Specific Action Required to Address Armenia’s Challenges

By Asbarez | Monday, 31 October 2016

Protesters demonstrating in Yerevan against an electricity price hike instigated by the Armenian government, June 2015 (Photo: Al Jazeera)

Protesters demonstrating in Yerevan against an electricity price hike instigated by the Armenian government, June 2015 (Photo: Al Jazeera)


The unfortunate political upheaval with the seizure of Erebuni police station in July 2016 has led to at least one notable development: increased civic activism among Armenians.

The protests in Armenia surrounding the public transport hikes in 2013, and Electric Yerevan in 2015, symbolized Armenian citizens rightly being more demanding.

In recent times this activism has extended to the diaspora, which included a petition launched on Change.org by System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian, calling for action for positive civic changes and reforms in Armenia.

This month, on the occasion of the 110th anniversary celebrations of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in New York, a joint letter was issued by prominent Armenians calling “for the Armenian world to pivot toward a future of prosperity, to transform the post-Soviet Armenian Republic into a vibrant, modern, secure, peaceful and progressive homeland for a global nation.”

These developments are positive, but the time has come that specifics be demanded and implemented.

Arsinee Khanjian, actor and activist has put forward a practical suggestion. That for the upcoming elections in Armenia, volunteers come forward and help with the voter process to make it be more free, fair, and transparent. To combat electoral fraud.

Another area ripe for reform is increased transparency and competition in the Armenian media, particularly in the medium of television. For example funding a public broadcaster, similar to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States, which could undertake investigative journalism within Armenia and its government.

Other areas for governance reform could include a single online site that would publish pecuniary interests, gifts hospitality received, and non-sensitive external meetings by the President be published on a quarterly basis. (It should be noted the UK Prime Minister and US President publish their diaries online).

That a Special Court be established to specifically deal with instances of alleged corruption.

That the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition and Public Services Regulatory Commission that regulate monopolies be given more teeth for enforcement, and that informers of monopolistic behavior be able to report it anonymously without retribution.

The Parliamentary elections in Armenia next year is an opportunity to campaign for specific reforms such as these and many others.

Armenia needs to leverage its most prized asset, its intellectual capability, which needs to be harnessed – particularly in the technology sector.

For meaningful change to occur, specifics need to be developed and demanded; otherwise all that would be said are nice words.

Sassoon Grigorian is author of Smart Nation: A Blueprint for Modern Armenia, a book which provides specific public policy recommendations in technology, foreign affairs, culture, governance and corruption, regional growth, the diaspora, and Nagorno-Karabakh.