A New Global Approach to an Armenian Problem


globalarmenainnubarBy Alin K. Gregorian

Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — On Friday, October 28, a new movement was launched in the Armenian world, one that aims to reshape how Armenians think of themselves and one in which they can join hands across the world as a network to help each other in the diaspora as well as Armenia.

The launch of Global Armenians was done through full-page ads in the New York Times and Hayastani Hanrapetutyun on Friday. The date was chosen to coincide with the 110th anniversary celebrations of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in New York.

The initial signatories whose names appeared in the advertisements include Ruben Vardanyan, Dr. Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian, Charles Aznavour, Lord Ara Darzi, Ambassador Edward Djerejian, Dickran Tevrizian, Samvel Karapetyan, Charles Aznavour and Salpi Ghazarian.

Afeyan, interviewed on Monday, October 31, said the choice of the newspapers reflects both the international world and Yerevan, as the capital city of the Armenian world.

“It is the notion of one world. We are essentially saying that it is time to think differently,” he said. “What is next? We are entering a period of broad discussion. Far be it for us to prescribe what this means.”

(He stressed that the advertisements were not paid for nor endorsed by the AGBU.)

According to the ad, Global Armenians presents: “An opportunity 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.

“An opportunity for Armenians not only to have survived Genocide, but to reconstitute and thrive.

“An opportunity for Armenia to secure long-lasting social and economic improvement, for our citizens today as well as for our children and the future of our global nation.”

The idea is to work within the framework of established organizations with great reach and deep resources, both in Armenia and the diaspora, such as the AGBU or the Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA). Both can be “inclusive platforms for identity, culture and prosperity.”

The IDeA Charitable Foundation was established as a platform to support the implementation of programs that can assist Armenia in transitioning from a survival model to one of prosperity, according to its website. Among the projects implemented through it have been the reconstruction of St. George Cathedral in Tbilisi, the Tatev Revival (Wings of Tatev), the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and the United World College Dilijan.

Global Armenians, he said, can become a “clearinghouse of projects through multiple sources,” which can be helped by Armenians, and not just by money, but also by volunteering.

He stressed, “We want this to be inclusive and to expand as a group. We really want everybody’s ideas.”

Afeyan said the idea originally sprang from Armenia 2020, a project conducted by a small group including Afeyan and another signatory, Vardanyan, with the Armenian government, between 2001 and 2008. The idea was put forth around 2005, Afeyan said. Discussions began last summer to honeit. He stressed that neither he nor the other signatories, who now number more than the initial group of about 30, will dictate what the program does.

The novel approach is that instead of someone being diasporan or from Armenia, they would just be “one global Armenian,” one with an expanded definition of oneself. “The concept of me being a Boston Armenian is very limiting. When we see a problem in Syria, or Armenia, kids in Armenia without a bright future … it should be my shared responsibility” to help.

Money, he said, is not the sole objective. “It is a mindset. There is a long-term commitment to bring one’s talent, time, expertise, commitment toward advancing the global Armenian nation.”

He said he hoped more women and young people would be a part of this process.

The launch is meant to “be an initiative for people to think about upping our game,” to realize that we are all “one and the same thing.”

In effect, it means that Armenians will be part of a network which will make taking collective actions that much more efficient.

“We talk about cooperation but we hardly ever conceive of collective action” in concrete terms, Afeyan said.

In the press release issued by the group, Vardanyan said, “Armenia needs support from its worldwide community if it is to succeed. While a number of initiatives are underway by various groups that demonstrate a record of success, delivering programs that have impact on the people of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, there is still a great deal of work left to be done,” said, “We ask all Armenians to join with us to advance our country’s culture and infrastructure, and propel Armenia into a successful and sustainable future.”

Now, particularly Armenia and the Syrian-Armenian community are facing mounting problems.

“We want to get discussions going in the talk in the coming weeks and months. This is a long-term kind of project,” Afeyan said. “There is a serious challenge in front of Armenia.”

He expressed hope that the new government in Armenia, led by Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, is going to make a positive difference in the nation.

“It is a pretty difficult road ahead [for Armenia]. There are a variety of particular challenges. They lack a strategic plan of their own,” Afeyan said. They have to stabilize the situation and manage the crisis, but at the same time, they need to step outside of crisis mode and plan for the future.

This notion of a collective sentiment is one that is fairly alien to the Armenians, as many advance individually but not necessarily as part of a group.

Afeyan said, “The reason we are this way is because we are the product of centuries of survivalism. Everyone was out for themselves” to get through whatever existential challenges they faced. “Survival or preservation of the last century are a different concept than progress,” he said. Now, there needs to be a different outlook since the communities globally are in a different place.

The issue of corruption is one that naturally comes up every time investing in Armenia is discussed. A better way, he said, is to utilize entities that are already “deploying $50-$100 million a year that are not subject to these things.”

Examples he cited include TUMO, IDeA, the Armenian Church, the AGBU, Children of Armenia Fund, the Armenia Tree Project, etc.

Harkening back to Armenia 2020, he said, Armenians globally should think about the priorities of what needs to be done. “Which sectors should we invest in? We should identify projects.”

Afeyan said that the Scottish (GlobalScot), Singaporean as well as the Jewish models have served as examples for Global Armenians.

One example that Armenia has already copied successfully from other nations is that of Luys Foundation, which helps send exceptional university students from Armenia to study abroad, at the best universities around the world and then return to serve the homeland.

Plans are underway to schedule public meetings, with a website to be unveiled as well at the conclusion of the process.