Statements and messages of the President of RA
President Sargsyan’s remark at the official gathering dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the introduction in Armenia of the self-governance system
Distinguished Heads of Communities,
Esteemed members of the Community Councils,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I congratulate us all on the 20th anniversary of the creation of the RA local self-governance system.
Twenty years ago, on November 10, 1996 first elections of the community leaders and community councils took place. It signified the introduction in Armenia of a new, democratic system of local governance which was critically different from the previous.
In the process, we have often been guided by the experimental methodology because our own historical traditions in this area had been broken up long ago. We have often filled that void with the help of the international community. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the diplomats and representatives of the international organizations present here for the multifaceted assistance provided to us.
The maturing and improvement of the local self-governance system was greatly promoted by Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe. In this area, an important guarantee of our progress was the bringing of our legislation in line with the principles of the European Charter on Local Governance and its efficient implementation.
Today, we can note with satisfaction that the system of local governance in Armenia has not only matured but also proved its viability. Just like a sea is reflected in a drop of water, each community in Armenia reflects social processes going on in our country.
When I say that the local governance system has matured, it doesn’t mean that we no shortcomings in that area, it doesn’t mean that all heads of our communities work professionally, that there are no pitfalls: it means that the system has matured, and we should work consistently to improve it further.
The system of local governance should enjoy the unequivocal trust of the residents of the given community. It should become the first instance for the resolution of multiple problems and issues our urban and rural area residents have. It is necessary for the people to see in practice that the local governance bodies do care about their problems. It is necessary for these bodies with their entire potential to take up the task of solving community problems.
Today, it is not enough to just register the existing problems and issues, to report them to me, to the prime minister or the minister of territorial administration. Part of that function is successfully carried out by the mass media and public organizations. Obviously, our citizens have much more to say, and those, who cannot find the answers to the routine questions raised by our fellow citizens, simply waste the quota of trust existing within the community members.
The government and the local governance bodies should organize their works as serious and trustworthy partners. For years, we have been investing considerable resources into the equal development of the country. Significant investments have been done to develop capabilities, educational, cultural, and social infrastructures of the marzes. However the heads of communities must renounce the consumer mentality. Those, who will work efficiently, will get a greater assistance. In the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership program we constantly interact with the European structures and here works a very good principle – More for More. We will be working based on the same principle – for those who work more, for those who will find opportunities, we will double, triple and event make these opportunities tenfold.
Recently, one can hear often that we should build our own home, we should build our own villages, we should make our Fatherland prosperous, and these are not just words: help comes to the people who are trying to solve problems. Those who haven’t worked to solve problems, who have been relying only and only on assistance, those deserve nothing but pity. I am saying this with regard to the state and communities. In general, life goes on like that: help is given to the able.
Special attention will be given to the border communities whose members live estimably and struggle for decades under shelling. This is a special area of the works which is constantly in the focus of my direct attention and control. We have already set a number of privileges for the members of these communities; a number of investment programs have become a reality, new jobs and new enterprises have been created.
Naturally, this is a small part of what we are going to do in the future, because not only accomplishments are few but problems are plenty. We all should understand that establishment of one, two, three new enterprises in a region, creation of new jobs is only the beginning of starting to solve problems and we should never feel gratified and say that this or that has been done. Naturally, as I have said, we will not be complacent with this and will continue our persistent work on this direction.
Territorial administration reforms, which have already started, also remain in the focus of our attention. The enlargement of communities is not an end in itself. It is necessary to form local governance bodies which will be able to become efficient partners in the process of the social governance reformation initiated by us and will enhance the decentralization. We will also continue to view as important the competitive formation of community councils as a pivotal institutions and enhanced accountability for their work.
On this, I would like to say sincerely that we are not going to treat all alike. There is no template. We are not aiming at uniting deliberately five, seven or nine villages or any number of villages or communities. Our objective is make the solution of the problems for our citizens easier, to improve their lives. The question is: how can we improve the standard of living in towns and villages? I am saying this can be done the following way, the way it’s done all over the world: communities located at a reasonable distance are combined. It means that in one given community we can have a sufficient number of schoolchildren and a good school; in another community we can have a modern medical facility and so on. What do you think is better, to have seven villages with 30-40 pupils or to have schools for 200-300 kids? This will allow to solve the problems with teachers. It is no secret that in our communities and especially in distant border rural communities we always experience problems with teachers: there are no high class lawyers, good teachers are few, good doctors are few. The problem can be solved only this way.
In time, we will be living much better, just like it happened in 1996. When the system was being put in place, I am sure many of the village leaders were thinking that there hardly would be any improvement, but improvements took place. So I ask all of you to support the initiative of the Government, I ask you all to support our initiative. We understand many things. Even though we are unfortunately a small country, in this small country there are communities which have been at odds. We will treat such cases with understanding, thoughtfully, but isn’t it time to unite all small springs and get one nice brook? What does it mean: we cannot be united with the neighboring village? Why not? We can if we want to, and we have to want to.
Currently, our task is to solidify whatever positive there is in the country and eradicate everything negative. Each and every citizen of Armenia should pursue this approach. Each and every citizen of Armenia has the right to demand efficient work and good governance from the leadership of the community. For the charged taxes and fees we expect equal services.
I believe it is no secret that often people tell their problems or in people’s language their sorrows by telling them to one official. It means that often community residents are happy with the leader of the community if the community leader just hears these people out. When put it like this, esteemed community leaders, it doesn’t mean we have no such leaders. Of course, we have. I just want all of you to be that way. I want community residents, as I mentioned in the beginning, to see in the person of the community leader their first problem solver.
I am confident that in case of such requirement, positive changes will quickly translate into a reality and will change the entire image of our country. The right self-organization and self governance is the most reliable route for our development.
Strong community, strong family, strong state – this is our formula of a powerful Armenia.
And I ask you to shoulder your share of burden willingly, eagerly, and with great responsibility.
I have no doubt that there are many worthy women and men who are fulfilling their mission of a community leader with great responsibility. To be a community leader is a mission indeed, especially to be the leader of a small community, responsible for a large family of a kind, with no gain, no expectations. When a person bears his burden with dignity, he always commands respect. Some of these dignified persons will be awarded today.
I cordially congratulate them on this occasion. Also, I have no doubt that there are other worthy individuals, who are still to be awarded.
I once again congratulate us all on the occasion of this important jubilee. I wish you, esteemed colleagues, efficient work and new success for the glory of Armenia and for the prosperity of our nation.