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Simplified procedures, reduced waiting times, modern infrastructure and equipment, improved security – these are only a few of the many advantages that the new border-crossing point (BCP) in Bagratashen will provide to ordinary citizens of Armenia and tourists travelling from Armenia to Georgia.
14937437_1149055855148342_5298925730231118127_nThe official opening of the newly constructed Bagratashen border checkpoint took place on 4 November 2016, attended by a variety of representatives from state border management bodies, international organisations, and members of the diplomatic corps and media. Key attendees included Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, a delegation headed by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Head of Cooperation Section of the European Union Delegation in Armenia Hoa-Binh Adjemian and Head of the Regional Representation of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in the South Caucasus Sebastiaen Husson de Sampigny, UN Permanent Coordinator in Armenia and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Permanent Representative in Armenia Bradley Busetto. This ceremony was organised through the EU-funded and UNDP-implemented “Modernisation of Bagratashen, Bavra and Gogavan Border Crossing Points of Armenia” (MBBG) project. After the opening, participants toured the facility.
The main objective of this EU-supported MBBG project has been to promote free movement of people and goods across the border, ensuring border security, improving bilateral and regional cooperation, and modernising the three checkpoints at Bagratashen, Bavra and Gogavan. This modernisation has been in accordance with the requirements of Armenian law, international standards and principles, as well as the principles of comprehensive border administration.
14947825_1149054925148435_7735196230274237844_nAdjemian spoke about EU border-management projects: ‘The European Union funds numerous inter-related programmes at all Armenian border posts with Georgia and Iran. We support the creation of an e-governance single window, finance physical and IT infrastructure, provide training, and ensure best practice exchange. Today, we are witnessing the impact of the European Union’s cooperation efforts in Bagratashen. Armenian citizens can now cross this border point in a faster, more secure and more efficient manner. Trade has been facilitated and will support further economic and social development, thus benefiting Armenian citizens and the entire region’.
De Sampigny commented on the EIB’s involvement in infrastructure in the region: ‘EIB supports, as the EU bank, the Armenian government’s key priority of fostering the development of crossing points between Armenia and Georgia, such as Bagratashen, to comply with increased demand for smoother flows of people, vehicles and goods in terms of quality and capacity. This new, modern infrastructure will have positive implications in the standards of everyday life of citizens, will increase security, and will improve trade across the whole region’.
BCP modernisation is expected to raise the living standards of local populations in the shorter term, i.e. through jobs created by construction, and also in the longer term, i.e. jobs to permanently man the checkpoints and other cross-border economic activities. BCP modernisation will also address additional issues surrounding communication and transportation.

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Potential gains from updated BCPs are not limited to business alone. The ability to move across borders freely and easily, and to engage in small-scale cross-border trade is vitally important to local border communities, increasing livelihood opportunities and access to services. The EU and UNDP have worked together to ensure modern and streamlined procedures and trained 700 border officials in search techniques, profiling, dealing with refugees, and fighting drug trafficking.
The EU’s affiliate European Investment Bank (EIB) has extended a 30.8 million Euro loan to the Government of Armenia for financing of the project, which was complemented by a 17.6 million Euro grant from the European Union.

