Armenian News Network / Groong

Armenia-Diaspora Conference Report

Advocacy: Current Capacities, Options and Future Prospects

Prepared for the Armenia Diaspora Conference
Yerevan, September 22-23, 1999

I. Purpose

The intent of this paper is to review the present political advocacy capabilities in Diaspora and suggest ways for Diaspora, Armenia and Karabagh to work together to increase those capabilities by strengthening existing advocacy organizations and fostering greater communication, consultation and coordination.

II. Introduction/Overview

Armenian political advocacy in Diaspora has, through its history, been largely the result of the Diaspora's political party movement and has drawn its strength from individuals and institutions inspired by the Armenian Cause and motivated to act in the service of their homeland, their Diaspora communities, and their national aspirations. Since the earthquake, followed by the independence of Armenia and Karabagh, new organizations and individuals have joined the common advocacy effort in substantial numbers, many of whom are driven primarily by the desire to address current issues facing the peoples of Armenia and Karabagh.

It is assumed by the authors that there is universal appreciation within the homeland and throughout the Diaspora for the necessity and value of advocacy whether by Armenia and Karabagh internationally or by supportive Diaspora organizations and individual activists.

Armenia and Karabagh advocates are seeking actions and policies from targeted governments, regional bodies and multinational organizations in direct competition with hundreds - if not thousands - of other advocacy networks. The competition is intense, and losers outnumber the winners by a substantial margin. Since independence, the so-called Armenian Lobby has been a vital link in sustaining the peoples of Armenia and Karabagh, in promoting the security of both, and in elevating the Caucasus as a region of special international concern. Without question, the coordinated effort of Armenia, Karabagh and Diaspora advocates has been and will continue to be a factor in the decision-making process of key governments and multinational institutions. For confirmation of this claim, one need look no further than our adversaries who periodically bemoan the alleged power of the Armenian Lobby.

Nevertheless, the overall perspective of this document is that we, as concerned advocates, cannot be complacent. We must critically evaluate each component and process in our global advocacy network. Given the overall competition for attention and the strength of our adversaries, it is our view that our present advocacy community is inadequately organized and too small.

At the risk of stating the obvious,

Based on these considerations, we will briefly review the current state of advocacy and make recommendations about how we can work together to strengthen the entire advocacy network - Diaspora, Armenia and Karabagh.

III. Who Is An Advocate?

For definitional purposes in this paper, an advocate is any institution or individual that promotes consideration of Armenia's and Karabagh's needs and policies to any public policy maker in whatever context that is relevant and effective. In this sense, Diaspora advocacy is a dynamic reality. It draws participation from every community in the Diaspora, as well as from individuals in areas without organized communities. By prior admission, the number of advocates is too few. It should be the common agenda of the Diaspora, Armenia and Karabagh to strengthen the current advocacy community with an emphasis on those organizations whose primary mission is advocacy, as well as to increase the overall number of institutional and individual players in the advocacy effort.

A. Professional Advocacy Organizations: Internationally the Armenian National Committee and nationally the Armenian Assembly of America represent the only institutions whose primary mission is advocacy, with the requisite governing boards, offices and paid professional staff. In addition to these organizations, there is a broad array of advocacy-focused, politically-affiliated and non partisan organizations that also play an important role in the cumulative advocacy effort.

B. Armenian Non-Advocacy Organizations: Other Armenian institutions could substantially augment the current effort of the advocacy community. At a minimum, every Armenian organization should be called upon to participate. There is a misconception in the Diaspora that the advocacy responsibility is the exclusive domain of the professional Armenian organizations dedicated to this mission. This notion should be countered by Armenia, Karabagh and the professional advocacy organizations via the consistent promotion and proactive engagement of all Armenian organizations. While it is understood that religious, charitable, fraternal, educational and other non-advocacy Armenian organizations cannot make advocacy their primary focus, the cumulative impact of any engagement would be substantial.

C. Non-Armenian Allies: Important non-Armenian institutions and individuals have historically been engaged in our common effort based on shared goals or as allies in coalitions. With increased attention and support from the governments of Armenia and Karabagh, as well as from the Diaspora, these non-Armenian organizations would be more effective. There is an even greater number of non-Armenian institutions not yet engaged. Either by mission statement or substantive precedent, these organizations could be encouraged to embrace some aspect of Armenia's and Karabagh's needs, perspectives, or policies. It should be the common agenda of the Diaspora, Armenia and Karabagh to promote and support the current roster of non-Armenian organizations and to seek the involvement of new organizations not yet active.

D. Individual Armenians in Public Policy Roles: Another growth area for increasing the number of advocates on a targeted basis is Armenians in professions relevant to the common advocacy agenda. Throughout the Diaspora, Armenians are prominent and influential in vocations and avocations directly relevant to the goal of strengthening the so-called Armenian Lobby. By their professional stature and affiliations and/or their domestic political engagement, substantial numbers of Diaspora Armenians are potentially available to the advocacy cause. If enlisted in reasonably large numbers over time, the power and impact of the Armenian Lobby would rise exponentially.

