President attends 6th Pan-Armenian Armenia-Diaspora Conference
President Serzh Sargsyan attended today the opening of the 6th Pan-Armenian Armenia-Diaspora Conference at Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex. The President of Armenia made a speech at the first plenary session of the Conference.
Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan
delivered at the first plenary session of
the sixth Pan-Armenian Armenia-Diaspora conference
Honorary President of the Republic of Artsakh,
Your Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians,
Your Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia,
I am glad to greet all of you in Yerevan, the capital of all Armenians, in the frame of the Armenia-Diaspora Sixth Pan-Armenian Forum.
It has already become a good tradition to host in the Motherland this representative forum of different communities and organizations from Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora, at which we discuss the ongoing programs and outline the launch of new initiatives in different directions.
Many of you have come a long way to Yerevan. Some have even had to change three or four planes to be here today to bring their community message, emotions and questions. I offer my warm greetings to all of you and welcome you to Mother Armenia.
During the two days of the forum, key challenges will come under review, and new opportunities will be outlined for Armenia and the future of the Armenian people. I am convinced that the discussions will focus on our shared vision of building a just, developed and cohesive country.
In this fast developing world, we, the entire Armenian nation, is changing, too, along with the Diaspora-based communities, the Church, local and pan-Armenian institutions, and our agenda is changing accordingly. The Armenia-Diaspora conferences are a good opportunity to feel each other’s breath in most important venues.
We saw many opinions voiced at the latest conference; we heard a number of valuable suggestions, some of which have already been transformed into practical projects. During the preceding forum, for example, the idea of forming a Pan-Armenian council was approved; several legal papers dealing with the consequences of the Armenian Genocide were compiled.
Good ideas become initiatives, which should be turned into specific projects and actions. As a matter of fact, ideas and initiatives are much easier to formulate than to implement.
Of course, the time has come to take a retrospective glance at the path we have left behind. In parallel, I suggest we employ this forum as a platform for Armenia-Diaspora strategic dialogue, where the debates held in the spirit of unity and pluralism may result in action plans for the development and strengthening of communities in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora.
The Third Republic of Armenia is undoubtedly much stronger thanks to the efforts of traditional Armenian Diaspora organizations and our compatriots integrated in the international community. We appreciate the contribution made by each and every one of you.
All the necessary conditions have been created in Armenia and Artsakh for the self-fulfilment of our compatriots in the first place, for their success in public, social or private enterprise, so that they could ultimately back up our common drive to build a better country with concrete work or good advice.
No matter how much we appreciate the efforts of our traditional institutions and experienced devotees, I would like to remind all of us that our efforts will not be complete without the constructive involvement of the youth and the new generation. Therefore, I am now addressing our smart and bright young people.
Driven by the trends coming from the globalized world, many young people in Diaspora communities increasingly call themselves multiethnic. We must pay special attention to these trends and develop new programs to ensure the cultural and professional development of our youth and bolster their national identity.
In this regard, a special vote of thanks is due to those organizations providing opportunities for professional internships and youth gatherings in Armenia through the efforts of Diaspora devotees. We must tap the youth’s potential to enrich our lives both in Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora communities for the sake of the rising generation and using their capacities.
I find it important to underline another, often misunderstood factor. The message of unity inherited from our ancestors has never meant unanimity or the need to prefer the opinion of the majority to individual viewpoints. Both in Armenia and in the Diaspora, we welcome and appreciate pluralism, which is an important condition for innovative thinking.
The appeal of the Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora trinity should not be regarded as the antonym of autonomy. On the contrary, we can achieve effective solutions through cooperative action, with the emphasis placed on the diversity in approaches. Our strength lies in our pluralism.
I avail myself to meet with the representatives of local Armenian communities during international trips. All these meetings were distinguished with special warmth, and I feel great pride when I see the achievements of our sisters and brothers.
Everywhere I can see Armenians strong with the sense of dignity who have preserved their national identity and are doing their best to hand down our common heritage to generations. At each meeting, I could notice that each community has its own particular features. At each of these meetings, I appealed to you and asked you to maintain the Armenian identity and, at the same time, be the best citizen of your country, to deny assimilation, but at the same time to get integrated in the best possible manner.
The four key topics on the agenda of the Armenia-Diaspora Sixth Pan-Armenian Forum provide a good platform for revealing the problems high on our agenda, discussing different solutions, combining the efforts of public, non-governmental and pan-Armenian organizations and outlining new areas of close cooperation.
Significant events have occured in Armenia’s public life over the past three years. Now we are on the way to a parliamentary system of governance. This means that new opportunities are created to participate in our country’s social and political life and take responsibility for the future. First of all, I mean those Armenians who for years have been looking for ways to make their ideas of development and reform heard in Armenia. Now is the time to materialize your ideas.
