2005 – ongoing
One of the major areas of ICHD’s work is promoting the participatory democracy in Armenia and in the region. Here ICHD works with national and local decision makers, building their capacity to engage the citizenry through various channels; promotes environment conducive for the participatory decision making process; develops and implements mechanism that enable the effective participation of citizens in the decision making process at the national and local levels.
The Town Hall Meeting mechanism, one of the most effective and vibrant models of facilitating public participation in decision making process both in local and expert communities. The Town Hall Meeting (THM) mechanism creates meaningful opportunities for citizens to participate in public decision making.
Armenia 2020: Discussing the Tracks of Development
Supported by the “Armenia 2020” program, ICHD implemented the THM mechanism to discuss the four possible development scenarios for Armenia in 15-years timeframe in mid-2005. ICHD organized four THM discussions on this matter in Armenia’s capital Yerevan and towns of Ijevan and Yeghegnadzor in June-September 2005. Using the vision of “Armenia 2020” team on future developments, ICHD experts have developed four one-page scenarios to provoke the discussion (“Coming Home to Armenia”, “Dare to Excel”, “From Russia with Love”, “Sentenced to Thirty Years with Correspondence”).
The THM model has been first piloted with 76 students, university instructors, academicians, and state officials in Yerevan on June 8. Later, on June 18, eighty-one citizens discussed the scenarios at the THM Ijevan, Northern Armenia. The citizens have also discussed the perspectives of tourism development in Ijevan. The third THM was held on August 15 in Yeghegnadzor , a small provincial town in the South of Armenia with 91 residents. The final THM brought together over 500 citizens of Yerevan in the largest hall of the country in Tsitsernakaberd on September 3, 2005. According to the Mediamax news agency: “The representatives of "ordinary people" gathered that day to take part in the special discussion and, for the first time during the whole period of Armenia's independence, to openly express their opinion about one of the possible ways of country's development”. The summary of the outcomes of all four THMs have been presented at the seminar.
Discussing the Constitutional Reforms
The public discussions of the draft amendments to Armenia’s Constitution have been heavily concentrated in capital Yerevan in 2005, while the citizens in the regions have been almost deprived from an effective room to discuss the draft Constitutional Reforms. Supported by Council of Europe office in Yerevan, ICHD has addressed this issue once again summoning its team, implementing the THM mechanism in Hrazdan and Gavar towns on the eve of the Referendum of November 2005. Both THMs increased the public voice on this vital issue for the country and revealed attitudes, ideas and concerns of 230 citizens (100 in Hrazdan and 130 in Gavar) towards the suggested reforms of the acting Constitution.
The public discussions evolved around seven key articles in the Constitution, which according to ICHD experts and independent analysts were the most controversial in the time of the discussions. The citizens were offered to openly express their opinions on issues such as the shift to a more parliamentarian state, freedom of local governance institutions, dual citizenship, etc. In both towns people cherished the unbiased and non-partisan facilitation discussions. Many of the citizens, who had a chance to participate in other public discussions on draft Constitutional Amendments noted that all those discussions had a different agenda - to influence the decision of the citizens by explicitly advocating either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The ICHD’s THM has surprised them with a totally different approach: none of the citizens were asked about their choice. The final question they were asked to vote for was whether they feel ready to cast their votes during the upcoming Referendum. The citizens have also cherished the presence of legal experts at discussion room ready to provide clarifications and explanations on those articles and proposed changes which the participants found rather vague. ICHD have summarized the outcomes of the THMs.
Discussing the Government’s Demographic Policy
In September 2006, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia (MLSA) requested ICHD assistance in organizing public discussion of the draft concept of the Government’s policy on demography. Supported by UNFPA/Armenia, ICHD convened its THMs with over 350 citizens in the capital Yerevan and other towns of Armenia in September-November 2006. Through the THM discussions ICHD team revealed the opinions and suggestions of citizens on the demographic issues in Armenia. Based on the draft concept paper developed by the MLSA experts, ICHD team developed five brief overviews of the major demographic issues, including birth, mortality and morbidity, marital relations, gender and migration. The THMs revealed that citizens were aware of key demographic issues in the country and were basically supportive of the policy suggested by the government. Meanwhile, the major comment voiced everywhere was that the policy makers needed to specify the mechanisms through which the government intended to achieve the envisaged goals. The effectiveness of the THMs proved to be high, as the MLSA team cherished their outcomes and considerably reformulated the policy document incorporating many of suggestions voiced by the citizens.
