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On 20 November, on World Children’s Day, the EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, the Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of the Republic of Armenia Lusine Araqelyan and the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia Janna Andreasyan participated in the #TakeAction Ideathon at Vanadzor Technology Centre, which was organised with the support of the European Union. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of local communities on human rights protection by engaging children in addressing the issues in the field. The event offered 150 children aged 13-17 from Shirak, Lori and Tavush marzes a platform to learn more about their rights and responsibilities, as well as collaborate on developing creative ideas to enhance the lives of their communities. Children developed 30 projects; three projects won the contest, one per marz.

The EU Ambassador welcomed all the participants: “The EU attaches great importance to the protection of human rights. As a teacher in my first profession, I would like to highlight that it is important for a teacher to continue learning and accepting criticism positively. Students also have the right to make their voice heard. The purpose of today’s event is to teach how to present an idea and make it available”.

The winning projects will be brought to life with the financial support of the European Union. They will promote equal rights in the marzes through community engagement. Coaches from human rights NGOs and educational institutions guided the children in the process of putting together a comprehensive project. The jury was comprised of representatives of regional administrations, NGOs and youth projects.  As a result of the implementation of the winning projects, Azatan community of Shirak marz will have an inclusive playground to ensure equal opportunities of entertainment for all children. The football field of school N23 in Vanadzor city, Lori marz, will be renovated, wheelchair ramps will be installed in the school. Veterans’ Park in Azatamut community of Tavush marz will be renovated as well.

On 19 July the Amasia wool-processing factory, supported by the European Union, began operations. The factory was established within the framework of the “EU4Shirak: Wool for Jobs” project. The EU Ambassador to Armenia Piotr Świtalski, RA Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Vache Terteryan, and the Governor of Shirak marz Tigran Petrosyan, together with other officials of the state, regional organisations and guests participated in the official opening of the Amasia wool factory. They took a short tour in the factory to see the new equipment and wool-processing techniques, as well as to speak to employees.

Ambassador Świtalski thanked everyone for coming and mentioned that it was an honour for the EU to support such a project: “Greetings to the wonderful people of Amasia, who live in a wonderful corner of Armenia. I hope very much in the coming years this place will be the future of Armenia. This project has been developed and implemented by a consortium of partners and I want to thank them for the wonderful idea and for their dedication to make it real. For me the main advantage of this project was Amasia itself. I visited Amasia before and I thought this place needed new impetus. So I want to thank all the people involved in the implementation of this project”.

Deputy Minister Terteryan welcomed everyone and thanked them for their support: “The factory will promote economic activity, create new jobs, and reduce unemployment in the region. This project is unique among PRDP projects because it was more ambitious – the proposed action follows a value chain development approach for woollen products, from sheep to customer. If we succeed here, we will have a good base from which to solve this problem in other livestock breeding regions of Armenia. I hope the factory will not only expand its production volume, but also export geography”.

The wool produced in Amasia and neighbouring villages is known to be exceptionally thick, with up to 16 natural colours. This makes it ideally suited for the production of carpets, rugs and various textiles. Annual production capacity of the factory is 25 tonnes of wool.  Within “EU4Shirak: Wool for Jobs” project, wool-processing specialists were trained by professionals from Europe and Armenia. They gained the necessary skills to work in the new factory or elsewhere in the wool sector. Moreover, the project offers funding opportunities to local 14 small- and medium-sized enterprises operating within the newly established wool value chain. This will increase their market competitiveness and support economic growth in Shirak marz. The factory has 16 employees and is expected to have 23.

“EU4 Shirak: Wool for jobs” is being implemented by People in Need – Armenia (PIN) in cooperation with Women’s Development “Resource Centre” Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Shirak marz and the Amasia Municipality. It is co-funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure of the Republic of Armenia through the Pilot Regional Development Programme (PRDP). The project has a total budget of €549,819 (the EU contribution is €335,000) and it will run until 2020.

In the framework of the ‘EU4Youth: SAY YES — Skills for Jobs’ project, which is being co-financed by the European Union, World Vision Armenia (co-financer and implementer of the project), the Ayb Foundation, and Khan Academy Armenia, is creating and translating free, high-quality educational resources in the Armenian language to support the professional education and career orientation of Armenian youth.

