On September 21, Civilitas will launch CivilNet.TV. Tune in Wednesday morning Yerevan time to see a fresh new take on our country, our region and our world. Mixing experience with enthusiasm, our great team will use all of the Internet's gifts to make sense of what's going on around us.
The following week, on September 27, former US Ambassador to Armenia, Mr. John Evans, will be joined by current German ambassador to Armenia, Mr. Hans-Jochen Schmidtto discuss 20 years of independence for Armenia and the region.
Later in the week, on September 29, Ambassador Evans has agreed to be Civilitas's guest in the next in the series of 100 Questions and Answers, moderated by Aram Abrahamian.
If you’re in Yerevan, please, call to reserve your seats.
Civilitas will launch an Internet news channel
and publish a daily newspaper.
This is a natural expression of the Civilitas mission – to strengthen civil society, we need an open, accessible, meaningful information field.
To fill the gap created by the absence of consistent research-based analysis in Armenian media, Civilitas is inaugurating CivilNet – a news and research based internet channel that will cover local and regional as well as relevant global issues on a daily basis in Armenian and English. A news program featuring international experts and new local faces, the internet channel will be available both live and on-demand – as a full news program, and as individual reports. The newspaper, an Armenian-language daily, will cover current and ongoing economic and political issues, in the form of news as well as opinion and analysis – but where the two can be distinguished. Local and international writers – Armenians and non-Armenians from around the world – will broaden the coverage and perspective of the newspaper and of course the internet programming. The newspaper will focus on economy and business, but will also include coverage of culture and sports, social issues and satire.
It's not only tourists who visit Armenia in the summer. International students, too, use the opportunity to see first hand what development and democratization are all about. This year, already, we've received a group of political science students from Boston's Northeastern University, led by Greg Aftandilian. Another group, this time international business students from Utah State University also came to Civilitas to talk about Armenia's political and economic challenges. This group of international business students came from the USU Huntsman School of Business. Civilitas and Vartan Oskanian have had a long and warm relationship with benefactor Jon Huntsman. Civilitas facilitates the Huntsman Scholarship program for Armenian undergraduates to study for a full four years at Utah State University. Mr. Huntsman has generously supported Civilitas and its outreach programs.
When we started the new series – 100 Questions and Answers – an opportunity to speak directly with and question public figures, we wondered about the public’s reception and the guests’ readiness.
It turns out we didn’t need to wonder. Three events later – with Vartan Oskanian
as our first guest, the ARF’s Vahan Hovannisyan
as the second guest, and Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan
as our third guest – we kno w that there is an interest and need all around.
The fourth guest, next week, is Justice Minister Hrair Tovmasyan. The topics are endless and the questions – from the global to the specific – are sure to be interesting. Questions can be posted at www.civilitasfoundation.org
ahead of time, and the program can be viewed live online at www.civilitasfoundation.org
The next Civilitas public forum has a curious title: “From Ebru to Grandchildren.” What’s that you say?
When EBRU appeared in Turkey, it was an eye-opener. Based on the concept that Turkish society is like the marbling paper (ebru..) that was used for centuries as the frontispiece of a published book – where colors maintained their identity and also blended together – photographer Attila Durak spent seven years traveling throughout Turkey’s regions to photograph and chronicle the lives of members of Turkey’s diverse cultures.
In Armenia, spring has come early this year. And with it, the annual questioning about what the year will bring. This year, it’s all economy, all the time. Public and private discussions revolve around the stagnant economic situation and the worrisome business environment. The most recent Civilitas public forum focused on these issues with a panel of distinguished guest speakers: former Chairman of Armenia’s Central Bank, Bagrat Asatryan, a member of Armenia’s National Assembly, Ara Nranyan, and economist Samvel Avagyan. The forum covered questions having to do with inflation, monetary policy, government initiatives and intervention, national debt and budget deficit challenges, as well as the concerns of ordinary citizens. The speakers highlighted the need for an integrated policy on inflation, the importance of ensuring fair competition among businesses, exercising limits on monopolies and modernizing tax legislation, among other ways to relieve the current deadlock.