The Indirect Boosts the Direct Participation
As cycle after the cycle Armenia fails to meet the best standards of fair and free elections, the apathy of citizens towards this mechanism of direct democratic participation increases becoming a serious challenge for the integrity and security of the democratic society. Supported by the UNDP/Armenia, ICHD addressed this challenge through opening floor for the discussion of the perspectives on elections and electoral practices with young women and men in December 2007. Over 50 young people from capital Yerevan and three regions have expressed their perspectives, concerns and suggestions on the electoral processes, their role for the development of Armenian society, the ways of fostering civic participation and the role that the youth can play in this endeavor.
Discussing the Role of Men in Improving Maternal Health
ICHD focuses on every dimension of the human development. One of the major global challenges for human development in the 21st century remains maternal health. Every minute a woman dies from childbirth complications. 50% of women living in the world's poorest regions deliver their babies without the help of a skilled birth attendant. Each year more than 15,000,000 pregnancy-related complications lead to pong-term illness or disability. Worldwide 78,000 women die due to unsafe abortion every year. Chronic diseases and malnutrition leave many women unable to meet the physical demands of pregnancy.
The Government of Armenia recognized the improving maternal health as one of national priorities: the Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) for Armenia targets at reducing by three quarters at least, between 1990 and 2015 the maternal mortality rate, and reaching at least 99.5% in the proportion of births attended by skilled healthcare personnel by 2015 (target 6). In 2003 the Government approved a ten-year Strategy on Mother and Child Health Care that provides for strategic directions and steps to reduce maternal and child mortality and improve health status of mothers and children through increasing the quality and accessibility of basic mother and child health services.
The maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births has declined from 36 in 1999-2001 to 25 in 2002-2004, yet it regrettably increased to 38.8 (16 deaths) in 2008. While this rate declined back to 27.0 (12 deaths) in 2009, it is clear that under financial-economic crisis resulting in reduced public and household spending on health the MDG5 targets are at risk. The profile of maternal health also shows little progress if at all since 2005. The morbidity rate for complication of pregnancy, child birth and post-natal period (per 100 000 population) increased from 1371.3 in 2005 to 1654.9 2006. Since 2007 the morbidity rate remains steady at about 1535. The morbidity and mortality rates are higher in rural areas.
ICHD focused on one of the key dimensions of improving maternal health – the role of men. Supported by UNFPA/Armenia, ICHD initiated a public discussion on the role of men as partners in improving maternal health in July 2007. The ICHD’s THM engaged over 50 civil society representatives in a discussion on various roles that major institutions: the state, the community and family, as well as men as partners can play for improving maternal health. ICHD experts developed four scenarios (State support: Don’t count your chicken until the eggs have hatched; Community support: Timur and his team; Redistribution of roles in the family: facing a broken washboard and Man and healthy maternity: walk the talk) presenting the baseline situation under each scenario and key points to provoke an effective discussion. The civil society representatives have generated about 350 messages and have voted for the major duty bearer for improving maternal health at the end of the discussion. Interestingly, over the half (55%) of them believed that the state bears the overall responsibility for this issue, while no one attached the primary role for maternal health to the local community. About every 6th considered men hold primary responsibility for maternal health. ICHD have summarized the result of the discussion and provided the opinions, concerns and suggestions of civil society to the policy makers in this area.
Discussing the Global Compact: Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility
ICHD seeks to promote responsible corporate citizenship so that businesses can be part of solutions to the challenges of globalization in Armenia and in the wider region. To achieve our vision of more sustainable and inclusive economy we promote strategic partnerships with and collective action of the private sector, the state and civil society through policy dialogue, learning, networks, and programs. One of the key global instruments in this area is the United Nations’ Global Compact imitative, which involves all the relevant social actors: governments, who defined the principles on which the initiative is based; companies, whose actions it seeks to influence; labour, in whose hands the concrete process of global production takes place; civil society organizations, representing the wider community of stakeholders; and the United Nations, as an authoritative convener and facilitator mainstreaming the set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption in business activities around the world.
The Global Compact initiative was born in the UN Secretary-General’s address to the World Economic Forum in early 1999. Today, hundreds of companies worldwide, international labour and civil society organizations are engaged in the Global Compact, working to advance ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.
ICHD in partnership with the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia (UMBA) and supported by the UN Global Compact Armenia has initiated a dialogue on the Global Compact concept and principles since early 2007. Later, in September 2007, ICHD brought together over 50 representatives of the Government, leading Armenian businesses and civil society in the THM discussion over the key principles of the corporate social responsibility as in the Global Compact initiative. ICHD experts have developed four one-page papers elaborating on the ten principles in the four areas to provoke en effective discussion. ICHD experts have again used the approach focusing on the leading roles that each of the players: the government, the businesses and civil society. The THM participants have generated over 150 messages on this matter and voted for the institution they consider shall bear the primary responsibility for the introducing and promoting the principles of the Global Compact. ICHD summarized the outcomes of the
THM discussion and provided to the key stakeholders.
