The following example describes the application of the Local Conflict Analysis (LCA) method by the Food Security, Regional Cooperation and Stability Programme (FRCS). FRCS is a development project funded by the German Government and implemented by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in the South Caucasus. The Local Conflict Analyses or LCA was jointly undertaken by the FRCS project and its partner organisations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, whereby this application example focuses on two districts in Georgia (Marneuli and Gardabani). The application example describes the procedural steps required to complete an LCA. Even though the LCA focused primarily on local conflicts in Georgia the effects of the international and regional tensions which define the South Caucasus could not be ignored, especially the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
2. Background:Conflicts and conflict potential in the South Caucasus: The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the ensuing difficult transition to democracy and market economies in the region led to drastic changes in the South Caucasus. The strain of transition coupled with social, economic and political backwardness allowed internal and cross-border conflicts to erupt in the region.
For more than a decade, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in armed conflict over the status of the “Mountainous Karabagh” enclave. The conflict began when Karabagh- Armenians living in the enclave declared independence from Azerbaijan shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hostilities quickly escalated into an open war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which ended in 1994 with an uneasy ceasefire agreement brokered by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Despite the ceasefire, there is no official peace agreement between the countries. The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains closed and low level hostilities continue to occur. While contacts between Armenians and Azerbaijanis are not officially forbidden by the two governments, sanctions against such contacts are sometimes applied.
The transition to democracy in Georgia has also been difficult. Two violent ethno-political conflicts in the regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia erupted when the regions announced their independence from Georgia in the early 1990s. Unresolved conflicts over issues of ethnic self-determination continue to destabilize Georgia and hamper transformation to market-oriented democracy. Additionally, Georgia struggles with conflict potentials in border districts inhabited by Georgian, Armenian and Azeri populations. These areas which wrestle with minority- majority ethnic issues and are directly affected by the international conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan are at high risk for instability and violent conflicts.
In the border region of the three South Caucasian countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, transition and conflict have lead to a collapse of cross-border infrastructure, socio-economic hardship, and food insecurity. The negative experiences of the war and the accompanying violence coupled to the severe restrictions in contacts between the populations has cemented prejudices and stereotypes. This inhibits the growth of constructive conflict management techniques. At the same time, the neglect of local problems by the three central-governments has diminished feelings of responsibility at the local government level. Unless constructive means of dealing with the tensions and conflicts are developed, the region will continue to be unable to meet its development potential, reduce poverty and become food secure.
3. The Food Security, Regional Cooperation and Stability in the South Caucasus (FRCS) Project
Since 2001, the German Government has supported regional peace building efforts in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia through a Food Security, Regional Cooperation and Stability Programme (FRCS). The programme’s area of operation is centred on the triangle between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In addition to addressing issues of rural livelihoods and food security, the programme promotes regional cooperation and cross-border trade in order to promote economic and political stability. The programme actively addresses and seeks work to resolve conflicts in the project region.
FRCS project area in Georgia and need for an LCA
In Georgia FRCS works in two border-districts (Marneuli and Gardabani) where the LCA was applied. Ethnically the districts reflect the complex mix often seen in border areas. Approximately 83% of Marneuli district are made up of ethnic Azerbaijanis and 6.4% ethnic Georgians. In Gardabani district the picture is more complicated. The ethnic composition is 45% Georgian and 42% Azerbaijani, with the remaining population a mix of Russians, Greeks, Armenians, and other ethnic groups. However, in both districts political and administrative control is maintained and exerted by the minority ethnic Georgians who are almost always appointed by the central government in Tbilisi.
The lack of cultural and political integration among ethnic groups coupled with the disproportionate distribution of power is a constant source of low-level conflict in south-eastern Georgia. The area also struggles with significant socio-economic problems including high unemployment, severely degraded infrastructure, very poor economic and social networks and increasing social stratification. These problems are often made worse by the population’s view that the source of the problems rests in the ethnic-political struggle. This leads to politically motivated accusations by the various ethnic groups. The application of the LCA in Georgia focused on the local conflicts. However, given the strategic location of the two-border districts sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Armenia it was also necessary to reflect upon the wider conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia during the LCA exercise.
In order to assure a constructive and conflict-sensitive approach FRCS needed to understand the determinants and dynamics of the various conflicts in the region. Only once a better understanding of these causes existed could effective measures be designed to address the various issues be developed. The LCA method was selected as an ideal participatory instrument.