As you may know, Constitutional Amendments were adopted in Armenia at a nationwide referendum on December 6, 2015, which became the basis of revolutionary reforms in public administration, social activities and political domains.
Armenia is changing to become a more open, flexible and democratic State. Our citizens, political and social life are changing, too, to become more law-abiding and organized. Democracy, the rule of law, the responsibility of the authorities, the maturity of political parties and civil society should be constantly improved.
On April 2, 2017, regular parliamentary elections were held on the basis of the new Electoral Code, which earned international professional structures’ high assessment for their unprecedented transparency. International and domestic observers highly appreciated this achievement on the way to building a democratic State, which indeed, would not have been possible without our conscientious citizens, responsible political forces, the emerging culture of dialogue and the political and financial support of our international partners.
The evolving new Constitutional order is a good basis for deepening to the point of no return the political dialogue, empowering political parties, civil society and rooting respect for the rule of law and legitimacy in our country. Also, we need to create conditions for all our sisters and brothers in the Diaspora to get familiarized with Homeland’s realities regardless of their partisanship or political preferences. Only by understanding the objective reality and each other’s needs we can shape an inclusive and realistic agenda.
Summing up the achievements and shortcomings of the twenty-fifth years of independence, at the first session of the National Assembly of 6th convocation, we put on record our perceptions of the main priorities for the next 25 years. Improving the demographic situation in Armenia was a key focus over there.
We are stating that the demographic trends are extremely worrying in our country: they are caused by several objective and subjective factors. Our steps over the coming years will seek to bolster the population’s natural growth in Armenia and achieve a significant change in the emigration and immigration ratio.
We have already stated our goal to have at least 4 million population in Armenia in 2040. Obviously, we will hardly achieve that goal by merely increasing the birth rate, life expectancy or by improving the demographic pattern. Nevertheless, we will be steadfastly moving forward in the aforementioned areas. Therefore, this goal implies achieving serious indicators in immigration over the next 25 years.
In my opinion, it will stand out and run all through the discussions at the upcoming Armenia-Diaspora forums. By the next conference, we will have completed the mapping of our respective tasks, clarified both the logic of our joint actions and the set of goals and objectives for each Diaspora community.
The next Armenia-Diaspora Forum will come as a pan-Armenian discussion of the “4 million Armenia” program and the real start of its implementation. This is what we should agree upon here and right now.
Armenian and pan-Armenian structures have long been systematically working to arrange the repatriation of young professionals, entrepreneurs and businessmen from Diaspora communities, for which we owe them a special vote of thanks. I think we have matured for a serious discussion on the topic of repatriation.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Unfortunately, tensions continued to escalate in our region over the past three years. In April 2016, our people was imposed another war; once again we were able to withstand the enemy’s barbaric atrocities. Today we must praise the devotion, heroism and combat spirit of our soldiers and officers, but at the same time, we should not forget the losses we suffered in that short-lived war. Glory and honor to our armed forces!
In April 2016, we once again demonstrated to the world our unity and the power of the enduring Armenian spirit. We united, rallied our forces on the battlefield so that we could stand for our best interests at the table of negotiations. I am convinced that the international courts will one day make their verdicts on Azerbaijan’s atrocities.
The armed forces of Armenia and Artsakh are the guarantors of peace and security in this unstable region, and in this respect, we are honoring our commitments assumed before the international community. The Armenian soldier is keeping peace here against the sorties perpetrated by the neighboring country’s authorities, who have lost contact with reality.
The propaganda of anti-Armenian sentiment by Azerbaijan’s authorities inside the country and the attempts to export that propaganda to the international arena have created a situation where the Armenians in Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora may harden their stance on a compromise.
There can be no lasting peace unless Azerbaijan’s authorities come to terms with the principles acknowledged by the international community. We are convinced that the realization of human rights, including peoples’ right to equality and self-determination, is the key to international peace and the prevention of conflicts, since nearly always the restriction of this right leads to political crisis and then war.
During the past decade – and why not – ever since May 1994, much has been said about the the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the elements and principles of the settlement. During this conference, you will definitely discuss the issue from all possible perspectives.
I must state that the position of our State remains the same: the people of the Republic of Artsakh has a natural right to live in freedom, independence and safety in their own country and is exercising this right by means of elections, stable State system, developing economy and the efforts of its patriotic citizens. The realization of their inherent right by Artsakh citizens is a historical fact. The remaining issues can be settled through peace talks. Over the past few years we have proved that despite all kinds of political myths, it is impossible to divert us from the above course.
The unstable situation first of all forces us to be more vigilant in the face of external threats and self-organized in our country by building a more effective state governance system and continuing to reinforce democratic institutions, strengthening and developing the economy. In this complicated region, we are still forced to live in a blockade.