Discussing the Architecture of the Public Chamber
ICHD focuses on supporting each and every opportunity in Armenia for enhancing the institutional basis for effective participation of civil society in decision making. One of the interesting episodes of ICHD’s intervention in this context was the establishment of a public chamber institution in Armenia.
Presidential elections of February 2008 resulted in multiple division lines in Armenian society distorting the interaction between the state, civil society and private sector. The distortion of relations among the key institutions of the state and society became a major challenge for the national security and integrity. The President of Armenia addressed this situation through initiative on creating a public chamber, an institution that would build trust and bridge the gap among the state and civil society in May 2008. In the President’s vision, the chamber should boost reconciliation of various interest groups in Armenian society. The chamber would ensure that the needs and interests of various political, ethnic, religious and social and other groups are duly considered in the process of policy making process. The chamber would also promote the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms in the decision making process in Armenia. The chamber would also foster effective participation of civil society in governance.
While the vision and mission of the chamber have been clearly announced by the political leadership of the country, its goals and objectives, mandate and functions, composition and structure were quite vague by early summer 2008. Though almost all interest groups in the society have responded to the President’s initiative, the reflections remained controversial with some groups supporting the very idea, some voicing doubts and others rather observing the developments before positioning themselves.
ICHD considered that these issues should be broadly discussed and agreed within the society: the process of creating an institution for public participation has no alternative but being participatory itself. Supported by OSI's TTF, once again ICHD has called its instrument to engage civil society and political leaders in effective discussion on the principles and process of creating the chamber in July 2008. ICHD THM discussion brought together over 120 civil society representative, experts and analysis, representatives of non-governmental organizations and political parties, and consolidated their opinions, attitudes and ideas on public chamber initiative. Overall the THM discussion proved the demand for the process of reconciliation in Armenian society and generated a large number of suggestions on improving the process of instituting the public chamber. Over 300 messages basically referred to the principles and mechanism for the new institution ensuring that it serves to drive the governance reforms to the track of democracy and to bridge the gaps within the society, as well as between the political leadership and civil society. ICHD have summarized the THM outputs and submitted the findings of the discussion and the recommendations voiced by civil society leaders to the decision makers responsible for the architecture of the new public chamber.
Discussing the Policies for Protection of the Children's Rights
ICHD promotes the dialogue between the government and civil society on policies and programs aimed at the protection of the right of the children, another key dimension of the human development. We believe that the lives our generation will live tomorrow largely depend on the lives they live today. Regretfully, the future of many children starts in a dark and distant today: every 1.2 seconds a child is born into poverty. For many children there is no future at all, their tomorrow ends today: every 3 seconds a child dies of disease and every 7 seconds a child dies of hunger or causes related to malnutrition. For many other children every tomorrow is a doomsday: every minute at least one child is infected with HIV/Aids.
The Government of Armenia announced the protection of children’s rights as a national priority. Under the Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4) the Government committed to reduce infant mortality (under 1 mortality less than 8 per 1,000 live births by 2015), to cut the under-five death rate by two-thirds (less than 10 per 1,000 live births by 2015), and to increase the rate of immunization against measles and other major diseases (over 96 by the year 2015). The financial-economic crisis challenges this dimension of development severely.
In mid-2008 the Government of Armenia commenced the revision of its policies aiming at the protection of the right of the children. The government analysts supported by various development partners developed the draft National Program for the Protection of Children's Rights in the Republic of Armenia. ICHD considered that no successful policy called for protecting the right of the children can be neither formulated nor implemented without active participation of civil society. Supported by the OSI/TTF and World Vision Armenia, ICHD initiated a THM discussion with civil society leaders and experts to consolidate and streamline their voices on this matter in mid May 2008. Over 120 civil society leaders joined in THM discussion on June 1st , 2008 at Ani Plaza Hotel, Yerevan.
As previously, ICHD experts developed a set of complimentary/controversial scenarios to provoke and facilitate an effective discussion and dialogue through THM mechanism. ICHD developed a genuine approach of developing such scenarios related to the issues of fundamental human rights. The essence of this approach is inline with human rights based approach with the focus on the roles that various actors play. In this case, ICHD experts focused on the roles of the family (including parental education and roles), community and school, the state, as well as other actors in protecting the rights of children. The three scenarios exposed the various patterns of roles that different players can play and responsibilities that different institutions can bear. The scenarios referred to the rights of children in the areas of health, education, social safety, leisure, cultural life, as well as prevention of child abuse and violence. ICHD summarized the outcomes of the discussion and provided the results to the policy makers and leading development partners in this area.
