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Armenia-Diaspora Conference 2002 Report

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The Second Armenia-Diaspora Conference Starts on Monday 27th of May

Armenian News Network / Groong
May 26, 2002

By Vicken Cheterian

The Diaspora Still Cares for Armenia

YEREVAN, ARMENIA


Before its start, the second Armenia-Diaspora conference is already a
success. Over 1500 delegates from 45 countries have already arrived to
the Armenian capital, and the total number of those registered has
surpassed the 3,000 mark. The bet of the Armenian foreign minister,
Vartan Oskanian, who is the driving force behind the event, has
worked: the Diaspora is still interested in Armenia, ready to come
spend time and money to discuss future models of cooperation between
their communities, and Armenia.

The same cannot be said about Armenia. Most inhabitants of Yerevan,
with whom I talked, were either indifferent or did not know about the
event. The most popular Armenian daily Aravot, which has a circulation
of 5,000 copies, did not make any comment or analysis in its week-end
edition about the upcoming conference. It allocated a small space for
the foreign minister's press-conference on its eighth page only. Most
Yerevan dailies did not print any information about the event on their
first page, and it was only the official Hayastani Hanrapetutiun,
which had an analytical article, about "double citizenship", which is
in fact outside the scope of this second conference. In a word, the
media in Armenia did not inform, nor debate about the ways Armenia and
Diaspora could work together.

The first Armenia-Diaspora conference took place in September 1999,
eight years after Armenia became independent. It brought together more
than one thousand participants, and was considered to be successful,
in spite of its ceremonial nature. It was meant to rebuild the bridges
between the Diaspora and the Republic, after years of HHSh rule that
tried to marginalize the Diaspora within Armenia, and limit its
political and economic influence.  After the arrival of Robert
Kocharyan to power, the official line was changed. Now, the Armenian
state encourages the Diaspora to come and invest, play a more active
political and social role within Armenia. The Kocharyan leadership has
made a number of symbolic moves towards the Diaspora by including the
ARF in the government, and by bringing the question of the Genocide
into its diplomatic agenda. Yet, the first conference and the
enthusiasm it generated was overshadowed by the massacre in the
Armenian parliament on October 27, 1999, which killed the speaker of
the parliament Garen Demirjian, and the prime minister Vazken
Sarkissian.

This time, the official speeches and ceremonies will occupy only
one-quarter of the program, and starting from Monday afternoon and all
of Tuesday, delegates will discuss political issues, media cooperation,
social and economic development, and cultural matters. Yet, there has
been little preparation for the subject-matters the conference will
discuss. For example, up to now there is no work to define the common
interests but also the differences between Armenia and the
Diaspora. Moreover, nowhere did the Diasporan organizations clarify
the conclusions of ten years of presence and activities in Armenia,
and a clear definition of what the Diaspora wants from Armenia, and is
ready to engage in. An article in Hayastani Hanrapetutiun says: "It is
the time to act, and not to think!". Yet, it is better to take a
moment and to think about a decade of action, and re-define how
Armenia and the Dasporas could work in the future.

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