By Hovannes Shoghikian
A three-day international conference that discussed ways of bolstering Armenia’s links with its worldwide Diaspora drew to a close on Wednesday, with President Robert Kocharian calling it a success.
Kocharian downplayed the lack of concrete decisions made during the forum attended by over a thousand ethnic Armenians from around the world, saying that it is too early to evaluate its practical impact on Diaspora-Armenia ties.
“I would consider this gathering a supreme body expressing the collective will of the Armenian people, during which we make decisions and try to put them into practice,” he said in his concluding remarks. “Failure, including by Armenia’s leadership, to mobilize such potential for achieving our national goals would be criminal negligence.”
The Armenian government hoped to use the conference for drumming up Diaspora assistance to its stated efforts to alleviate what Kocharian described as a “huge” development gap between Yerevan and the rest of the country. But no donation pledges or other relevant decisions were announced by its organizers. They said the issue will be discussed in greater detail by smaller groups of participants.
Some delegates cautiously urged the Armenian authorities to tackle rampant corruption and serious problems with the rule of law which are believed to hamper greater Diaspora aid to Armenia. “If you don’t give us that, do not expect more from us,” said Bedros Terzian, a French-Armenian activist. “We will remain stuck in this situation even if we multiply our efforts by ten or one hundred.”
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who presided over the conference, admitted that the lack of trust in the Armenian government’s integrity is a major obstacle to its fund-raising efforts. “The higher the trust in the authorities, the people who get money to spend in on the people is, the larger that sum will be,” he said.
Some Diaspora participants also called for the creation of an Armenian government agency tasked with coordinating relations with Armenian communities abroad. But the idea was rejected by Kocharian and other senior officials. “It is impossible to manage those relations [with Diaspora] by means of some ministry,” said Gagik Harutiunian, chairman of Armenia’s Constitutional Court.