Discussing Models of Preliminary Education in Local Communities
ICHD repeatedly focuses on education reforms in Armenia as a key drive for the development of our society. The Government’s vision on developing the secondary and tertiary education has been shaped and policies in these sectors have been formulated to certain extent. Meanwhile the preliminary education remains definitely the most vulnerable and poorly cared sector of education. Here the infrastructure is poor, the qualified human resources are very scarce and financial resources are fairly inadequate. Though the duties in this sector obviously do not adequately match the real opportunities of the duty bearers and other players, the current models are not flexible enough to provide a space for innovation and creativity for the local decision makers. The situation with preliminary education is even rather grave in Armenia’s small communities.
The Government, civil society organizations and development partners are looking for various models and practices of organizing the preliminary education in local communities. They are also interested in principles and mechanisms beyond such models that would enable further development of preliminary education institutions in Armenian communities. ICHD and World Vision Armenia (WVA), an organizations providing essential development assistance to Armenia’s local communities in education sector, agreed that the principles for such models and mechanisms could be elaborated more productively if the voices of the local experts who bear the local knowledge, would be heard. By the request and support of the WVA, ICHD invited over 100 experts and specialists, local community leaders and educators from 28 local communities of Armenia’s Stepanavan region (Lori, North Armenia) to discuss the issues of preliminary education in the small (rural) communities in September 2009.
ICHD experts in close cooperation with the WVA education program team have developed four scenarios illustrating various models of preliminary education in small local communities. We have considered about 60 various key factors affecting the preliminary education in communities (e.g. budget and financing constraints, infrastructure, human resources, education programs and materials, skills transferred, trust, etc.) and developed four blends of the services that a preliminary education institution would provide with its status against other local institutions (e.g. schools). The four scenarios: “The jug of the Danaids”, “The teeth of the gift-horse”, “Under the same roof”, “The streams of the one river” have provoked effective discussion resulted in quarter thousand messages: ideas and suggestions. ICHD consolidated the results of the discussion and prepared a report presenting the findings and recommendations of the local experts to the policy makers in this sector. ICHD have also conducted an off-the-record meeting with top experts of the Government, civil society and development partners in this area to discuss the findings and recommendations of the local people. The policy brief on the results of the later discussion have been provided to the policy makers.
Discussing Policies on the Development of Armenia-Diaspora Relations
ICHD assisted the Government of Armenia to formulate its new policy framework on developing relations between Armenia and Armenian Diaspora.
Only three million out of ten millions leave in the homeland of their ancestors. Armenians in twenty first century appear as rather a transnational network than merely a nation state and a diaspora. While the relations between Armenian and Diaspora are deeply rooted to the history, they have been boosted two decades ago as a humanitarian catastrophe emerged in Armenia and newly independent Armenian state encountered enormous difficulties and faced several challenges at once. During the past twenty years the vector of Armenia-Diaspora relations has been aimed at mobilizing Diaspora’s support to the motherland. However, this one-sided relationship is no longer effective and productive, and bears more challenges than opportunities for over 10 million Armenians worldwide. The need for a new, strategy agreed by Armenian people in Armenia and Diaspora is knocking the doors.
ICHD have ensured that the process of the policy formulation, in which we have borne a leading technical role, is inclusive to the best possible extent. While the policy document has been drafted by the group of ICHD-mobilized experts and ICHD organized several off-the-record and on-the record meetings to discuss various drafts, we considered that the principles, goals and objectives of the draft policy should be discussed with a broader audience of the stakeholders. Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Armenia, ICHD invited over 150 representatives of the government, civil society, the private sector and political parties to its THM discussion of the draft policy concept on Developing Armenia Diaspora Relations in December 2008.
ICHD experts have developed five scenarios illustrating how various prospective developments of Armenia-Diaspora relations depend on policy options. ICHD experts have designed the scenarios on the cross-roads of two major axis of the policy alternatives: the party that bears the responsibility for policy making process (the people of Armenia solely, Armenians in Armenia considering the voice of Diaspora, Diaspora institutions solely); and, the major flows of the resources (Diaspora assists Armenia, Armenia assists Diaspora, Armenia-Diaspora cooperation). The five scenarios titled: “A marriage of convenience and the tree of life”, “Israel: the new as a well forgotten old”; “The own child and the stepchildren”; “Armenia as the office of Armenians”; “Armenia-centric transnational multicultural Armenian people”. ICHD consolidated over 200 messages that the participants of the discussion have generated and delivered to the policy makers in this area.
Discussing Perspective of Armenian-Turkish Rapprochement
Critical decisions on foreign policies affect people’s lives just as decisions on domestic policies do. ICHD continually focuses on bringing people to the table of negotiations and critical decisions on foreign policy, conflict resolution and security, peace and stability in the region.
Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued two protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries and development of relations signed by Armenia and Turkey under Swiss mediation on August 31. Both documents triggered controversial discussions and disputes in both societies turning into a topic of “hot” debates. The protocols have become instrumental in blaming the government for non-transparent and unreasonable decisions. These allegations are deeply rooted in reality of decision making practices in Armenia at large. Indeed, the democratic way of decision making in Armenia is still in the stage of development. The dramatic growth in power of special interest groups has both constrained leaders and squeezed ordinary citizens out of the decision-making process. As a result, many citizens feel alienated, and decision makers have lost touch with their constituents’ true concerns.
To channel the voice of the citizens to decision makers on this very sensitive issue, through open public discussion, ICHD, supported by the USIAD, has launched initiative to expose perspectives of civil society to the decision makers and to enable the consideration of people’s opinions, concerns and expectations in this critical process in late September 2009. ICHD’s initiative moved isolated beneficiaries from the margin of the process closer to its hearth and enabled finding valid and viable solutions to a vital issue for the country through a participatory process.
Through the initiative citizens got a unique chance for the first time ever to openly discuss own attitudes towards and possible compromises with Turkish policies. The initiative also provided Armenian decision makers a unique opportunity to learn about authentic perception of citizens in all regions of the country on compromises and concessions suggested for the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process. The Armenian decision makers have been also exposed on the results of the final vote for the most acceptable “Road Map” scenario, as well as provisions of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols.
Five scenarios have been developed in the cross-roads of various combinations of economic versus political relations between two countries affecting the possible consequences of the border de-blocking by Turkey and establishing diplomatic relations between two countries: “Silent De-blocking” (minor economic relations against rather irrational political relations and agenda strictly affected by the international community), “Open Border between Debtors” (minor economic relations against increasingly irrational political relations), “All Quiet on the Western Front” (covered the current status quo that is featured by de facto semi-transparent economic border and ad hoc political relations), “Unknown Winner, Unclear Prize” (extended economic relations and regional economic projects against increasing pragmatic political relations and challenging dependencies for the country), “Knight’s Move”(a situation with open borders in combination with interest based pragmatic political and economic relations between the neighbors.
ICHD organized 10 THMs in all regions of the country and in 4 THMs in Yerevan in September–October 2009. We have analyzed (pre-processed, disaggregated, classified, argumented and synthesized) about 3400 messages and ideas of over 1200 Armenian citizens. We also prepared the electronic publication of the outcomes of the report in Armenian and English. The analysis of citizens’ qualitative response combined with the interpretation of the voting results revealed a number of preliminary key findings and observations. The lessons learned throughout the implementation of the project and through consolidation of the preliminary findings and observations allowed ICHD to make two recommendations to the donors and policy makers on fostering the process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations further.
Discussing the Perspectives of the Peace Talks on Nagorno Karabakh Conflict
Another critical challenge for the security and development of the entire region is the Nagorno Karabakh (NK) conflict. The process of the peaceful resolution of the conflict largely depends on the negotiations of Armenian and Azeri top political leaders mediated by the OSCE Minks Group. However, it is quite straightforward that in this part of the world neither lasting peace nor stability is viable without confidence of people living in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the outcomes of the negotiations. Moreover, we believe that lasting peace and dynamic stability can be achieved only through the process in which civil societies of conflicting parties play vivid role.
With this vision of the peace talks, ICHD uses every opportunity to engage civil society in the regions in the dialogue on the conflict resolution process. ICHD also strives to consolidate people’s voice on the peace talks and keep informed the negotiators and mediators about the needs and concerns, ideas and thinking of the people at all sides of the conflict. In this effort, ICHD employs its entire toolbox of policy and advocacy instruments.
Supported by the Mission of Her Royal Majesty in Armenia, ICHD initiated discussion of the possible developments of the peace talks over NK conflict in Armenia and in Nagorno Karabakh Republic in 2006. ICHD experts have developed five possible scenarios of the conflict resolution process illustrating various outcomes of the negotiations. ICHD team considered a large set of security, political, economic and social dimensions affecting the conflict and the negotiation process based on the factual developments in the past, as well as current agenda of the official negotiations as disclosed through the social media and networks. Our experts have designed the scenarios on the cross-cuts of the two major axis of the security of and the official status of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic. At the end of the day the following scenarios have been presented at the THM discussions: “Status Quo”, “NKR as part of Azerbaijan”, “NKR: independent or a part of Armenia”, “The Issue of Status to be Discussed in Future”, “Procrastinated Resolution – Certain Warrants”.