6Through the ‘Localisation and Development of an Online Educational Platform’ project, which is being implemented by the Ayb Educational Foundation, Khan Academy Armenia has created Armenian-language educational materials on mathematics, finance, entrepreneurship, programming, the arts, and chemistry on a new online platform for alternative education. In the framework of the ‘EU4Youth: SAY YES — Skills for Jobs’ project, which is being co-financed by the European Union, training materials of 10 sections of Khan Academy have been translated and adapted. The materials and new projects created were presented at an event organised on 31 January. Participants were later given a chance to test the opportunities and advantages of the platform on site.

3Vassilis Maragos, the Head of the DG NEAR Unit responsible for Armenia, was in Armenia for the event: “Armenia is an important partner in the Eastern Partnership platform and a number of joint projects are being implemented.  We are witnessing the result of such a project today. A bright future would be impossible without the innovative spirit of young people. Our investment in youth and education will ensure a more peaceful and promising future”.

ARS_5902_Zhirayr Edilyan, the Head of World Vision Armenia, spoke about integrating young men and women from the marzes into online education through this initiative, as well as inspiring and making them competitive in the labour market: “These educational platforms will help our young people build a better future for themselves. Those living in Yerevan have many development opportunities, while those in the marzes are much more restricted in their choices. In this regard, the platform will resolve a lot of issues”.

ARS_3933_Low- and middle-income families in Armenia can barely find energy-efficient construction materials, furniture, or appliances at affordable prices. To address these issues with the funding support from the European Union Habitat for Humanity Armenia Foundation has been implementing the “Restoring Living Conditions in Armenia” project since December 2016. The project aims to improve low- and middle-income families’ living conditions by providing them with access to low-cost furniture, household goods, and building materials – new and used, remodelled and refurbished. The project is based on monetary donations or donated items – new or almost new furniture, construction materials, and home appliances – which are then refurbished and sold to the public at affordable prices. The project has a total budget of €340,003 (the European Union contribution is €300,000).

ARS_3997_Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Armenia foundation Luiza Vardanyan presented the components of the project: “Our project has three main components. We established a social enterprise called “Norogi Resource Centre” in 2018, where low- and middle-income families can get low-cost, new or barely used furniture, construction materials and supplies, and home appliances. We will also organise training for people to get basic know-how on carpentry, home improvements, and energy-efficiency upgrades. We also have a working lab and learning studio where volunteers of different abilities and backgrounds have an opportunity to gain new skills and technical tips on remodelling and upgrading furniture which will help them access employment opportunities. The proceeds will be directed to Habitat for Humanity Armenia foundation to be used to help more families build strength, stability, self-reliance and shelter in local communities”.

ARS_4005_The Head of the “Restoring Living Conditions in Armenia” project, Arthur Mesropyan, spoke about shaping new culture in Armenia: “We must be able to change our culture. It is unnecessary for everyone to dedicate things only to themselves, and furniture is one of those things. Through social networks, partners, customers, donors, volunteers, we’re trying to spread the idea of donating. We are trying to use this opportunity to present our programme and goals and raise awareness”.

The European Union provides technical assistance and expertise to the elaboration of the spatial master plan for the Yenokavan Municipality in Tavush marz. Spatial planning has an important role in balanced and sustainable regional development policy as it ensures appropriate usage of the territory for economic and social purposes while preserving the value of the natural environment.
With the recent rapid development of tourism in Yenokavan and vicinity, there are increasing risks of mismanaging and damaging the territory by: uncoordinated and excessive infrastructure investments which on the one hand, can be incompatible with the demand and not complete (e.g. inadequate networks of gas, water, energy, sewage, also public function buildings such as schools or health clinics) and on the other hand, can negatively impact the landscape, local architectural harmony and traditions, etc. A good spatial plan will provide the right conditions for proper functional and infrastructural development for tourism and for keeping the environment sustainable. This is the only way to utilize the local/regional tourism potential without damaging the most valuable assets. For these reasons, the Yenokavan Master Plan is approached in an innovative way, combining deep, multi-layer levels of information under the spatial plan and its sub-plans. It is expected that the solutions worked out in Yenokavan will be later used in other locations in Armenia which demonstrate high touristic and environmental value.
This a pilot approach undertaken in close partnership between the Yenokavan local stakeholders (the Municipality and the Development Foundation), the national authorities (the Ministry for Territorial Administration and Development), and the European Union.