4. Brief overview of the implementation of LCA
The LCA implementation followed a three-stage process:
Figure 1: Overview of the process and required steps
STAGE ONE: PREPARATION
Step 1: Defining the objectives for undertaking a LCA
Initial meetings involving the FRCS team from all three countries commenced the process of defining the objective, benefits and eventual outcome of the LCA. A limited participation of local institutions was the preferred option mainly because their exact role still required definition by the project. The main reasons for conducting an LCA included:
Table 1: Local Conflict Anaylsis: Impact Chain
Quality assurance and impartial guidance for the LCA process was provided through an external consultant hired by the project. Important was that the consultant had: previous experience in the South Caucasus; good methodological and practical knowledge of the tools used in conflict analysis; good familiarity with the institutional landscape of potential partner organisations; and knowledge of Russian as the primary working language. Main responsibilities included: preparation of a background study; leading the process of selection and discussion with the implementing partners; developing and finalizing, in cooperation with the partners, the terms of reference and methodology to be used; backstopping the partners during the collection of data; and revising the methodology if necessary. The consultant accompanied the LCA process, initially intensively with a gradual change towards monitoring and supervision of the local organisations.
Step 2: Overall contextual analysis
Step 3: Selection of local implementing partners
One lesson-learnt is that the quality and value of data and information is directly related to the competency of the NGOs undertaking the data collection and analysis. This resulted in the project pairing local and national NGOs in the process. The local NGOs would ensure that their “local” knowledge was made use of, while the national NGOs would provide the necessary analytical skills often missing amongst local NGOs. This pairing process proved very efficient and also ensured know-how transfer from national level to local level.
Step 4: Designing the LCA implementation approach
Primary focus of the LCA was on the “local” conflict. However, the project ensured that both a regional and international perspective was maintained throughout the process. This was achieved through regular meetings that were held (in Tbilisi) between the various implementing partners in all three countries. The objectives of the meetings was to both develop a joint understanding and methodology for the implementation of the LCA as well as to synchronize the procedures and the regular exchange of information and experiences. Although data collection and analysis was undertaken simultaneously in all three countries, the project ensured that regional variations were allowed in recognition of the different experiences of the local NGOs carrying out the research. The coordination of information and experience exchange process is visually depicted in Figure 2.
Following the first stage, a draft Terms of Reference (ToRs) was produced, which proposed a detailed implementation or action plan. It was developed by the FRCS programme in close cooperation with the national NGOs. Prior to the onset of the data collection exercise, three regional meetings were conducted in Tbilisi, which included the participating national NGOs. Tbilisi was selected as the host location in light of its perceived neutrality as a city which is neither Armenian nor Azerbaijani, since representatives from the two countries refused to meet bilaterally. Further support was provided by international professionals who attended the regional meetings and were tasked with ensuring the smooth implementation of cross-border cooperation during the study.
Figure 2: Implementation design for all three countries/regions
STAGE TWO: CREATING OWNERSHIP
The main objective of the second stage of the LCA process was develop a team of different organisations who would have the same vision, approach and understanding necessary to successfully implement the LCA. The second stage included three major steps:
Step 1: Revision of the objectives jointly with the implementing partners and local stakeholders
Prior to conducting an “in the field” conflict analysis, clear and concise objectives had be agreed upon with local stakeholders. Additionally, potential areas of intervention and related follow-on activities were also defined. Particularly, the goals of the conflict analysis and the future uses of the insights gained from the analysis needed to be agreed upon.
While it was easy to gain a mutual understanding of the LCA objectives, it proved difficult to convince the organisations that the LCA was part of wider process and was not an end-in-itself. The impression was that once the LCA report was completed that was the end of the exercise. However, since it is part of a wider process, the LCA report marks only a small milestone. Reading and understanding about this was a necessary pre-condition in order to be able to successfully implement the LCA. A lesson-learnt was that the furtheruse of the published LCA report by all organisations also had to be jointly agreed upon at the start of the process. The main reason for this is that publication of reports can actually lead to or even escalate conflicts. Therefore it was necessary to ensure that this did not happen. It was agreed by all the results of the LCA process documented in the report would be used to:
Step 2: Finalising the terms of reference and the analytical processThe draft terms of reference for both local and national NGOs were modified and adapted in order to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the organisations as well as to take into account additional know-how gained in the process up to this point in time. Generally, it was agreed that the local NGOs would primarily collect data while the national NGOs would develop the following:
Figure 3: Overview of analytical scheme
Step 3: Defining the roles and responsibilities of the participating organisations
A total or eight organisations participated in the LCA process jointly with the FRCS project (e.g. five local and three national NGOs from each of the three countries). In view of the number of organisations and the spatial dimensions of the LCA the project had to ensure that all organisations clearly understood their roles and responsibilities. In Georgia this meant that local NGOs were tasked with collecting the primary data. The process was supervised by the national NGOs. All of this required extensive capacity building and training which was provided by the FRCS project. Figure 4 depicts the implementation arrangements for Georgia
Figure 4: Implementation design in Georgia
STAGE THREE: IMPLEMENTATION
Stage three involved the actual field work which was implemented by the NGOs. FRCS’s role was capacity building, advising and monitoring. Stage three was divided into four steps:
Step 1: Capacity building for local implementing partners
The local NGOs received extensive training from FRCS project consultants as well as from the national NGOs. This included training on general concepts of conflict analysis, methodologies, interview and survey techniques, group discussion approaches, training in conflict transformation, including conflict analysis and possible intervention tools (this was provided by experts from Germany). Training on conducting interviews, including: various styles of interviews; who should be interviewed; identifying key stakeholders; topics to be addressed during interviews; and structuring questions and sentences in order to ensure that they are short and precise was given. Finally, the project and the organisations undertook a careful appraisal of the questions to be asked in order to avert any possible negative sentiments, mistrust or fear being created.