Despite our goodwill and the political courage highly valued by all international partners, Turkey refused to implement the two Zurich protocols signed in 2009. Moreover, they tried to make Armenia a hostage of our own signature, once again demonstrating to the world that peace in the region is not in the interest of that country’s incumbent administration. I withdrew the signed protocols from the agenda of the National Assembly on February 16, 2015. In the same year, I voiced from the UN high tribune Armenia’s last word on the matter, and my position has not changed ever since.
In the face of Turkey’s continuing denial, which on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide grew into an outright disrespect for the values of modern civilization, I do believe that the international community and the Armenian Diaspora should henceforth adopt a new strategy.
Many leading countries in the world have already recognized and condemned the Armenian Genocide. Our compatriots living in these countries can proudly declare their victory, and we can proudly work with these countries to shape a new agenda.
In the context of the ongoing changes in the modern world, we must reassess the “soft power” of our Diaspora and the capabilities of public diplomacy to further strengthen the official diplomacy.
In my address to the newly elected National Assembly of Armenia, I emphasized the importance of making a better use of parliamentary diplomacy, which of course will become stronger with the support of Diaspora individuals and institutions. I am confident that the efforts aimed at revealing the actual potential of the Diaspora and the Homeland will gain momentum with the establishment of the Pan-Armenian Council. This conference may usher in another decisive step towards the formation of the Council.
Today, we will sum up the work done over the past two years and make a final decision regarding the celebrations of the May Heroic Battles in 1918 and the 100th anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia.
Encouraging mutual involvement with the Armenian Diaspora, promoting the preservation of the Armenian identity abroad, assisting our compatriots, especially Syrian Armenians, who are facing emergency situations, have been at the heart of Armenia’s State policy.
Over the 26 years of independence, our business community has made numerous donations and charities in Armenia and Artsakh. They have also contributed to our bright future in the face of Tumo centers, Smart centers and more.
Now we say that we have to take a step forward and turn to Armenia the investment potential of those Diaspora Armenians who wish to engage in entrepreneurship and make a profit by simultaneously boosting the country’s well-being, creating jobs, promoting the social capital and after all, repatriation. Already today we have such inspirational examples.
All the necessary conditions conducive to a propitious investment environment have been created in Armenia. The involvement of our Diaspora-based sisters and brothers will also help enrich and develop the business culture, enhance the country’s image and attractiveness by making it more recognizable in the world and by multiplying our wealth. The Government has committed itself to providing support to all business projects, regardless of investment volumes.
Firmly standing on its feet, our Homeland has the power and the will to finally develop a concept of strategic partnership with the Diaspora.
The core framework on which the Homeland-Diaspora cooperation should be built implies strong and developed Armenia, independent and secure Artsakh, the vision of having well-organized communities in the Diaspora, as well as the Armenian spirit and our common sense of brainstorming.
Mother Armenia is the homeland of all Armenians, regardless of their political and other orientations. We recognize and value the Diaspora in its multi-dimensional nature. Over the past few years, I had several occasions to meet with successful young people who were keen to be of service to their homeland. We need to find new ways to ensure their involvement.
Communities in the Diaspora are different from each other depending on when and why they were formed. They are not homogeneous with their historical experience and political views. Although unique, these networks need to be interconnected and cooperate in order to succeed in both their host countries and to build the future of Mother Armenia.
Speaking about the future of the Diaspora, the preservation of identity in different communities, cultural development and involvement in foreign societies, we must take into consideration those important changes that are taking place in the world and keep abreast with the times.
Global migration trends have affected Armenia and the Diaspora communities. Large groups of people are migrating not only from the countries of the former socialist camp to countries with more attractive labor markets, but also from the Middle East to Canada, the United States and Europe.
Today we can witness how the structure of communities in Diaspora is changing. Yes, we can see that Armenia and the Armenian communities have become interconnected vessels.
Our task is to ensure that these contacts and communication evolve and strengthen both Armenia and the Armenian communities in every part of the globe. We must inevitably focus on the Armenian identity. I am glad that this question has been included in the agenda of this conference. I am convinced that the powerful, developing, just and equitable Armenia is the best pledge for the maintenance of the Armenian identity outside the homeland.
This is just the gravitational and vital force that empowers our sisters and brothers in host countries. As the authors of a study carried out under the auspices of the Gulbenkian Foundation have concluded, we should keep in the spotlight and pay particular attention to the development of existing pan-Armenian and community organizations and implement inclusive initiatives.
I should note that the logic and dynamics of Homeland-Diaspora relations have changed ever since the declaration of independence. Over the past 26 years, we have been exploring the opportunities stemming from independent statehood and disclosing new horizons of cooperation.
Armenia should be a fully integrated, powerful, well-developed, strong and proud country. The charm of this vision is in its feasibility. I wish you good luck in your three-day discussions.