About 430 civil society representatives, men and women living in four towns of Armenia’s border regions with Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh Republic (Ijevan in the Northeast, Gavar in the Center East, Kapan in the Southeast and Meghri in the South) engaged into effective discussion around these provoking scenarios in ICHD’s THM format in February-March 2006. Over 1800 messages of that the citizens articulated have been further processed and provided to the negotatiors at the highest level, as well as distributed to the civil society experts in the region.
Later in January 2007, ICHD continued the discussion of the scenarios of the possible development of the conflict resolution process with the people utterly affected by the conflict – with the people of Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) . Over 300 citizens of Karabakh’s Stepanakert, Martuni and Martakert expressed more than 1650 messages on the peace process.
ICHD also requested citizens to vote for the preferred scenario of the developments. Surprisingly, the outcomes have exposed the local specifics of people’s knowledge and attitudes towards the conflict and the negotiation process demonstrated in both the messages of the people and the voting results. At the same time, the THM discussions revealed not only the differences but also commonalities in people’s thinking and attitude throughout Armenia and NKR. Thus, it was clear that at the time of the discussions people were quite supportive to the dynamic negotiation process vs. being trapped in status quo. Thus, more than 63% of Armenians leaving in Armenia and 73% of people of NKR voted for various scenarios that would change the status quo over the conflict. The discussions have also revealed that people both in Armenia and NKR care rather of their physical security than the status. The discussions have also revealed the attitude of the citizens towards various factors and guarantors of the security as achieved through the negotiation process in the future. ICHD consolidated the outcomes of the discussions presenting the voices of people on the peace talks and provided them to the negotiating political leaders and mediators.
Later, in early 2008, supported by the United Kingdom Mission in Armenia, ICHD initiated second round of the discussions over the NK conflict; this time engaging people affected by the conflict in the entire region; people from Armenia, Azerbaijan and in Ngorno Karabakh Republic. ICHD experts with their partners from Azerbaijani “Youth for Development” NGO (YfD), who were trained by ICHD earlier through a skills transfer initiative under different program, have fine tuned the five scenarios making them sensitive as to the people in Armenia and NKR, as well as in Azerbaijan.
ICHD engaged over 1230 citizens in communities in all regions of Armenia (towns of Gyumri, Goris, Charnetsavan, Talin, Alaverdi, Berd, Ararat, Armavir, Yeghegnadzor and Masrik village) and in three towns of NKR (Hadruth, Askeran and Shushi) in March-July 2009. Over 3700 messages generated by the citizens and results of voting (for most preferred scenario) have been analyzed and presented as preliminary findings in mid 2009. ICHD consolidated the results into the final THM analysis report.
The preliminary findings have indicated that positions of people on conflict resolution toughened significantly throughout 2006-2009. Thus, the status quo in NK conflict has been supported by only one-third of the THM participants in 2006, however, over half of the THM participants (58.5%) considered the status quo a proper development of the conflict in 2009. The attitude to the conflict resolution has toughened most severely among NKR citizens: the number of supporters of the status quo has increased threefold among NKR people in 2006-2009; two third of THM participants in NKR supported the status quo in 2009. Interestingly, the status qua gained more support in Armenia (28%) rather than in NKR (37%) in 2006, while currently 44% of Armenians support the status quo against 77% status quo supporters in NKR communities. The attitude of Armenians changed dramatically throughout 2009: while the status quo has been supported by 40% of the participants of THMs in five communities of Armenia in January-April 2009, the status quo supporters were 49% of the participants of the THMs in other five communities of Armenia in May-June 2009. The attitude of the NKR people toughened even more severely. The number of THM participants in Armenia who were dissatisfied by all of the conflict regulation scenarios, as well as the status quo increased threefold (30% in May-June against 11% in January-May 2009). This unfavorable change in people’s attitudes is a particular result of the post-April developments of Armenian-Turkish negotiations. The public speeches and messages emanated by Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan, have changed the attitude of Armenian and NKR people to compromise solutions of the NK conflict dramatically. Despite to expectations that Turkey will respect the commitments on regulating Armenian-Turkish relations with no preconditions, the following controversial messages voiced by Erdoğan of Turkey since May 2009, that once again linked the improvement of the Armenian-Turkish relations with the resolution of the NK conflict, led to disappointment among Armenians and NKR people. Such a disappointment has in turn backfired on the perception of compromise solutions of the NK conflict and getting to trustable agreement with Azerbaijan. As a result, the society is currently far less perceptive to considering compromise solutions of the NK conflict than in early 2009.