Integrated border management is vital for the expansion of Armenia’s economic, trade, and cultural ties with the countries of the region. It also can manage and control the flow of travellers efficiently while protecting their rights fully. The European Union is supporting Armenia to modernise northern border crossings in Bagratashen, Bavra and Gogavan, as well as to renovate nearby roads. Now it’s time to move to the Southern border of Armenia and modernise border crossings with Iran.
On 3 October 2016, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a project cooperation agreement to implement the “Support to Migration and Border Management in Armenia (MIBMA)” project. MIMBA is fully funded by the European Union.
ars_5217‘The EU wants Armenia to be better connected to the outside world for many reasons, not just economically or culturally, but also politically. A more prosperous Armenia, and indeed EU, is one connected to its neighbours. This project involves a non-Eastern partnership country, Iran. After investing in northern Armenia we now believe that, with current political developments, it’s important to move south, improve the border crossings in Meghri, and increase traffic between Armenia and Iran. We believe that this is a good opportunity not only for Armenia, but also for Iran’, – highlighted Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski.
Bradley Busetto, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Armenia, reinforced UNDP’s commitment to regional connectivity: ‘UNDP has worked extensively on infrastructure upgrades, on sharing knowledge and expertise in transparency, accountability and integrity, as well as in trade facilitation. Together with our partners, we will build on these results and continue supporting Armenia’s efforts in this area’.
The overall budget of the 3-year MIBMA project is approximately €4 million. UNDP, as a project partner will lead the implementation of the border management component with a price tag of EUR 880,000 to be spent before the end of 2017.

The EU remains a steadfast supporter of the Armenia’s sustainable agricultural development. The largest of the EU funded projects in this sector is ENPARD, a three-year programme implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Industrial Development Organisation, and the UN Development Programme.
ENPARD’s third stakeholder meeting took place on 27 September 2016, aiming to present and discuss the project’s recent developments and achievements.
120x200 rollup mapAs part of the project, 51 training courses on business-orientated cooperation have been delivered in 122 communities across all marzes of Armenia, involving 667 participants, of which 227 are women. Training courses on cooperative establishment and business skills development have been organised for 41 primary production groups (more than 600 farmers), which later received support to develop their own business plans. 34 buckwheat production groups, 4 groups of non-traditional vegetable production, 6 high-value cheese cooperatives and 6 dried fruit and herb cooperatives have received support from the project in the form of agricultural inputs, greenhouses, drip irrigation systems, equipment, and assets. 2 buckwheat hulling factories are being constructed and will soon begin operations in Tsovagyugh and Bavra. By the end of year 2, primary fruit production groups will receive agricultural machinery; 1 group of berry producers will be provided with berry saplings and a drip irrigation system.
“Agriculture is not a thing that can be done in two seconds. Agriculture is people, agriculture is families, communities that need our help. Within this project we have already established cooperatives, cultivated new products and brought them to market – this is just the beginning”, – said John Barker, International Aid/Cooperation Officer of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Armenia.
The newly appointed Armenian Minister of Agriculture, Ignati Arakelyan, spoke about agricultural legislation: ‘Within ENPARD we have not only established cooperatives – a big added value success for farmers – but also have introduced legislation on cooperatives. However, we must continue to take steps and create conditions to strengthen and develop cooperation among farmers so they continue to create successful cooperatives’.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture Armen Harutyunyan stated that ENPARD would be continued, and that there was already a preliminary agreement with the European Union to start a new €10 million project in 2017. Another EU-funded project co-funded by the Austrian Development Agency is also ongoing, targeted at developing organic agriculture in Armenia.

Every year, the EU Delegation to Armenia, the US embassy, the OSCE, Council of Europe and the UN Armenia offices in Yerevan, honour individuals working to promote human rights, accountable governance, the rule of law, local government reform, women’s rights, inclusion and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards ceremony. The ceremony has taken place annually since 2012, and is 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 the promotion of human rights.
ARS_0167The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, awarded Lori District Court Judge Narine Hovakimyan with the new “Promoting Justice for All” award in recognition of her principled decisions. These decisions have demonstrated to citizens that the rights guaranteed by their Constitution are upheld in real life. ‘I am very honoured today because I am introducing a new category – an award which promotes justice for all. Justice is not just a pillar of government, it is precondition for everything. There is no democracy, no human rights protection, no fair business, and no harmonious society without independent, fair and efficient justice. For many years the EU has supported the judiciary in Armenia; we are happy that many positive changes have been made, the independence of the judiciary must still be promoted. Therefore, today we are honouring Narine Hovakimyan, a judge from Lori, for her courage and efforts for justice in Armenia,’ stated the Ambassador.
The Ambassador of the US to Armenia, Richard Mills, presented the “Media Excellence” award to the “Photolure” photo agency in recognition of its outstanding professionalism and commitment to covering the “Electric Yerevan” public protests in 2015. The Ambassador of the UK and Northern Ireland, Judith Farnworth, gave the “Freedom Defender” award to the “Citizen Observer” initiative for its efforts pursuing free and fair elections and the rule of law. The UN Resident Coordinator ad interim, Cristoph Biewirth, presented the “Government Reformer” award to Vache Terteryan, the Armenian First Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Development, for his commitment to putting in force the Law on Alternative Service and applying new approaches and reforms to local self-governance. The Head of the Council of Europe office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, handed over the “Promoting Inclusion” award to Zaruhi Batoyan for her commitment to creating equal opportunities for people with disabilities and building a more inclusive society. Ambassador Argo Avakov, the Head of the OSCE office in Yerevan, presented the “Woman of Courage” award to Jemma Hasratyan in recognition of her brave, long-term advocacy for equal rights and equal opportunities for women, and gender equality.