^1D207D86EAEE6BB491C7CFDE4094651D40F8A12DD6944C043C^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrArmenia has not yet fully implemented the waste sorting policy. According to a study conducted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2016, plastic containers, bottles and bags are the main polluters of water in Armenia. 5000 tonnes of polyethylene waste are collected in the country each year. Based on the average data for the recent years, more than 622 tonnes of polyethylene bags are imported to Armenia and 201 tonnes produced in the country annually.

However, in Kapan, Syunik marz, plastic waste will not only be sorted, but also prepared for recycling and re-use in the construction sector. This will become possible thanks to the “Introducing Construction Materials from Plastic Waste” (IES) Pilot Regional Development Programme (PRDP) project launched in 2016. For the first time in Armenia, a startup recycling facility is being established in the city, which will process plastic waste into materials after passing through several technological processes and being mixed with sand on a production line. In order to supply the startup with enough plastic waste, the project is creating infrastructure for its separation and collection all the way down from Yeghegnadzor to Meghri involving 9 communities in Vayots Dzor and Syunik marzes. The first batch of kerbstones and street tiles will be used to improve public spaces in those communities.

^15CBDCF9900DCC2D58A9D5019E16AF08BE0E2CA45F17CA137E^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrNorayr Harutyunyan, the Head of the Project, talked about the status and rationale of the project: “Plastic is durable and does not decompose in nature. Therefore, it causes great environmental damage. If you burn plastic waste it causes even more harm, as it produces dioxins, which destroys the nature and causes harm to the society. The Municipality of Kapan has initiated a project with the European Union aimed at collecting and recycling plastic waste. In December, we will obtain the pipeline. Plastic as a raw material will be received from the population”.

^DC82201E16193E9CF14D865AB23F0BBB1474495E6829E5D938^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrThe two-year project’s budget is around €749,963, of which €509,978 has been provided by the European Union. The project is being implemented under the Pilot Regional Development Programme (PRDP) funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia. More than 60 people will benefit from training and improve their chances in the labour market; 35 of them will receive permanent jobs. Preference will be given to qualified long-time job seekers, particularly to young men and women.

On 15 September, the annual “Rural life and traditions” festival was held in Yerevan for the fifth time. The importance of the harvest festival, the achievements of recent years, and anticipated events were presented. The European Union played a key role in the establishment of the festival. The EU-funded European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) and the Organic Agriculture Support Initiative (OASI) are the festival’s key sponsors. More than 200 farmers’ groups and individual farmers, cooperatives, women’s groups, and local entrepreneurs from Armenia and other countries, including GeorgiaUSAIranLebanonRomania, and Italy, participated in the festival. The producers presented their products, grown and processed in rural areas, to the citizens of the capital, Yerevan.

DSC_9293The festival is organised for residents of the capital to understand and experience Armenia’s regional agricultural achievements. This includes the results of projects implemented by international organisations, as well as the successes of farmers’ and women’s cooperatives. It is a good opportunity to purchase products that cannot yet be found in shopping centres in Yerevan. The festival serves as a unique platform for agricultural stakeholders and potential donors to meet, find new markets, exchange experience, and engage in new collaboration.

DSC_8953The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, paid his respects to hard-working Armenian farmers: “We are very proud that the idea for this festival came from the EU Delegation to Armenia. It is growing in size and more and more farmers are participating. The EU is committed to supporting agricultural sector. Our commitment is €25 million through the ENPARD programme. We also support the OASI project, implemented by our Austrian partners. We believe that organic agriculture has a bright future in Armenia, and we will be continuing down this path”.

