Diaspora-Artsakh: the Non-Demanded Potential in the Public Sphere

By Hayk KHANUMYAN
Head of the NGO “European Movement of Artsakh”
Stepanakert

The role of the Armenian Diaspora in the post-Soviet life of Artsakh is vital, especially in the humanitarian support and foreign political lobbying. The Armenian Diaspora has made a huge contribution to the rehabilitation of infrastructures, implemented various beneficial projects, also taking part in the business life of the country. Despite all that we often hear criticism of the Diaspora for its insufficient engagement; at the same time, there are also complaints from Diaspora for the ineffective waste of funds and corruption in both Armenian states.

And although it is 17 years that the war has been stopped, but only a few representatives of the Diaspora tie up their future with Artsakh and try to carry out some long-term activity here. There is still a vigorous emotional field in the Diaspora that urges our compatriots to send 50, 100 or hundred thousand dollars for implementation of various projects. It is true that ten years ago Artsakh was in desperate need of money, but now it is the physical presence is most urgent:  a part of our homeland strongly needs enterprising, businesslike, creative people, who are able to create those tens of millions of dollars, now received from abroad, right here.  The human capital of the Diaspora is just the resource that will be in the focus of attention in the both Armenian states.

The European Union has become more attentive to the post-Soviet conflicts, exerting more efforts to their solution. The attention has been fixed more since the initiation of the Eastern Partnership project by Poland and Sweden in 2009.  The project covers six post-Soviet states: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.  Naturally, here the question of relations with the non-recognized or partly-recognized states emerges.

Public organizations are supposed to have an important role in the implementation of the Esatrne Partnership. In 2009 the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum was created, which during its sessions in November 16-17, 2009, in Brussels and November 18-19, 2010, in Berlin included into its working proposals the point of engagement of the zones of “frozen conflicts” into the EU,1 meaning Artsakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria.

Soon the idea of engaging these countries into European programs, widely discussed in the analytical and non-governmental circles, will get a more systemic shape and appropriate reflection in the resolutions of the Council of Europea on the South Caucasus and Eastern Partnership.

On April  7, 2011 , the European Parliament adopted a resolution “On the Review of the European Partnership – Eastern Dimension” program, the 49th article of which, in particular, urges the EU structures , maintaining the European policy of non-recognition, to carry out the projects, aimed at confidence building, carrying out new missions  and strategies of public communications, including  “pragmatic initiatives and innovative approaches, such as non-official contacts and c onsultations with the “societies of the secessionist territories.”2

Excellent opportunities have been opened for integration of Artsakh into the international non-governmental space – from the viewpoint of the recognition. At the same time the problem of the more or less strong NGOs and other segments of the civil society come out: they should be able to actively cooperate with international organizations, work out projects and manage, keep correspondence in foreign languages and submit reports. The present-day Artsakhian NGOs are too weak, quite often they consist of one or two persons, and more or less active ones implement only a pair of projects.

Interestingly, the role of the Diaspora among the donors of the Artsakh public sector is quite modest. The Armenian Diaspora can become an independent and unselfish source of financing of the Artsakh NGOs, but almost no work is being conducted with Armenian organizations or individuals for it. Armenian organizations and private persons mostly take part in benevolent projects or prefer working with governmental structures.

However, their contributions could be much more valuable, if those representatives of the Armenian Diaspora, possessing appropriate skills and knowledge in their concrete spheres of activity, actively participated in the public life of Artsakh through various projects.  The effective struggle against corruption, transparency are possible only if the active civil society is available. At the same time, it might slake the “personnel thirst” in the Artsakh public sector, and the successful examples could be examples for the other sons of the Armenian people, who would like to tie up their life with Artsakh for a long time.

Taking into account the objective problems, connected with the permanent or long-term move to Artsakh (the low level of education and public health, the lack of places of to spend leisure hours, adaptation issues, etc.), we think that the best way out could be working out of short-term projects for our compatriots. The experience of the European Movement of Artsakh in receiving interns from the Diaspora organizations shows that hundreds of young Armenians from the Middle East and Europe are ready to have their internship for a month, two – six months in Artsakh, being even ready to pay for their expenses themselves. At the same we should remind that the level of education and health care is low, and there are no places to spend their spare time, among other reasons, because of the lack of public activity and initiative. In short, it is your country, come and build it yourself.

Why do we especially focus on the participation in the public life? I think that the most real sector for Armenians from the Diaspora to work is just the NGOs, taking into consideration the lack of the private sector and dependence from the authorities, as well as the problems with the citizenship when working in the governmental sector.

The availability of the competent personnel in the Artsakh public sector will allow, in its turn, to attract new funds and resources, including from the Diaspora funds.

I think that the first step on this way should be organization of the internship for young Armenians from the Diaspora and foreign countries in Artsakh, and the source of financing for it should the Diaspora itself. The young people, who would pass a 3-6 month internship in Artsakh, will have time and opportunity to get acquainted closely with problems, try to find solutions, being within the people and the country and throwing away the emotional perceptions and approaches, typical to tourists.

Summing up, we should admit that there is a colossal not-demanded potential in the Diaspora-Artsakh relations. We also have to add that the human resource of the Diaspora is now sidelined, meanwhile Artsakh and its public organizations need it. On the other hand, the active engagement of Armenians from the Diaspora into the public life in Artsakh will contribute to getting our compatriots closer to the homeland. That is why we think that first we should find some sources, particularly in the Diaspora, to finance at least the short-term internship. As for the Artsakh NGOs and governmental structures, they should engage volunteers and qualified interns to their activities, which will help reducing the expenses and increasing the effectiveness of the work.

The above-mentioned brief remarks are aimed at shaping a discourse related to the problem, and appearance of new ideas in this context can contribute to using the colossal human resource of the Diaspora by Artsakh.

 

  1. Eastern Partnership Civil society forum, recommendations, working froup 1: Democracy, human rights, good governance and stability, http://eeas.europa.eu/eastern/civil_society/forum/working_group1_en.pdf)
  2. European Parliament resolution of 7 April 2011 on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy – Eastern Dimension, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0153+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
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