The launch event of the new “Innovation for development” project took place on 2 February 2016. The project is funded by the European Union and is being implemented by the UNDP office in Armenia. The project was launched by introducing the first ever “Public Sector Innovation Week” in Armenia, which included a conference in TEDx format, “Kolba cafe” meetings, and workshops for high-level public servants.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, talked about the importance of such initiatives: ‘I am very happy that the EU is associated with this kind of innovative development. The future is about innovation and know-how. The best future for Armenia will come through innovation. Armenia has quite limited natural resources, has a difficult geopolitical situation, so let’s use the talent of people, and their brains. The EU promotes and supports innovation in Armenia through various projects, covering sectors such as economic development, research, education, and e-governance. To ensure that innovation participates in transforming the Armenian administration, it is important to foster bottom-up approaches and encourage new ideas in policy making. Therefore, this project has been devised to encourage the practical engagement of citizens and public sector for effective and efficient governance’.
Bradley Busetto, the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Armenia, laid out the project’s aspirations: ‘Innovation for development will unleash innovators across society. From classrooms to hospitals, and up to municipal and government offices, this project will provide a platform for anyone who thinks they have a solution to help Armenia reach its development potential’.
The philosophy of the project is citizen centered, as it gives citizens a key role in policy development and implementation. The cooperation of two major organisations will allow them to develop new mechanisms for citizen participation and introduce open government innovations in Armenia. The project will have three strategic directions: idea incubation from citizens, public awareness activities, and public sector engagement.
In Armenia and the rest of the world there is a need to increase citizen engagement in decision-making processes. A series of open competitions will be held to delegate the problem solving process of social issues to citizens in Armenia, thereby encouraging participatory approach and assessment. Each citizen will have the opportunity to suggest solutions, and the best ones will be given an incubation period and initial financial support.
Competitions for ideas will also take place within government to encourage and develop new, more effective procedures, open government solutions, and communication tools. As a result of the project, the concept for an Open Governance Centre will be created to promote and develop participatory approaches to public services.

On 10 December, International Human Rights Day, the international community in Armenia jointly organised “HuRiCamp’ unconference dedicated to human rights. Representatives of the European Union, UN, Council of Europe and OSCE spoke informally on human rights topics to students and civil society representatives.
ARS_9680The EU Delegation was represented by Dirk Lorenz, Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation: ‘The EU has many projects dedicated to human rights issues in Armenia, but today I want first talk about my personal background. It is important to be active in what you want to achieve. We shouldn’t be afraid that we can’t make a difference; my message today to all of you is to always try to make a difference. It is great to have the international community behind you; we are implementing many projects, providing financial assistance, etc. However, human rights will never become reality if we don’t feel on an individual level that we are the ones who can make difference in the world. There are many changes that have taken place in Armenia in recent years. It shows that there is hope and motivation. I want to encourage you to be active and know that you can make a contribution to all these good causes in Armenia’.
Human rights activists and defenders from a wide range of backgrounds came together to speak on various human rights issues in a friendly, cooperative environment designed to educate, share learning, and inspire collaboration. In parallel sessions, leading personalities talked about their work in human rights areas and shared their experience.

