1.3. Research limitations
There are several limitations to this study that must be acknowledged.
Uneven and limited data across the three countries: Some key documents were outdated for some countries and relatively up-to-date in others, skewing the insights gained in the desk review process. In some instances, the documents identified in the desk review process were heavily repetitive across several sources. Another data limitation was evident in the nature of the information identified; the desk review process yielded more content about the trafficking situation and trends, investigation and prosecution and protection and assistance than it did about identification and referral, cooperation among stakeholders and, particularly, prevention. Finally, the documents included in the desk review were limited only to those available in English, potentially excluding valuable sources of information available in other relevant languages.
Only 19 surveys were returned from the three study countries (6 from the Republic of Armenia, 7 from the Republic of Azerbaijan and 6 from Georgia), resulting in limited survey data. Furthermore, while several people participated in the in-depth interviews, only some of them were active participants in the discussions. In the Republic of Azerbaijan, meetings generally included a larger number of participants, but the designated speakers contributed more actively to the discussions. In Georgia, where meetings consisted of the least number of participants (19), most were active contributors to the discussions.
Subjectivity of insights: A key limitation to the rapid needs assessment methodology is its reliance on the subjective views of stakeholders as the primary source of data. The assessment is accordingly vulnerable to subjective knowledge (and knowledge gaps) about the trafficking situation as well as personal views and biases. The desk review process, although suffering from the limitations described above, went some way towards mitigating this limitation.
However, ultimately, given the core reliance on in-depth interviews, the final assessment report and the recommendations are more representative of stakeholder perspectives of the effectiveness of the counter-trafficking response than of actualities of effectiveness of the counter-trafficking response.
Convenience sampling and selection bias: Compounding the subjective nature of the insights gleaned through the assessment process is the selection bias inherent in the identification and recruitment of stakeholders. Given the key role of IOM in supporting the needs assessment process, stakeholders and their perspectives may be representative of the IOM approach to counter-trafficking and its particular partnerships rather than a comprehensive survey of views across the study countries. This selection bias may have also impacted on the responses provided. IOM commissioned the report, and IOM staff in the three countries selected participants and in many cases attended meetings.
Data is reflective of capital-level responses and does not reflect the challenges faced by stakeholders in other regions, given that interviews were not conducted with stakeholders outside of capital cities. The survey process was, in part, to address this limitation and invite responses from practitioners working outside of capital cities; however, few surveys were received for each country. Accordingly, the data is not reflective of nationwide challenges and insights and does not address regional and local differences but is heavily skewed towards capital-level responses.
Another limitation of the methodology is that of self-selection bias. It is possible that those who opted to participate in the needs assessment (whether the electronic survey or the in-depth interview) may have particular positive or negative feelings that differ from those who did not opt to participate.
Furthermore, subjectivity of insights may have been influenced by the political and social tensions that exist with the particular context of the study countries.
Practical limitations: The time frame for carrying out the needs assessment from conception through to its final delivery was four months, over a period of eight months. One person carried out the assessment, with logistical and interpretational support provided by IOM. The analysis undertaken and the data entry process could have arguably been more in-depth had more man hours been invested in the project. Language considerations posed additional limitations, requiring reliance on IOM to provide interpretation and translation support. The same person conducting the interviews was required to take manual notes during the interviews and no audio recordings were used.
Other limitations: Political tensions between countries of the South Caucasus were reported to have a negative impact on cooperation against trafficking, and also may have influenced the responses provided, where individuals are concerned with ensuring that their country appears relatively stronger than other study countries in assessments carried out. In light of the tensions that exist, the study was reconceived so as not to be comparative, meaning that the comparative capacity of the assessment tool could not be effectively tested.
Ultimately, what was initially envisaged as a report containing findings and recommendations for the three study countries was instead reconceived as three distinct reports.
This report captures findings and recommendations for the Republic of Azerbaijan, with significant inputs from the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the final review process.