On June - August 2020 the Caucasus Institute implemented a project called South Caucasus: Politics in Times of Crisis. It was a distance e-learning program for the Armenian youth about the politics in South Caucasus in times of the pandemic aimed at building their capacity for policy analysis. The project was implemented with the financial support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Armenia.
Introduction / Context
States worldwide face a sudden health crisis and the need to react properly and timely. Confronted with the task of containing and overcoming the unexpected pandemic, including the political and economic consequences it entails, governments reacted differently. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the three South Caucasus countries are no exception. The reaction to the situation was different due to a variety of factors, reflected in the diverse political, economic, security and socio-cultural configuration of the states in the region.
The educational program examined the ways in which the pandemic outbreak has influenced the political landscape of the region’s countries, their reform agendas, political systems, economic development etc. It analysed the diverse containment policies endorsed by the South Caucasus states and helped to understand the underlying causes. The program also looked into the history and put in the spotlight the crises-overcoming experiences in Europe in the age of industrialization.
The objective of this project was to enable the Armenian youth to understand and interpret the changing political realities in times of crisis. The participants got an alternative viewpoint and a valuable set of up-to-date information which is not yet developed in the institutions of formal education in Armenia.
In the framework of the project a 6-week online course was set up entitled “South Caucasus: Politics in times of crisis” for approximately 30 students, pre-selected via an open call. The course concentrated on understanding the reshaping of politics in South Caucasus in response to the ongoing public health crisis. The educational program targeted the Armenian youth, university students, young researchers and civil society actors.
The CI engaged its staff and invited guest-lecturers from Armenia and abroad to cover a topic each week, including the political and economic impact of the COVID pandemic on the countries of the South Caucasus, the rally-around-the-flag effect in Georgia, Armenia’s stalled reform agenda in the midst of the crisis, damage and risk-mitigating policies endorsed by the states, and a comparative historical perspective on epidemics in Europe starting from the Middle Ages and their impact on politics, economics and society. The weekly lectures were held on the Zoom Video Communications platform. The videos of the lectures were edited and shared on the CI social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube). The students received weekly tasks and tests to complete. The tasks and tests were shared with the students via Google drive, and a closed Facebook Page was created for the students and the lecturers to exchange ideas, discuss the questions they did not manage to during the lectures, etc.
The participants were invited to write blog posts on a variety of topics related to the course theme. The best posts were edited and posted on the CI blog, blog.c-i.am. The authors got small rewards. In addition, the participants got online certificates of completion.