YfD, ICHD’s partner, brought to the THM discussion table over 580 residents of ten region of Azerbaijan (Alibayramly, Barda, Ganja, Ismayilly, Mingechevir, Sumgayit, Terter, Zagatala, Gabala and Agsu) in about the same period of 2009. Over 1800 messages generated by Azeri citizens and the results of the voting have been analyzed. The voting results indicate that the status quo scenario is refused by the vast majority of the THM participants. The absolute majority of the THM participants support the scenario of NK becoming an integral part of Azerbaijan with highest level of autonomy. Less than 1% of THM participants in Azerbaijan agreed with the independent status of NKR or saw the NK as a part of Armenia. Meanwhile, about half of the THM participants supported compromise solutions.
ICHD will consolidate the comprehensive analysis of the second round of the THM discussions in the region and will publish in late March 2010.
Piloting at the Community Level: the Case of Success
ICHD has successfully piloted the THM mechanism at the local community level in Sarnaghbyur, a rural community in Northern Armenia in December, 2005, engaging about hundred community residents in the discussion of the community budget for 2006. The six basic options for community spending (asphalting the village road, repairing the kindergarten building, construction of a playground, partial repair of the main road, forestation of the alley, fencing the cemetery) have been formulated into six privative scenarios, through which ICHD facilitators run the discussion process. ICHD formulated over 320 ideas of the citizens into the messages exposed to the entire audience throughout the discussion. The popular vote has been given to the building of a sports playground. The community leadership has respected the outcome of the THM by revising the draft community budget. Experts consider that the credit for a major increase of the local budget revenues in this community in 2006 (local tax collection almost doubled in a year!) shall be significantly attributed to the participatory process implemented by ICHD, as well as to the consistency of the community leadership in respecting the peoples voices. The pilot project was supported by the Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative (OSI/LGI), Budapest. The experience of the pilot THM mechanism is currently offered to the George Washington University, Washington, DC. The ICHD’s THM mechanism has been also implemented in Peru. ICHD extended the results of the pilot project over ten communities in all regions of Armenia through 2007-2008.
People's Choices: Discussion of Community Budgets
Following the successful pilot project on Sarnaghbyur (Shirak, Armenia) in late 2005, ICHD launched the next phase of promoting the THM mechanism in Armenia’s communities. Supported by the European Commission, ICHD have introduced the THM mechanism in all regions of the country in 2006-2009. In this phase ICHD focused on three major issues: establishing strategic partnerships with national and local authorities who would Champion the public participation mechanism beyond the project; building basic local capacities for implementing the THM mechanism by community based organizations (CBOs) throughout the country; and, promoting the culture of participation in the communities.
Firstly, ICHD experts have presented the THM model to 150 local leaders during the one-day presentation in all regions of Armenia in January 2007. ICHD established partnerships with ten local community based organizations and transferred basic skills on THM implementation to them: Community Development and Social Support Center (Shirak), Sisian Development Center NGO (Syuniq), Armavir Development Center (Armavir), Development for Civil Soceity NGO (Lori), Supporting development of young families NGO (Vayots Dzor), Trade and Manufacturers Union of Gegharquniq (Gegharquniq), Forum of Non Government and Non Profit Organizations of Aragatsotn (Aragatsotn), Municipal Development Center of Charentsavan (Kotayq), Center of Training and Information Technogies system development (Ararat), “Nvachum” (Tavush).
ICHD have developed a special guidebook for basic and intermediate level training on THM mechanism implementation. In March-September 2007, ICHD trained about 140 members of these CBOs in organizing and conducting the THM discussion (providing necessary skills of effective communication and negotiation, and practicing and piloting THM, applying note-taking and facilitating skills, learning policy analyses and scenario development skills). Upon completion of the five-day training ICHD have certified the sixty members of the CBO partners as qualified facilitators and note-takers with basic and/or intermediate skills.
Later, in consultation with this new partners ICHD have chosen ten local communities in all ten regions of Armenia: Rind (Vayots Dzor), Margahovit, (Lori), Hatsik (Shirak), Achajur (Tavush), Sarukhan (Gegharqunik), Ashtarak (Aragatsotn), Nor Kharbert (Ararat), Arevik (Armavir), Ashotavan (Syuniq), Arzakan (Kotayq). ICHD established partnerships with the local self-governance (LSG) bodies in those communities.
ICHD experts in consultation with the CBOs and LSGs have identified 3-6 priorities for budget expenditures in each community (43 en total). With the scenarios on these priorities and equipment ICHD summoned its THM teams to each community in December 2007-June 2008. Over nine hundred residents of the local communities participated in the THMs and succeeded in formulating over 1630 messages - opinions, needs, thoughts, statements, attitudes, etc. The citizens have also voted for their preferred choices of expenditures at the end of each THM discussion.
