia held a webinar on How to Rise Funds from the European Commission,  provided by, an online initiative, working for the sustainability of NGOs by increasing their access to donors, resources, and skills.

The online presentation was held by Erik Detiger, a successful international project manager and fundraising professional, the founder and managing director of Philantropia Inc – an international fundraising consultancy firm; and Meghan Arakelian, Program Associate at Philantropia Inc.

The presenters provided participants with an increased understanding into the systems established by the European Commission for funding NGOs, how NGOs can raise funds from it, and answered the questions of all interested participants.

September 25, 2012

Unemployed, poor and happy: Caucasus Barometer 2011

By Valeria Sargsyan

On September 12, 2012, Dr. Heghine Manasyan, Country Director of the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC)-Armenia held a presentation on selected findings from the Caucasus Barometer (CB) 2011 survey at the Ani Plaza Hotel in Yerevan, Armenia. The CB is a yearly cross-border project, initiated by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, which aims to study public opinion on social, political and economic processes in the South Caucasus region. 

The presentation was opened by Yerevan State University Vice-rector, Mr. Ruben Markosyan. He greeted the audience, which consisted of public officials, NGO representatives, the academic community, media persons, young activists and the general public. Mr. Markosyan emphasized the role of CRRC-Armenia in revealing public opinion trends towards development issues in South Caucasus. 

Dr. Manasyan presented the results of CB 2011 survey, which was simultaneously conducted in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia among 6,000 households. 

The findings show that, as compared to CB 2010 results, the population of the South Caucasus region remains concerned with socio-economic issues. In Armenia, 44% of the general population indicated unemployment  as the most important issue facing the country (32% in 2009 and 45% in 2010). Poverty was named as the most important issue by 16% (12% in 2009, 10% in 2010). Thirty one percent of Azerbaijanis noted unresolved territorial issues as country’s main concern, followed by 28% who said unemployment.

Another noteworthy tendency throughout the South Caucasus and in Armenia in particular, is an interest in migration. Generally, a large number of South Caucasians show interest in temporary or permanent migration; 57%, 47% and 45% of Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians, respectively say they would temporary leave their country, while 25% of Armenians, 16% of Azerbaijanis, and 11% of Georgians say they would take an opportunity to move abroad for permanent residency. 

It is interesting to note that Armenians show a relatively higher level of happiness (6.6 out of 10 vs. 5.1 for general satisfaction of life) despite distressing socioeconomic and political perceptions (although Georgians' scores are  6.9 and 5.6, correspondingly).

Overall, the presentation was widely covered and encouraged a lively discussion.

CRRC's CB survey databases and the supporting documents are free and available for all those interested in in-depth analysis and in advancing social research and public policy.

Caucasus Barometer 2011 Presentation

July 19, 2012

Study Tour Visit to Cyprus for Armenian Stakeholders in VET System

CRRC-Armenia organized a study to Cyprus for Armenian stakeholders on June 25-29, 2012 within European Training Foundation’s project on “Consolidation of Support to the Stakeholders of the Republic of Armenia in Implementing Human Capital Development Policies”. 

Armenian delegation consisted of the following stakeholders - Director of National Training Fund Marine Hakobyan, Head of VET Department of Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia Robert Abrahamyan, and Member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Armenia Vahagn Hovhannisyan. The main purpose of the trip was to share the experience with colleges from Cyprus in the field of Continuing Vocational Training and establish partnership.

The following topics were covered during the study visit:
legal and operational establishment and functioning of the Human Resources Development Agency (HRDA); 
role of social partners;
identification of training needs;
relevance of HRDA’s experience for Armenia.

On Cyprus part, the study was organized by Panayiota Skiakalli, a chief inspector in the Ministry of Education and Culture. Participants were invited to the Ministry of Education for series of presentations, visited HRDA, met the director of HRDA and representatives from different departments, as well as the University of Nicosia and technical schools. There were meetings also with representatives of Armenian community in Cyprus. 

The knowledge and experience gained from the study visit by study tour participants will be used for proposing respective changes in VET system in Armenia.