In the same spirit, Civilitas Board President Vartan Oskanian offered a Civilitas interview
on the subject, published an article
in Aravot Daily highlighting the main priorities the government should pay close attention to. The article offers four urgent steps for policymakers to overcome the stalemate, discusses the main challenges with which Armenia is confronted and offers a thoughtful and decisive proposals.
Mr. Oskanian also appeared on A1+ as the guest of Aram Abrahamyan’s P.S. daily interview program on March 31. The interview
covered a host of topics including the dangers of political monopoly, Armenia’s economic dilemmas, and the efficacy of Armenia’s political institutions. The discussion revolved around the acute need for newly defined policy to support economic growth and rein in the continuing decline. Other questions included domestic issues, Nagorno Karabakh, genocide recognition, political engagement, and foreign policy.
Two programs within the Civilitas Democracy and Development Initiative also culminated this month. Within the framework of the “Libraries as Centers of Civil Society” project, supported by the US Embassy in Armenia, a number of on-site consultation visits were carried out, steering donations of books and equipment to regional libraries in Charentsavan, Armavir, Ararat, Gyumri and Ashtarak – all miles away from Yerevan. The activities culminated in a full-day training event on March 17 led by Ani Boyadjian, a US-based librarian who had worked in Armenia in the 1990s and brought a set of suggestions for librarians to do more proactive outreach, even with their limited resources. Experts from the US Embassy Information Office also offered expert advice on use of technologies to augment libraries’ resources. The head librarian at the National Academy of Sciences introduced librarians to the use of combined catalogs to better utilize their limited resources. The training aimed participating librarians to work to truly transform Armenia’s libraries, especially in the regions, into true centers of civil society. The project will thus continue to seek support from partners committed to enhancing information flow in the regions. Ernst and Young, the international firm’s Yerevan affiliate, was the first Civilitas corporate partner. Through Civilitas, the leading auditor firm kicked off its charity program by funding fully-equipped children’s corners at two public libraries in and near Yerevan. Find out more about what that busy week offered to Armenian librarians and library directors here!
The other Civilitas project also focused on rural areas. Armen and Nadya Ekcerciyan of Argentina were Civilitas’s first partners. They contributed to the Civilitas Democracy and Development initiative, with a commitment to supporting rural development – specifically, by helping dairy farmers on their way to self-reliance. As part of that project, Civilitas distributed milking machines to farmers throughout Armenia. In January, the last four automated milking machines were made available to farming households in Lori Marz, on the same 10-month repayment schedule with zero interest. This concludes Phase I of the project. In Phase II, the repaid loans will be used to purchase more machines, and contributing to poverty reduction in rural areas.
During the phase two of the program, starting this April, the repaid loans will put to use by purchasing not just more milking units, but also cows. This second, expanded phase of the program, is being supported by the Armenian community of Iran. You’ll hear more about this program in the spring. Until then, see the program factsheet here.
As always, read about daily questions and challenges facing us on the Civilitas Blog.
Finally, the second in the new Civilitas series 100 Questions and Answers features Vahan Hovannisyan, former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, and chairman of the ARF delegation. The program can be followed live on the internet at www.civilitasfoundation.org
are welcome even from those who cannot attend. The previous program, the first in the session, featured Vartan Oskanian and can be viewed here.
We're on a roll. The Civilitas public forums have taken off and each one draws a different crowd -- a new audience eager to ask questions about the issues which affect us most. The most recent one, on civic activism
, brought together the new, young activists as well as those traditional non-governmental leaders who have been the voices of advocacy for the last two decades. The obvious need for better coordination and better information was a reminder that there's much to do.
Towards that end, we continue to promote civil.am
as a resource for Armenia's organizations to display their work, and the Diaspora and international community to choose where to partner.