ICHD developed THM reports on each case and presented to the local administrations showing pros and cons of each scenario and arguments voiced by citizens. The partner CBOs attended the sessions of the LSG councils where the community budgets were approved/revised to observe the process of incorporation of the THM outcomes in the final decisions. ICHD have consolidated the overall experience of ten THMs and their results and published a case study book and a DVD exposing the entire process.
Discussing the Cluster Approach to Rural Development
ICHD assists the efforts of the government and civil society in developing and piloting advanced models in local governance.
Apparently, Armenian local communities chronically lack adequate capacities to deliver quality public services to local residents. It is widely recognized that one of the major reasons beyond this problem is rooted to the process of early local governance reforms resulted in a large number of communities sizing from very small to very large while bearing same burden of both own and delegated (by the state) responsibilities. Neither the real opportunities for the development of local communities nor challenges including financial and local tax collection constraints, nor the transition challenges have been considered in these early reforms.
The Gordian knot of opportunities and challenges for the local governance development in Armenia can be untied only through innovate and adaptive approaches. Many experts believe that one of the most effective ways for Armenia’s local communities to overcome development challenges is through joining the efforts and resources of neighboring communities. Creating administrative synergies in community clusters, experts think, will extend the pie and will open further opportunities for the development of the communities engaged by cutting down on costs through shared investing, operating and maintaining in infrastructures, pooling the products and finding markets together. One of the institutions committed to this approach of community development is the Hayastan All Armenian Fund, which implemented over 200 million dollars worth projects in Armenia and Artsakh since 1992. The Fund’s vision for rural Armenia is anchored at cluster approach. In fact, the Fund is Armenia’s Champion in this area support vision for rural Armenia which is not just to address basic socio-economic needs but also to enable families and individuals to become self-reliant and self-sufficient.
By the request of Hayastan All Armenian Fund, ICHD, supported by the OSI/TTF, organized a discussion on cluster approach in the Fund’s pilot cluster in Armenia’s Northeast Tavush region in mid-November 2007. The Khashtarak cluster involves three communities: Khashtarak, Azatamut and Lusahovit, bordering with neighboring Azerbaijan. ICHD’s THM engaged over 150 citizens of the three communities (at least 50 residents in each community) in the discussion on the opportunities that the cluster approach opens for shared problem solving, joining scarce local human and financial resources, developing common infrastructures, streamlining administrative and financial processes, increasing effectiveness of development planning and public expenditures, etc.
ICHD experts consulting with Fund’s officers have developed six scenario-type papers to provoke an effective discussion. The scenarios covered the overview of the principles, opportunities and challenges of the cluster approach, perspectives for fostering cattle breading in the communities of the cluster, agriculture, micro-crediting, higher education, healthcare and cultural infrastructure. ICHD have prepared the resume of the meeting presenting the messages, concerns and recommendations on various dimensions of the cluster approach and its practical implementation in their communities. The results of ICHDs THM discussion have been quite instrumental for the Fund in fine-tuning its pilot cluster project.
Violence against women is one of the worst forms of violation of human rights prevalent all over the world. Women face gender-based violence (GBV) in workplaces, educational institutions, rural and urban communities. They are exposed to GBV irrespective of their ethnic or religious background, social status, economic standing, age, or other condition. The violence is particularly rampant when it occurs at home, a place where women are supposed to be provided with safe family environment.more >>
The current policy brief aimed at analyzing the monitored online print media outlets in cases when they covered the topic of sex selection and articles that were broadly linked to the value of girls and women. The content of web-based media outlets have been scrutinized to identify any statements or reporting that could have had distorted, untruthful or prejudicial elements against women or men. All these aspects were separately analyzed quantified and also handpicked, allowing analyzing the level of stereotypical reporting either as a media intention or as an absence of intention, leading to unobstructed penetration of prejudicial statements widely circulated in the society and back by reinstating the current state of the affairs.more >>
The publication is available only in Armenian.
The current policy brief aimed at analyzing the monitored online print media outlets in cases when they covered the topic of sex selection and articles that were broadly linked to the value of girls and women. The content of web-based media outlets have been scrutinized to identify any statements or reporting that could have had distorted, untruthful or prejudicial elements against women or men. All these aspects were separately analyzed quantified and also handpicked, allowing analyzing the level of stereotypical reporting either as a media intention or as an absence of intention, leading to unobstructed penetration of prejudicial statements widely circulated in the society and back by reinstating the current state of the affairs.
The findings that are discussed in the report, show the strong and weak points of media outlets under consideration and suggest policy actions to make sure that unintentional framing at the detriment of any of the social groups does not penetrate the news media and provide opportunities for all stakeholders to deliberate topics of public concern in the most accurate and credible ways possible.