DSC_8944Deputy Minister of Agriculture Artak Kamalyan congratulated all festival participants: “This festival is being held for the fifth time, which proves that it is already well established. I welcome all participants, both local and international. I am proud that more than 200 agricultural producers are presenting their products today, which shows the wide choice our citizens can enjoy. I assure you that, today, organic agriculture in Armenia is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Agriculture”.

On 14 September, “Aregak” bakery and coffee shop opened its doors, the product of the “First Inclusive Bakery and Coffee Shop in Gyumri” project. Co-financed by the European Union, the Austrian Development Cooperation, and Caritas Austria, the project has been implemented by the Emili Aregak Centre of Armenian Caritas.

DSC_8795Emili Aregak is Gyumri’s primary support and resource center for young people with multiple disabilities; therefore, it seeks to foster the integration of children with disabilities aged 2 to 18 and their families into society so that they are treated equally. The “Aregak” bakery and coffee shop is a clear manifestation of this mission: it is a model for discovering the potential of young people with disabilities, for creating inclusive environments, and for promoting visibility and understanding. The bakery will also provide Gyumri with delicious breads, pastries, and coffee. In addition to the bakery and coffee shop, the project covers: herb gardening; training and cooperation; therapeutic handicraft work; public awareness raising. The two-year project’s overall objective is to create opportunities to involve young people with disabilities in the labour market. Target groups include youth and adults with disabilities, their parents and the Emili Aregak Day Care Centre for Children with Multiple Disabilities in Gyumri. The total project budget is €300,000, of which the European Union contribution is €269,187.

DSC_8540The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, thanked all the supporters of the project: ‘There are several reasons why this project has special value for the EU and for me. I am very proud that, in the last ten years of my career, we have promoted social entrepreneurship. This is the third project that I have opened in the past month. Social entrepreneurship is very European, and one in four businesses starting up in Europe is social. This project will not create many jobs, yet Armenia needs many jobs. That said, we hope the experience of social entrepreneurship creates a domino effect help to create new jobs. We are also deeply committed to empowering people with disabilities. Europe believes that the idea of second-class citizens has no place in our societies. Everyone must feel equal. Finally, we would like to see Gyumri as an example of an inclusive city. Last of all, there is a personal reason why this project is important to me – my great grandfather owned a bakery more than 100 years ago’.

DSC_8596Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia Zaruhi Batoyan congratulated the citizens of Gyumri: ‘A job is a guarantee of a decent life. Unfortunately, I must note that the Government of Armenia has been somewhat behind in terms of creating equal opportunities. We need to do a lot, take bigger steps, and make bigger investment to fill these gaps. I cannot stress enough the importance of cooperation between the community, government, and international organisations’.

On 2 September four new enterprises were officially opened in Vanadzor, Stepanavan and Alaverdi (Lori marz) through the support of the European Union. All enterprises started activities as part of the “Boosting competitiveness of regional SMEs” project. This is being implemented by the SME Development National Centre of Armenia and its partners.

^B2B958BA67C5A4AE02EAFAFBE65FB7BCAC8A0B4D7A6C8573E7^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrVigen Mnatsakanyan founded his business ARMBEE in Alaverdi to engage in the apitherapy business (healing through bee products) and apitourism. Ruzanna Hayrapetyan, the owner of Gandzak fast food and bakery in Vanadzor, has set up a new business on the site of an empty former furniture shop that belonged to her family. Arman Arakelyan founded “Lore” LLC in Stepanavan, which will provide hospitality services for leisure fans. Hamlet Tumasyan is the owner of a new guesthouse in Stepanavan.

^8ACCA18F69DA231F6E2D1918CD60DA728302274E27E69E08B4^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrArshak Grigoryan, Executive Director of SME DNC in Armenia (the project implementing organisation, presented the issues facing small- and medium-sized enterprises: ‘We believe that potential business people in Armenia have three main problems: lack of knowledge, lack of financial resources, and lack of market access. We are trying to deal with these three key issues during our activities and suggest solutions. Today, the share of SMEs in GDP is insufficient, but the current policy is aimed at improving that gap. This project is a part of that policy – these four enterprises have provided at least 30 jobs, and will soon boost revenue, which is beneficial both for their business and for the country’.