We also continue to promote dialogue -- and we've added a new format. Convinced as we are that citizens have a right to talk to their leaders, and that leaders have a responsibility to answer citizens' questions, we have embarked on a new public forum called 100 QUESTIONS, 100 ANSWERS
. The premise is simple -- one person, on stage, ready to answer quest ions from the audience. No speech, no theme. Just open dialogue. The first guest was Vartan Oskanian, someone who never shied away from answering questions, not when he was in office as foreign minister, and not now. The moderator was veteran journalist Aram Abrahamyan who, together with an active audience shot more than 20 questions at Mr. Oskanian and he responded to them all. Those questions and answers can be found here
, and additional questions, asked online, can be found here
. As soon as the next guest is confirmed, you will have a chance to ask questions even before the event.
Almost all Civilitas public programs are livestreamed. And when we can't livestream, you can be certain that the program will be uploaded
for you to view at a later time. That's what we've done with Civilitas analyst Tatul Hakobyan's discussion in Stepanakert, where he went to present the Civilitas annual report -- 2010, A YEAR OF UNCERTAINTY
. You can see an abbreviated version of the lively discussion here
. Guests included all sectors of civil society. The event was organized together with the Artsakh Council of Foreign Policy and Security Issues and drew upon questions and comments from all sectors of civil society. Later that day Mr. Hakobyan also gave a lecture on conflict regulation in Artsakh and Armenia-Turkey relations for the members of the European movement.
The next Public Forum in Yerevan, scheduled for March 17 at the Ani Hotel, will focus on an issue of urgency for all Armenian families -- inflation. Details will be forthcoming.
Finally, Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) volunteer Rubina Shaldjian
of Florida left us last month. As an afterthought of her experience with us she said, “From the second I got there, I began what felt like a three-month crash course in the political and social issues that abound in Armenia “ (AVC Volunteering in Armenia). Birthright/AVC intern Andres Gonzales Kazazian is leaving us this month, but we're looking forward to more good energetic volunteers from both these organizations. These great short-term interns are doing a whole lot more than just their jobs. Together with our staff of 20 or so twentysomethings, they're all creating a new way to be Armenian -- more tolerant, more questioning, more inclusive, more global.
If you're planning to be in Yerevan this summer, come visit Civilitas
. There's no other place like it.
And are you still reading the blog
– a website created by Civilitas last year to offer the non-governmental sector room to publicize its successes and attempt to secure financial support for new projects – has added a new section called Resources. There, NGOs can find links to legal, financial, organizational and other resources to strengthen capacity and enable independence. Another new feature is the announcement of grant possibilities. The first announcement, made by the Norwegian Honorary Consul in Armenia, has elicited over 6 dozen responses. We invite other donors, both institutional and personal, to offer support to worthwhile projects and programs.
Civilitas will continue with its public forum programming this year. The February 9 forum will focus on the media.
Even as digitization has broadened broadcast opportunities around the world, in Armenia, digitization presented an opportunity to limit the number of broadcasters in country. The next Civilitas public forum will focus, therefore, on the topic of media in Armenia. The recent decisions by the National TV and Radio Committee Council offered licenses to 18 TV station companies to broadcast digitally beginning in 2012. Several lost their licenses, including at least three which are not perceived as responsive to government influence.
This and continuing financial and political limitations place additional pressures on the print, broadcast and Internet news outlets. In that environment, Civilitas and our guests will discuss ways for the news media to remain professional and responsible even under these circumstances, why limitations are placed and who wins and who loses as a result, how is it that some media outlets have succeeded in gaining public confidence. If you are in Yerevan on Wednesday February 9 and wish to participate, we’d love to see you and hear from you. If you are not, you can follow the program live on the web.
Also on the web, at civilitasfoundation.org
, you can read Tatul Hakobyan’s analyses of recent events in and around Armenia.
This is the end of a tough year – not because there were earth-shaking, earth- moving, future-making events, but because there weren’t. In Armenia, it was a year of standing in place, at best, in so many ways.
