By Karine Kalantarian
The new executive director of the All-Armenian Hayastan Fund promised on Thursday a major overhaul of the Diaspora-funded charity which has spent millions of dollars on infrastructure projects in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh over the last decade.
Naira Melkumian said the decision to “reform” the worldwide structure was made by its board of trustees and is aimed at boosting its revenues that have fallen considerably since the late 1990s. “The board has instructed us to work out a program of reforms jointly with our territorial branches,” she said at her first news conference in the new capacity.
Melkumian did not specify details of the planned shake-up. She said only that the reform plan will be drawn up by next May.
The board, headed by President Robert Kocharian but dominated by prominent Diaspora Armenians, held its annual meeting in Yerevan on September 26 to review Hayastan’s activities and discuss future plans. It also appointed Melkumian as executive director.
Her predecessor, Vahan Ter-Ghevondian, told the meeting that Hayastan raised a total of $5.2 million in donations last year and will continue to focus on the construction of a 170-kilometer highway linking the northern and southern parts of Karabakh. Incidentally, Melkumian served as foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from 1998-2002.
The fund raised more than $10 million a year until 1998 and its leadership hopes to regain that level in the near future. Its new director blamed the drop in revenues on recent years’ political upheavals in Armenia which she said engendered donor apprehension in the Diaspora. She also suggested that many Diaspora Armenians might feel that the construction of Karabakh’s “backbone” highway, which began in 2000, is proceeding too slowly.
Over 60 kilometers of it have already been built. The cost of the project is $25 million.
Hayastan, which raises the bulk of its funds in the United States, has spent a total of $75 million since its creation in 1992. A large part of that money went to pay for the construction of a separate 80-kilometer highway that links Karabakh to Armenia.