Tag Archives: diaspora

On 26 June, the “BRIDGE for CSOs” programme was officially launched in Yerevan. The programme goal is to strengthen the capacity of Armenian CSOs to better respond to citizens’ needs by linking Armenia CSOs with expertise in the Diaspora. The programme is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), in cooperation with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF). The three-year programme, launched in December 2016, offers a package of activities.
The project will conduct in-depth sector-related needs assessments of up to 200 CSOs to map their strengths and needs; offer tailor-made training to up 200 individuals from 80 CSOs; provide on-the-job consultation to 80 CSOs through pro-bono Diaspora- and Armenia-based experts; institutionalise capacity by launching an academic NGO Management Certificate Programme; provide grants to support small-scale projects; increase trust in civil society. The innovative skill transfer platform (www.together4armenia.am) will enhance cooperation between Armenian CSOs and the Diaspora. It will feature success stories of international cooperation, CSO achievements, reports, sectorial information and other information to bridge existing gaps between international and national CSOs.
The Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, and the AGBU Armenian president and Central Board Member, Vasken Yacoubian, attended the kick-off event and made opening remarks.

ARS_9994Ambassador Świtalski was excited to participate in the programme launch: ‘It is important to support the development of civil society. Armenia has more than 4,000 public organisations, almost 1,000 foundations; even if a portion of these organisations and foundations are active, this still harbours big potential. Armenia can be proud of its civil society activism; it is very important for the development of the country. As the EU, we see our priority to work with partners like AGBU to strengthen the fabric of civil society in Armenia. AGBU is a longstanding, respectable organisation; it is a big honour to work with them, we hope it is a beginning of a beautiful journey, and we believe strongly in the success of the programme’.

ARS_9935Vasken Yacoubian thanked the EU for the opportunity to implement the programme: ‘We were excited when the EU announced this call for proposals and we prepared a proposal that involved civil society both from Armenia and Diaspora. We are very happy that even the Armenian government understands the importance of civil society for the country. This shows the ranking of Armenia – we rank highly for civil society in the region. We are very honoured and happy that we were successful in getting this grant and that we are EU partners. AGBU will be a trusted partner for Armenia. We believe this will be the beginning of our cooperation, which will hopefully extend to different sectors’.

On 3 February 2016 UNICEF brought together a large group of Armenian child-rights and diaspora experts in a Workshop on Innovative Approaches to Diaspora Engagement and use of Remittances for Children’s Wellbeing in Armenia. The workshop was funded by the EU as part of the “Mitigating social consequences of labour migration and maximising migrants’ involvement in local development” project.
ARS_3676Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, spoke to conference participants about the potentials as well as economic, societal and human costs of migration: ‘Armenia is a nation of migrants – more Armenians live abroad than in their country. This is not unique, but there are very few other countries where this is the case. The Armenian Diaspora is very visible; it has a very powerful political lobby in many countries; it is a source of foreign investment; it provides a cultural link between Armenia and the rest of the world; it brings very concrete and material benefits to Armenia in the form of remittances. However, let us be frank: migrant workers would bring greater benefit to their country if they would stay at home and use their skills in their own country. This does not only apply to Armenia, but also to many other countries around the globe. The EU wants to help the Armenian government to significantly reduce the migration flow abroad and develop Armenia for the benefit of the Armenian people. This land is too beautiful to allow young talents to search for a better future elsewhere’.
Ambassador Świtalski went on to discuss remittances in more detail: ‘While remittances from migrants and the Diaspora are key to sustaining many of the most vulnerable families, they are often only used for consumption and are not invested. It is important that these remittances, which currently comprise 20% of Armenia’s GDP, are used as efficiently as possible as they can contribute to growth, socio-economic development, and job creation, thereby having a beneficial impact on the lives of the most vulnerable families and children’.
ARS_3619The Armenian Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan spoke to the well-attended conference about the importance of engaging communities of Armenian diaspora and international experts in solving local challenges. ‘This conference would not take place without the EU-funded project. As part of the activities, some Armenian experts visited Ireland and we are pleased to host international diaspora engagement experts here in Armenia. The experts have already visited my Ministry and we had a very fruitful discussion, during which we shared our experiences’.
Conference participants spent the day discussing the potential of the diaspora and migrants to make more lasting and tangible contributions to social sector development in Armenia, and how they best support the most vulnerable children and families through child-focused reforms.
Tanja Radocaj, the UNICEF Representative in Armenia, discussed how Diasporan communities could offer support: ‘Diaspora Armenians and organisations can play an important role in strengthening gate-keeping mechanisms, such as daycare centres; in establishing new social services for vulnerable families; in supporting alternative family-based child care; in further developing integrated social services in the country; in promoting excellence in education and healthcare. All of these areas need support, and can have a massive knock-on effect on poverty alleviation, particularly child poverty’.
Two independent experts from Ireland and the USA, respectively, were invited to the conference to share Diaspora engagement strategies. The Conference and training was organised for the staff of the Armenian Ministry of Diaspora, staff from other line ministries and civil society organisations. Thematic discussions were also held with the Training and Research Centre of the Central Bank of Armenia and a number of other high-level stakeholders.
The visits were organised as a follow up to the earlier visit of an Armenian delegation to Ireland in October 2015 to study Diaspora engagement strategies for children and local development. The goal of the larger project, funded by the EU, is to promote the better use of migrants’ and diaspora’s financial and intellectual resources for the benefit of their communities and children in Armenia.