And so when it came time to put together our annual report, we were faced wit questions – more questions than answers. You can read some of them in the Preface to ARMENIA IN 2010 – A YEAR OF UNCERTAINTY
. The entire report will be online Tuesday, December 28, the same day when we present it to the public, here in Yerevan. You who receive these periodic letters will have access to the entire report as well as the striking visual representation of Armenia’s budget.
The report is, as in years past, in three parts. There is an analysis of the situation in the neighborhood around us, “A Region in Stalemate” we’ve called it. That’s followed by a look at our domestic situation – “Unsteady Stability.” Finally, the economic situation can best be described as “The Crisis After the Crisis.” Each section includes an Outlook on things to come, as well as suggested Policy Options. Tell us what you think about our suggestions, add your own, this is certainly the year for public discussion and debate.
We will embark on such discussion in Yerevan on Tuesday with the public forum, with guests from four of the Parliament's five parties. You can view the discussion, in Armenian, live
, or later, online. Heading into our 20th year, it's time for a general public debate. Let's start it now.
This year, with the report, there is again the budget poster which presents more than expected budget expenditures. On this large 40 by 58 cm (16 x 23 inches) poster, you’ll also see a comparison with last year’s figures, as well as a simple breakdown of Armenia’s macroeconomic indicators – GDP, debt, exports, imports, etc. It’s a fascinating lesson in civics and we’re proud that this tool is useful for organizations and schools.
It’s been a productive year for Civilitas. We created a new civil.am
to strengthen the NGO sector, supported the transformation of libraries, helped farmers become self- sufficient, fostered public debate, interacted partners in Turkey and Georgia, spoke to dozens of officials and experts from around the world, and engaged in various other activities to strengthen our society and our country.
There will be plenty more of that next year. Look for a more detailed explanation of our projects and plans in the weeks to come. And also know that we will be seeking your support.
Until then, please accept our best wishes for a happy, healthy, productive and peaceful new year. We all need it.
This has been the sunniest, longest Yerevan autumn in a long time. Cold, crisp, sunny, beautiful. Good enough to make us work long hours. And the results?
Project Syndicate is running an article
by Vartan Oskanian, on the eve of the OSCE Summit next week, that will, whatever does or doesn’t happen, be significant for Armenians and for Karabakh. This comes on the heels of a NATO Summit which Armenia ‘boycotted’ and Civilitas analyst Tatul Hakobyan reflects on what that means
This has been a difficult year for Armenians and the Armenian army. What seems to be greater openness has resulted in too-frequent reports about terrible, violent tragedies. Civilitas attempted to tackle this most visible manifestation of a breakdown of the social contract in one of our regular public forums. The video
can be viewed on our site.
with Civiiltas Director Salpi Ghazarian days before the public forum began with a discussion about a possible Diaspora role in the Armenian army, as suggested by the Minister of Diaspora. The interview, to Capital Daily, evolved to a far-ranging discussion of a missed connection between Armenia and Diaspora.
Finally, our Blogs
and the Facts for Thought
continue to be the most popular sections on our site. We look forward to your comments.
Our traveling staff:
Mane Gevorgyan is at a conference in Strasbourg on Using Non-Formal Education in Youth Organizations, Sona Nazaryan is revisiting old memories and friends in the US, where she was a UGRAD scholar. Ani Navasardyan is apprenticing in Tbilisi, at the Caucasus Research Resource Centers, with whom we’ll be engaging in some exciting programs.
All three started at Civilitas as interns. All three are now active and needed members of our staff. We’re on the lookout for more curious, intelligent, flexible, thoughtful young people. Ideally, internships will lead to jobs at Civilitas in one of several new programs we intend to launch next year.
Although we’re looking in the main for Yerevan-based interns, we’re happy to consider others as well. Rubina Shaldjian has just joined us from Florida for a few months. Harout Ekmanian, a multilingual student of politics and history, recently concluded an internship and returned to Syria. Olivia Katrandjian returned to New Jersey and a career as a writer. Babken Der-Grigorian is at LSE getting his MA degree in communications. We were pleased with their work, and I don’t doubt they appreciated the experience.