Tag Archives: CSO

The EU actively supports government transparency and accountability in Armenia. As part of these efforts, Oxfam and the Economic Development and Research Center (EDRC) are currently implementing a project to increase civil society and media’s understanding of government budgeting and spending in social sectors. The objective is to increase civil society participation in discussions on government policies and annual government funding priorities. On 28-29 July 2016, Armenian government officials and civil society representatives discussed the budget allocations for service delivery to the elderly and people with disabilities at home and at day care centres in the Armenian regions.
At-home care and social services, including household, medical, socio-psychological, legal and other services, are being provided to 3,300 senior citizens and citizens with disabilities through two public budget programmes.
A budgetary evaluation has been undertaken as part of the EU-funded “Increasing civil society participation in national policy dialogue in Armenia” project. This service provision evaluation was recently presented and published as a report.
CSOs advocate and campaign for pro-poor reforms
Margarita Hakobyan, the Head of Oxfam Armenia, stated that 40 civil society organisations (CSOs) had been involved in the implementation of the project, and had actively participated in discussions and the research process: ‘The project is aimed at empowering CSOs to advocate and campaign for pro-poor reforms and engage in effective, transparent and substantial policy dialogue with the Government of Armenia, based on the monitoring of public budgets and national policies for agriculture, health and social protection. Within the framework of the CSPNPD [ed. civil society participation in the national policy dialogue] project, EDRC is making simplifications to state budgets for agriculture, healthcare and social protection. EDRC is carrying out activities aimed at increasing budget literacy and building the analytical capacity of CSOs, as well as monitoring and evaluation of implemented policies and selected budget programmes’.
Sona Harutyunyan, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, spoke about the research and the special methodology developed: ‘Very thorough analysis was undertaken during the evaluation. We have graphics that reflect the true picture of the situation, and geographical findings on the elderly and their age. Most importantly, we have clear recommendations. If these are taken into account, they could significantly improve the quality of beneficiary selection, raise awareness about support, and lead to better targeted services for specific criteria and groups’.
The results of the evaluation stress that public policy reforms for at-home social care services are urgent. Efforts to extend social (namely – household) services should continue, but approaches for the provision of medical assistance need to be adjusted. Programme funding is insufficient to provide high-quality and comprehensive services to beneficiaries. Therefore, the best current option is to reduce the number of beneficiaries as a result of funding constraints. Provision of full-scale services to a smaller number of the most vulnerable elderly citizens will have large positive social impact. Other recommendations focus on increasing the efficiency of at-home social services.

On 6 May, the Economic Development and Research Centre (EDRC) and Oxfam in Armeniapresented the evaluation results of ”Benefits to increase living standards of families” and ”Medical assistance services to socially vulnerable and special groups” budgetary programmes. The evaluation was done within the framework of the EU-funded ”Increasing civil society participation in national policy dialogue in Armenia” project.
The event was mostly aimed at presenting the results of an independent evaluation of the two mentioned projects, making applicable conclusions and expanding on the suggestions received. The assessment of the budgetary programmes is aimed at raising public awareness of such projects, expanding discussions and dialogues, and encouraging policymakers within the framework of the programme’s efficiency development.
Hoa-Binh Adjemian, Head of Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia, attended the event and highlighted the importance of the CSOs’ participation in the reforms: ‘The EU is here to support the strategy of the Armenian government, to help them for the benefits of the Armenian citizens. We are supporting reforms in health, public finance management, education, etc. which means that we are supporting the key infrastructures. And the most important part is our support to civil society. What does it mean? How can we support civil society? We are working together with the communities and government to make sure that the strategy is in place, that the government has right and optimal strategy. What does it mean to have optimal strategy? It means to rank priorities, to decide and to do A before B because resources are limited. Then you have to monitor the strategy to see what the weak sides of it are. The role of the CSOs here is not only to criticise the government but to come, help, make sure that what has decided is the right thing and will efficiently be implemented’.
Margarita Hakobyan, Head of Oxfam Armenia, presented the aim of the assessment. ‘”Increasing civil society participation in national policy dialogue in Armenia” project is financed by the EU and today we are here to introduce to you only one achievement of the project. Budget monitoring reports are developed based on two state budget programmes selected from the health and social protection sectors, funded by the Armenian government in 2015. Oxfam and EDRC involved at least 10 CSOs in selecting and producing high quality budget monitoring reports. The policy assessments were based on a sound methodology and systematic approach, and were carried out in cooperation which CSOs in both Yerevan and marzes. Reports highlight important pro-poor recommendations for respective line ministries’.
Most suggestions refer to budgetary project performance indicators, project management, monitoring and evaluation processes, as well as family vulnerability evaluation system elements. In particular, it was suggested to:
• Clarify the aim of the ”Benefits to increase living standards of families” programme by targeting the complete eradication of extreme poverty and an essential suspension of poverty;
• Revise the final outcome of the project and provide a direct link between the outcome indicators;
• Ensure a direct link between ”Benefits to increase living standards of families’’ and ”Medical assistance services to socially vulnerable and special groups” budgetary programmes, and to ensure consistent implementation of long-term strategies;
• Put additional efforts into discovering extremely poor and very poor families, inform them about the programmes and involve them by using support of local CSOs;
• Create mechanisms in public control investment and to provide continuous reporting of performances within the ”Benefits to increase living standards of families” programme, and to provide access to internal and external evaluation;
• Investigate the system of family poverty evaluation and prepare it for radical changes;
• Make practical proposals on families’ vulnerability assessment formula.

