12 June 2019
In early June, AGBU President visited Artsakh and Armenia to formally announce a major push behind its AGBU Fund for Artsakh, a four-way strategy for sustainable socio-economic growth in Artsakh centered around programs in education, culture, humanitarian relief, and socio-economic development. The visit was followed by a number of meetings, including with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.
The AGBU Fund for Artsakh was officially launched in 2018 as an umbrella entity to provide for such projects as emergency medical support in response to the April 2016 four-day war, educating the next generation of innovators through its collaboration with the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, helping advance deserving students with university scholarships, and supporting Military Officer Education for both on and off the battlefield. On the cultural front, the Fund continues to support the Artsakh Chamber Orchestra that it helped found in 2004. The orchestra has since toured the world, paving the way for a new music school in Artsakh, thanks to its global success.
Two new agriculture-based initiatives were added to the Fund in 2018—AGBU Fields of Hope and AGBU Olive Tree Orchards. Both are designed to empower farmers, including Syrian-Armenian refugee settlers, to transform Artsakh into a cornucopia of produce to sustain the populace and open new markets for regional trade.
In concert with announcing accelerated efforts behind the Fund, AGBU introduced two new ambitious programs aimed at stimulating economic activity and reducing poverty: AGBU Women Entrepreneurs (W.E.); and AGBU Learn to Earn Artsakh Program (LEAP).
On the heels of this visit to Artsakh, AGBU President Berge Setrakian had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. The AGBU President briefed the prime minister and key staffers on the successful Artsakh visit and on its activities in Artsakh and Armenia.
Prime Minister Pashinyan expressed the Armenian government’s appreciation for AGBU’s growing presence in the country and its ability to address pressing needs of the people on multiple fronts, assuring the AGBU leadership of its desire to cooperate and assist, where appropriate, in meeting the organization’s strategic goals and programmatic needs.
Mr. Setrakian noted that there are many areas of mutual alignment, citing such examples as the AGBU Women’s Entrepreneurs program (W.E.), designed to uplift the status of women in Armenia through financial independence, and its efforts to build capacity among civil society organizations in Armenia through its Bridge for CSOs program, which can help promote an open and trusting relationship between citizens and their government. Both programs involve diaspora participation which adds another important dimension to the much-needed reset in Armenia-Diaspora relations.
“Anything that AGBU can do to help the people of Armenia succeed in their personal lives and as citizens of a country with so much human potential will help keep the entire Armenian Nation moving in a positive direction,” Setrakian observed adding that “in these times, what happens in Armenia, does not stay in Armenia. Its trials and triumphs, its place in the world, and its image as a distinctive living culture, has, to one degree or another, tangibly or psychologically, an impact on Armenians everywhere.”
The parties agreed to continue an open dialogue in the months ahead to ensure optimal outcomes for shared goals. During his stay in Yerevan, Mr. Setrakian also met with President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian to discuss the highlights of his official visits.