The EU has provided €25 million for the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) in Armenia. €20 million of this support will be allocated as budget support to the Armenian government and €5 million as additional assistance for the sustainable and comprehensive development of rural communities.
Within the framework of the “Technical Assistance to the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture” project implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), a roundtable discussion was held on 15 July 2015. This roundtable was dedicated to plant genetic resource conservation and sustainable improvement.
The Armenian Deputy Minister of Agriculture, a representative from the UN and other agricultural experts attended the event.
ARS_1128Vahan Amirkhanyan from FAO talked about the details of the project: ‘In terms of additional assistance, the EU has requested that FAO provide technical assistance in four major areas: support to institutional development and policy harmonisation, sustainable use and management of agricultural produce and natural resources, capacity and infrastructure building in rural areas, and the improvement of universal agricultural accounting statistics’.
Armenia is a major centre for plant cultivatation in the world, and the list of implementation activities for the “Sustainable rural and agricultural development strategy for 2010-2020 in Armenia” includes the development and rolling out of a national programme for conservation and balanced use of agricultural crops and their wild-growing congeners. The first phase includes the assesment and analysis of the current situation.The assessment of urgent needs was discussed at the roundtable.
Subsquent steps in the development of the national programme were also discussed at the roundtable, as well as other ENPARD activities related to plant genetic resource conservation and sustainable food production and agriculture.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day in 1950 to bring the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The EU Delegation to Armenia organised on International Human Rights Day this year a public debate entitled “Women as an Active Part of the Civil Society”. The Acting Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Dirk Lorenz, attended the event and, on behalf of the European Union, announced the EU determination to remain key partner for Armenia in various areas of development: ‘Gender equality is an issue which is very high on the EU agenda. In this regard we are working with the government, as well as with civil society. We have initiated a number of projects aimed at combating violence against women; within the scope of our efforts we are providing financial support to civil society organisations to raise awareness and provide adequate support. Additionally, we have launched another project aimed at decreasing selective abortions, which is sadly a common issue in the country’. He highlighted that the EU intended to foster economic growth in Armenia and that it evaluates women’s rights as an important step in societal development.

International Human RIghts Day lecture (2)The Head of Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, Olexander Pavlyuk, highlighted the importance of similar discussions and talked about the active participation of the Council of Europe in women’s rights promotion: ‘The Council of Europe considers women’s rights and gender equality as integral parts of human rights. The Armenian government should give priority to the development of efficient gender-equality strategies. On 1 August a legal treaty was issued by the Council of Europe – a convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence. This is the first instrument in Europe of its kind: it is aimed at preventing violence and promoting equality between women and men’.

Participants in the public debate expressed hope that preventing violence against women would stay on the table of discussions and would remain a high priority as an integral aspect of human rights. They also added that they hoped the public debate would become a milestone on the path of promoting women’s rights in the country.

UN Resident Coordinator (a.i.) Henriette Ahrens spoke further on women’s rights in Armenia: ‘UNICEF looks forward to further implementation of the law on preventing domestic violence and violence against women. In contemporary society, men are seen as protectors and security enablers. Women are valued less, in fact they are frequently considered to be tools for taking care of children. The UN significantly contributes to raising women’s role in the economic and political life of the country’.

UN Women UK representative Tuula Nieminen (1)
The keynote speaker of the event, UN Women UK representative Tuula Nieminen, gave a presentation entitled “Women’s rights are human rights”, which showed opportunities for making gender equality a reality: ‘Women rights are human rights; in order to protect women rights it is crucial to comprehend relations between social institutions and the government, which in fact affect economy, social dynamics, family and community life. Gender stereotypes should be broken so that women can be perceived as they are, along with their needs and wishes.