The inauguration and first discussion of the “European Club” took place on 3 May 2016 in Robert Schuman Hall of the Centre for European Studies. The European Club was established by the Centre for European Studies of Yerevan State University in collaboration with the EU Delegation to Armenia. The European Club aims at bringing together academia and experts from Armenian and European universities and think tanks to inspire and facilitate discussions and debates on relevant issues in international and regional policy making. The discussions particularly revolve around EU policies in Armenia and the South Caucasus andwell-known experts are invited as speakers. The discussions are held under Chatham House rules, i.e. “off the record”.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Switalski, welcomed the establishment of the European Club: ‘I want to thank and congratulate the Centre for European Studies for taking up this initiative and establishing this European Club. The EU will support you and we hope very much that this initiative will bring real benefits to not only direct participants, in particular the younger generation, but also to Armenian experts and the general public. We hope that this will be a platform for free discussion – I hope that the Club will avoid emotion, avoid propaganda, and stick to reason and rational arguments. The Club started with a difficult topic on Russia and Europe; this is a big question for Armenia it has additional flavour, but I think it is very good to start on such a note’.
ARS_5271The Director of the Centre for European Studies of Yerevan State University, Artur Ghazinyan, echoed Ambassador Switalski’s sentiment: ‘I want to congratulate all of us for establishing the European Club in Armenia, which aims to bring together the most brilliant minds of Armenia, including government representatives, diplomats, experts, journalists, and students to discuss, debate and find answers to many vital questions. The Club was established with the ideological and technical support of the EU to Armenia, so I extend special thanks to Ambassador Switalski for his personal, valuable input in creating this unique platform. We are planning to hold seven sessions of the European Club this year on pressing topics such as the migration crisis in Europe, EU-Iran relations and others’.
Vladimir Morozov, Programme Coordinator of the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow, and Jan Pieklo, Director of the Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation in Poland, exchanged views and responded to questions. Representatives of the EU Delegation, diplomatic corps, state, international and non-governmental organisations, think tanks, experts, students, researchers and media also attended the event.

A working meeting was held on 26 August on the draft of the Republic of Armenia 2014-2018 Anti-Corruption Strategy. Representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) and government attended the meeting. The event was opened by Karen Zadoyan, head of the “Armenian Young Lawyers Association” NGO. He presented the concept behind the anti-corruption strategy, which had been devised with the support and active participation of both civil society and officials.

Zadoyan noted vivid interest in the issue and expressed hope that current activity would raise the effectiveness of the anti-corruption system, highlighting the importance of dialogue between official institutions and civil society.

The Deputy Minister of Justice, Suren Qrmoyan, on behalf of the Armenian Ministry of Justice, said that fighting corruption had been very high on the Armenian government agenda for the last 15 years: ‘Local and international research shows that significant progress has been realised [in Armenia], and we have created a solid judicial foundation. The Armenian government’s participation in numerous international anti-corruption agreements is crucial’.

The Head of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Hoa-Binh Adjemian, commented on the attitude of the Armenian political leadership: ‘The Armenian government has expressed its readiness to fight corruption through its inclusion in various programmes, strategy documents and the implementation of legal reforms. All branches of state power – legislative, executive and judicial – fully realise the importance of building a society free from corruption. This is a strong claim for change; that said, a change in management is required for this to be implemented as soon as possible’. Hoa-Binh Adjemian also stressed the importance of the inclusion of civil society in anti-corruption measures.

Qrmoyan stated that corruption risk reduction will be expanded to some new areas, included in the new draft – education, healthcare, the police, and state revenue accumulation processes: ‘We have big expectations from this working meeting, as the strategy will soon be concluded. We encourage our partners to express their ideas on the strategy itself and also on more general anti-corruption measures. Having the trust of society is the most important aspect in this process’.

The EU-funded “Multifaceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” project is aimed at increasing the role of CSOs in promoting anti-corruption reforms and their implementation. Within the framework of the project, the capacity of CSOs and the media to engage in monitoring and watchdog activities is being built. Small grants are being provided to raise the effectiveness of public monitoring and also implement appropriate monitoring and investigation. The duration of the project is 3 years with a total budget of €650,000.