Tag Archives: Natalia Voutova

On 11 December Matenadaran in Yerevan hosted the Universal Rights Award Ceremony. This ceremony has existed since 2012, and was the first initiative of the international community to highlight the contributions of Armenia’s civil and political rights activists, government officials, media and civil society representatives to promoting human rights. The organisers honoured individuals working in Armenia to promote human rights, freedom of expression, diversity, religious acceptance, democracy, transparency, legal reform and equal rights in the country.

ARS_8926The UN resident Coordinator in Armenia, Bradley Busetto, presented the “Woman of Courage” award to the Chairman of the Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organisation, Ani Balkhian. The Head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, handed over the “Government Reformer” award to Armenia’s Deputy Minister of Justice, Vigen Kocharyan. The US Ambassador to Armenia, Richard Mills, presented the “Media Excellence” award to MediaLab Newsroom Laboratory. The UK Deputy Head of Mission, Alison Chick, gave the “Freedom Defender” award to the representative of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Isabella Sargsyan. This year, for the first time, the French and German Embassies in Armenia presented a joint “Franco-German Prize for Equal Chances”. The Gyumri-based “Agate – Rights Defence Centre for Women with Disabilities” NGO received this award.

ARS_8975The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, awarded the “Union of Informed Citizens” NGO and its Programme Director, Daniel Ioannisyan, with the “Promoting Justice and Transparency” award. He said: ‘It is a big day for all of us. This award is very important, at least from my perspective. We live in times when demand for justice in our society is growing – Armenia is no exception. We need more justice – for centuries our civilisation developed on the concept of delayed justice: justice will come, but later. Transparency is a part of justice. I want to congratulate Daniel for his courageous efforts to increase transparency in Armenia. Transparency can be inconvenient, “dirty” work as it can show us things we do not want to see. But thanks to guys like him, we are aware what to change in our society. I hope that, due to his initiative, in the coming months and years Armenia will dedicate itself to cleaning up its electoral processes and ridding its schools of political manipulation and propaganda. This is very important for democracy in Armenia’.

On 27 November the campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence” (GBV) was officially launched in Matenadaran, Yerevan, to raise public awareness of and hold different events on GBV across Armenia. The campaign takes place from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day). This year’s campaign theme is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls”.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, Armenia’s Vice President of the National Assembly, Arpine Hovhannisyan, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, Arman Tatoyan, the UN resident Coordinator in Armenia, Bradley Busetto, the Head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, and the Ambassadors of France, Germany, United Kingdom and United States of America in Armenia took the floor to reconfirm their commitment to protecting the rights of women and girls and promoting women’s empowerment in Armenia.

ARS_9288Violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious human rights violations in the world. Almost one third of women in relationships report that they have experienced some form of violence, mostly from an intimate partner. According to the official data of the Armenia’s Investigative Committee, 215 criminal cases on domestic violence were investigated in the first half of 2017 in Armenia. Almost one third of criminal cases refer to violence used by men against their partners. The European Union and its member states place women’s human rights and gender equality at the core of all its external policies. The EU makes every possible effort to strengthen the voice of women, empower, and to assert their political, social, and economic rights women and girls. The 2016-2020 EU Gender Action Plan serves as the main guiding framework for EU actions and cooperation with partner countries, international and civil society organisations, and the private sector.

ARS_9384Ambassador Świtalski praised the work done by the Armenian government and civil society on this issue: ‘Last Friday we had a big event, as the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit was held in Brussels, Belgium. The leaders of EaP reaffirmed their commitment to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. What happened last Friday with the new EU-Armenia Agreement was also very important. Let me make very simple observations: firstly, from our perspective, the dignity of women is never relative, never conditional; secondly, human rights are indivisible, they should be applied equally; finally, let me make it very clear that the EU does not impose any values on our partners. We have never tried and there are no mechanisms to do it. Armenia is in a good situation, as we have declared that we share the values; therefore, there is nothing to impose as we are on the same page. We will continue our work on the basis of this new agreement and make these values strong and functioning for the benefit of ordinary citizens of Armenia, in particular for women’.