June 18, 2012

CRRC Hosts TESEV Study Tour Participants

On June 4th CRRC Armenia was pleased to welcome a group of Turkish graduate students, scholars and journalists as part of their 3-day study tour in Armenia. As the first stop on their tour, CRRC director HeghineManasyan gave them general background information on Turkish-Armenian relations, as well as a detailed look at how Armenians view various issues concerning both official and unofficial rapprochement between the two countries.

Some of the issues covered in the presentation include attitudes towards political ties with Turkey throughout the South Caucasus, attitudes regarding economic connections between Armenia and Turkey, support for opening the border with Turkey without any preconditions, as well as opinions on the impact of potentially increased political and economic relations between the two countries. A few new questions regarding the NagornoKarabakh region were discussed as well. After the presentation Dr. Manasyan took questions from the group about various surveys and provided some explanations and analyses on the findings. Participants were particularly interested in the data of Caucasus Barometer 2010 survey of CRRC, including questions on Turkish-Armenian relations.

In addition to visiting CRRC, the study participants also met a variety of government and civil society leaders throughout Armenia. CRRC was honored to be a part of the study tour and looks forward to hosting other similar groups in the future.

If you are interested in looking through the slides for the presentation it has been uploaded and can be viewed below.

April 12, 2012

EPF Holds Peace-building Conference in Switzerland

Prepared by CRRC-Armenia International Fellow Benjamin Barnard

On 27 March 2012, EPF, in cooperation with the Swiss Peace Foundation, hosted a seminar aimed at exploring civil society’s role in building peace within the South Caucasus. The conference, held in Bern, Switzerland, was attended by a wide-range of civil society representatives, including World Vision Switzerland and International Alert Brussels, as well as the Swiss ambassadors to Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

In order to identify possible opportunities for civil society to impact upon the peace-building process, the seminar focussed on current research data on the attitudes of those living in the region to peace and to each other. It was hoped that, from such a foundation, it would be possible to develop confidence-building initiatives aimed at reducing mistrust, holding governments accountable for their decisions, and supporting current European conflict resolution activities.

In light of such a task, CRRC Regional Director, Dr. Hans Gutbrod presented data-sets providing information on values and attitudes in the South Caucasus and on the potential role of civil society in the peace-building process. Each of these was followed by expert analysis of the meaning of the results and a question and answer session.

In addition to Dr. Gutbrod’s presentations, CRRC-Armenia Country Director, Dr. Heghine Manasyan presented a data-set highlighting some of the main challenges to peace-building in the South Caucasus today.

The findings Dr. Manasyan presented indicated that such challenges were substantial. For instance, a significant majority of both Armenians (64%) and Azerbaijanis (99%) disapproved of doing business with each other.

Equally as concerning for those who aim to build peace was the fact that, in each of the countries involved in the analysis (Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia), overall levels of trust in the EU and the UN had fallen from their 2008 levels.

Perhaps, though, such results should not be viewed as step backwards, but as indicating a new way forward. The same survey revealed that the majority of respondents from both Armenia (72%) and Azerbaijan (53%) would welcome greater involvement from Russia in finding a solution to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. Such results might suggest that, in some areas at least, there is a prevailing attitude that certain issues within the South Caucasus would be better dealt with by neighbouring countries which hold a better understanding of their intricacies.

Of course, such a solution will not be suitable in all cases, and the important role of the EU, the UN, and other international organisations in peace-building should not be undermined. Indeed, Dr. Gutbrod’s final presentation, which focussed upon the potential bright spots for peace-building in the region, highlighted that, while levels of trust in the EU may have fallen, the majority of citizens in each of the surveyed countries remain in favour of membership.

Additionally, in its concerted attempt not to be overwhelmed by the pessimism that often accompanies attempts at peace-building, the seminar’s final panel session identified several areas of commonality and encouragement. One such area was that the majority of respondents were in favour of the investigation and prosecution of suspected war criminals, thus displaying a universal respect for justice and human rights.

If the seminar and the results presented within it demonstrated anything, it is that peace-building is a difficult and complex process aimed at solving a wide variety of differing yet interlocking problems. As such, it would seem that resolving such problems will require an equally wide variety of solutions. But the results presented, and even the very existence of the seminar, demonstrated the existence of the most important starting point for peace-building; a universal agreement that the current situation is unacceptable.

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