Step 2: Data CollectionA variety of data gathering methods were used these have been briefly outlined below. While there is no precise sequence of when to use which method the sequences does have some influence on both the focus of the inquiry as well as on the information collected. During the LCA process in Georgia the methods were grouped into quantitative and qualitative and the sequence in which the were applied is as follows:
Focus groups (detailed information on pre-defined social groups, e.g. age-groups/generations, gender, education, ethnic/religious groups): Five focus-groups were established in each district. Focus group participants were members of formal and informal organizations. Different categories of focus groups were formed, including ‘mixed’ focus groups, consisting of members of different ethnicity, as well as homogenous ‘non-mixed’ groups, which consisted, for example, of only young ethnic Azerbaijanis or women. The data collected from these focus groups was analysed according to qualitative methods.
Ensuring regional coordination
Throughout stage three the project ensured that proper coordination between the LCA exercises being conducted in all three countries were effectively coordinated. Meetings between the data collection teams in all three countries were undertaken every month. During these meetings that were held in Tbilisi the organisations synchronized their methodologies and approaches, discussed wider cross-border issues such as land privatization, and generally shared experiences and information. In general, the meetings were fruitful. Considering the difficult and highly polarised climate between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the meetings provided a unique opportunity for the organizations to get to know each other, exchange opinions, and converse. The need to discuss the methodological issues involved in conducting a local conflict analysis provided an early opportunity for participating organizations to work together on an apolitical topic. Sensitive issues were broached only after the organizations had developed confidence and trust. The meetings moved slowly from methodological to political discussions but never ceased to be an exchange of experiences and information gained from the LCA process. As a result concrete requests were made to address the needs of people living on the “other side” of the border.
Figure 5: Cross-border coordination and information exchange
All methods and tools, such as questionnaires and sets of guiding questions, were intensively discussed with FRCS consultants and the international short term consultant before application. After an initial application of the tools, their validity was re-checked and adjustments made if necessary. This assured a high quality of data collecting methods. Because the international consultant participated in the process as an impartial third party, there were no major problems in reaching a level of standardization across the countries. Other questions and conclusions discussed in the course of the coordination meetings were:
During the coordination meeting, it was important to periodically refer to the terms of reference (ToRs). During the research phase, some organisations tended to deviate from the ToRs when new and interesting issues arose. For each of these new topics, a discussion was held and it was jointly decided whether the new topic should be included in the scope of the research and thus added to the ToRs, or whether the issue was not significant to the project. It was also necessary to constantly remember that the analysis should focus on the local level and include macro-level political conflict dynamics only if they directly impacted the region under study.
Achieving a common understanding and agreed definition of the word ‘conflict’ is not just a matter of semantics, but is essential for a successful conflict analysis. The stakeholders in Marneuli and Gardabani districts believed that a less ‘charged’ word should be used - one which would generally apply more to the specific socio-economic problems in the region. The use of the term ‘conflict’ could in itself trigger further disagreement if stakeholders are presented with a limited definition or concept of the term. The programme initiated a discussion with the stakeholders on the wider meaning of the concept and the project did not attempt to limit their contributions or discussions. Additionally, the programme learned from the surveys, interviews and discussions that local stakeholders have a much broader definition of conflict than previously assumed.
According to the surveys conducted in the Marneuli and Gardabani districts, local stakeholders believe the five most important areas of potential conflict are:
Problems traditionally viewed as areas of conflict were rated significantly lower:
The different perspectives highlights the fact that the local population defines conflict much more broadly than international observers will likely do. However, important is also the fact that during qualitative interviews key stakeholders responded quite differently. During these emmotial and intensive discussions ethnic and political issues such as language issues and land distribution were named as the most problematic. Having listened to the opinions of various affected parties, the term ‘conflict’ was ultimately defined as broadly described “...as any struggle for limited natural, political, and social resources which is apparent in all aspects of life: political, economical and private”. Discussions on the term conflict continued throughout the LCA process. Initially the focus of discussions was on definition of the term. Then it shifted more towards determining the most appropriate intervention mechanisms. During the process, stakeholders were increasingly sensitized to different approaches and methodologies for conflict resolution, such as organisational development, conflict management/transformation and capacity building. The discussions still continue unabated and continue to provide the basis for the follow-up activities defined by both the project and the NGOs.