ARS_9372NA Vice President Hovhannisyan presented the situation in Armenia from a legislative perspective: ‘Any violence is chargeable, including violence against women and girls. Violence has a negative effect not only on an individual’s psychological, sexual or physical health, but also an institutional impact: it directly and/or indirectly affects the sustainable development of states. The high numbers in our country of GBV are worrying. The draft law on “Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence” is currently on the agenda of the National Assembly (NA). This week it’s on the agenda of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs and Protection of Human Rights,and where it will be discussed. Serious work has been done to address ongoing concerns. After the committee’s discussion, the draft law will be included in the agenda of the NA plenary session and will again be discussed. At present, the draft law is in line with international standards’.

On 15 June, the Council of Europe organised the “Electoral Developments in Armenia: Lessons Learned and Steps Ahead” conference as part of the “Long-term election related stakeholders of Armenia” project. This project is funded by the European Union and Council of Europe Programmatic Co-operation Framework (PCF) in the Eastern Partnership Countries for 2015-2017.
The PCF is being implemented in two phases: 2015‑2017 and 2018-2020. The budget for the first implementation phase is €33.8 million. The PCF is 90% funded by the European Union and 10% by the Council of Europe (CoE). CoE is the implementer.
The objective of the conference was to examine the organisation and management of the recent local (2016), parliamentary (April 2017) and Yerevan Council (May 2017) elections in Armenia, to what extent they complied with international standards, and how electoral processes could be further improved. The opening speeches were delivered by the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, Head of the CoE office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, and the Chair of Armenian Central Electoral Commission, Tigran Mukuchyan.

DSC_6861Ambassador Świtalski highlighted the importance of examining the election process: ‘We have expressed our preliminary opinion about the last elections as the EU. Like everyone we are now waiting for the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR on the April parliamentary elections. After it we may also publish our additional comments. The drafting of the new Electoral Code stemming from the new Constitution was conducted in an unprecedented consultative manner which is a positive development – ruling coalition negotiated the Code with three opposition parties and some civil society representatives.
It is important to start discussions, to present experience, lessons learned and outline future actions. No one can say that after the elections Armenia’s democratic standards are already perfect – achieving that is a long-term process. The next elections, which will be a long time from now, should be conducted in a more satisfactory way.
We need to acknowledge that the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has effectively implemented the technical aspects – voter authentication devices – which were funded by the EU with contributions from its Member States UK and German (in total 90 % of the cost) and the US. These devices worked very well and helped to prevent multiple voting.
For the future, I have three key messages/recommendations: 1) To improve the Electoral Code and other pieces of legislation in consensus with all stakeholders (parliamentary parties and civil society); 2) To increase credibility of electoral institutions: notably of the CEC and increase independence of judiciary and political neutrality of the law enforcement bodies; 3) work on addressing shortcomings that happen before and after Election Day, i.e. such as those identified by the OSCE/ODIHR in its Preliminary Opinion – vote buying, abuse of administrative resources, and intimidation of public and private sectors´ employees.”

DSC_6990Mr Tigran Mukuchyan prioritised focusing on the positive aspects of the election process: ‘There is no need to exaggerate and make an emphasis on 1.5% failure and fail to mention 98.5% achievements. No one is saying that we should not criticise or point out the shortcomings; however, it must be acknowledged that we have made a step forward, which will be evaluated in detail. Public perception in the post-election period is an excellent evidence of this’.

DSC_6845Ms Natalia Voutova expressed her gratitude to the EU Delegation to Armenia and other partners for supporting the project: ‘2017 has been a very important year in terms of conducting elections in Armenia, particularly as they were based on the new Constitution and the new Electoral Code. We are looking forward to work with the Armenian authorities and Armenian civil society as we move forwards’.