^46CB8BE11E532FD3E7AF09F09DB2B4146B3E82447074FA1AC6^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrLilit Apunjanyan, Project Coordinator of “Boosting competitiveness of regional SMEs”, was happy to see that, thanks to the EU-funded project, the enterprises which had received support were developing well: ‘The main goal of the project was to support SMEs. Many talk about unemployment, but when we talk to business owners, we understand that they cannot find a good workforce. Such projects help to fill that gap. We work in three marzes: our actions are the same, but the enterprises are different, depending on a marz’s peculiarities’.

“Boosting competitiveness of regional SMEs” is a two-year project launched on 14 December 2016. It is funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of Armenia through the Pilot Regional Development Programme (PRDP). The project is being implemented by a consortium, coordinated by the SME Development National Centre of Armenia. The total project budget is €1,604,808, of which the European Union contribution is €1,123,370. The overall objective of the project is to boost competitiveness of regional SMEs and create sustainable employment opportunities in Lori, Syunik and Armavir marzes. Expected project results include the creation of sustainable jobs at the local level; increased competitiveness of local enterprises; the establishment of new enterprises. The project consists of a range of consequent and complementary activities, with the main purpose of considerably improving the economic wellbeing of target groups and final beneficiaries.

ARS_0115On 9 December, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, paid a working visit to Ararat marz, where he met with the Mayor of Artashat, Karen Beniaminyan. In the framework of the visit Ambassador Świtalski learned about ongoing EU-funded projects in Ararat marz, especially about “Reduction of poverty in Urtsadzor community cluster by developing (self) employment opportunities” project implemented by the Fund for Organic Farming (FOF). This project began in February 2016, supported by the European Union and implemented by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC). The Urtsadzor community cluster includes Urtsadzor, Lanjanist and Shaghap communities in Ararat marz; the project also has beneficiaries in Lusashogh. The project will continue until the end of January 2018. The budget of the project is €563,000, out of which the EU has contributed €500,000, and FPWC €42,000. The four communities involved have also jointly raised €21,000. The project aims to bring about long-term economic growth at the community level through local business projects.

ARS_0151Ambassador Świtalski visited also Holani Agro Produce Processing Factory in Vedi. Approximately €2,000 of the project budget was spent on upgrading the factory’s electrical system and industrial capacity. In 2017, villagers collected 4 tonnes of fruits and 2 tonnes of herbs. These were dried and 120kg of dried fruits and 50kg of dried herbs have since been sold using unique packaging for Holani brand. FPWC has a plan to expand the production site and establish a larger factory. In Shaghap the Ambassador inaugurated a new bed and breakfast guesthouse owned by a local history teacher. The project had selected the house from a panel of potential sites for renovation.

ARS_0171Taguhi Manvelyan, the Project Coordinator of FPWC, presented the project results: The project has included more than 50 families as beneficiaries. It has focused on community development, poverty reduction, and job creation. We have started with training: people have received education, developed their capabilities in the fields of eco-tourism and eco-agriculture, and gained business skills to better manage small businesses. They wrote business plans based on their knowledge, we have chosen the best ones for implementation. At the moment, our beneficiaries are engaged in beekeeping, harvesting wild produce and working in agro-factories, as well as managing small businesses. Holani Agro Produce Processing Factory in Vedi produces dried fruit and teas. There is the Holani Honey Factory in Shaghap, as well as two guesthouses. At first, people were sceptical, but over time they began to believe in the project when they saw tangible results. Now many people want to join us. It is certain that we will have more beneficiaries next year.

ARS_0313Later, Ambassador Świtalski participated in the Rural Christmas Fair in Urtsadzor. The Ambassador congratulated all the producers, organisers and volunteers for their hard work. Residents of Urtsadzor, Shagap, Lanjanist and Lusashogh presented their own products at the fair, giving people the chance to buy fruit, vegetables, honey, dried fruit, canned food, nuts, and homemade soujukh and basturma at competitive prices. The event aimed to offer visitors to Urtsadzor high-quality fresh products for Christmas and New Year, thus creating additional income for the villagers.