Involving prominent, high profile Armenian individuals in the pro Armenia/pro Karabagh advocacy effort should be an ongoing mission of Armenia, Karabagh and advocacy organizations throughout the Diaspora. These current or former elected and appointed government officials, corporate leaders, academicians, established members of the print and broadcast media, leaders of large non-Armenian non-governmental institutions, entertainment personalities and independent political players constitute a body of individuals with disproportionate power and influence in their professions and the public policy process. Their adoption, in whole or in part, of the pro-Armenia/pro-Karabagh agenda has been a significant factor to date. Engaging these individuals is typically a sensitive process where the Armenia, Karabagh or Diaspora advocate initiates and sustains the relationship accepting the context and level of commitment of the individual being sought. From the advocate's perspective, any yield is potentially high yield.

E. Individual Armenian Advocates: These individuals represent the grassroots base of Armenian advocacy within Diaspora. They apply the local pressure, make the financial contributions, organize locally, and build grassroots alliances.

F. Armenia and Karabagh: Any review of "who is an advocate" is not complete without noting the central role of the governments, political parties, foreign policy institutes, other indigenous non-governmental organizations and the media of Armenia and Karabagh. Directly from each country and via their official representatives abroad, formal and informal advocacy is carried out each day. Diaspora advocates must monitor this activity closely to keep abreast of current needs, priorities, positions and problems.

IV. Who is Being Advocated?

There is an almost overwhelming list of national, regional and international governments and institutions that directly impact Armenia and Karabagh. It is clearly beyond the current advocacy capacity of Armenia, Karabagh and the Diaspora to effectively engage the entire community of decision makers. If we are to use our resources effectively, priority targets must be selected based on a careful examination of our advocacy objectives via consultation among Armenia, Karabagh and Diaspora advocates.

Currently, it is evident that France, Russia, the United States, the UN, the OSCE, European bodies, NATO's PfP, the IMF, the World Bank and CIS constitute most of the high-priority governmental and intergovernmental entities. Presumably, the independently developed advocacy agendas of Armenia, Karabagh and the Diaspora will have as its focus policy makers representing these countries and bodies.

For those not active in advocacy, it may be illustrative to examine one government more closely the United States. Armenia's and Karabagh's friends in the U.S. must simultaneously advocate to multiple departments within the executive branch, to targeted congressional committees and Members of Congress and their staff, to a select number of analysts and academicians associated with foreign policy/international affairs research institutions, and to a select list of U.S. media outlets, some of whom with Moscow bureaus. Looking more closely at just one element of the U.S. decision making community, a Member of Congress advocates must completely map the individual's home state or district by creating a database of pro-Armenia/pro-Karabagh constituents, of Armenian institutions within the state/district, of friendly Armenian and non-Armenian individuals who enjoy a special relationship with the elected official, and of non-Armenian corporations and non-governmental organizations known to be supportive of our issues. Outside of the federal realm, important work is being done with state and local governments, school boards, universities and libraries, among others. Finally, these elements must be part of a communications network that can be relied upon to convey timely and persuasive pro-Armenia/pro-Karabagh positions to the elected official.

The U.S. example was offered to demonstrate the complexity and breadth of a comprehensive advocacy effort where "rules of engagement" are formalized, long standing and relatively transparent. Taking into account the unique rules of engagement of each national or regional/international entity - and extended on national, regional and Diaspora scales - the dimension of our collective challenge becomes more clear and daunting. Incrementally and over time, we must develop a comprehensive understanding of each advocacy target: what are the powers, who makes the decisions and how, who can influence the decision makers and what do we want from the government or entity and why? It is also critical to note that Diaspora advocates in particular must take into account the interests of the government/entity being advocated. Armenia's and Karabagh's needs, actions and perspectives must be explained in the context of the French, Russian or U.S. national interest - or the mission and rules of the OSCE, CIS and other regional/international bodies. The key ingredient in all these environments is sustained action and long-term presence in the relevant policy centers. A fully functioning advocacy network needs to be developed for each priority nation and regional/international institution. By fully functioning, we mean that there would be a sufficient number of advocates working collaboratively so as to predict with reasonable accuracy and assurance what could be secured in results. Ideally, these separate advocacy networks would be linked with each other Diaspora-wide - sharing lessons learned, tactics and objectives. Similarly complex advocacy efforts are needed in the diverse environments of the UN, European Community, the Middle East, the CIS and elsewhere.

In addition to decision-makers, careful attention needs to be paid to the broadcast and print media. The governments of Armenia and Karabagh need to adopt a pro-active media strategy to communicate in user-friendly methods a steady stream of perspectives backed by objective information on breaking news and government actions deemed to be of general interest. Diaspora advocates need to cultivate media contacts on a continuing basis and substantially augment Armenia's and Karabagh's media effort.

V. Who Decides What to Advocate?

The governments of Armenia and Karabagh are responsible for setting their own agendas.

Similarly, advocacy organizations in Diaspora are responsible for their own priorities according to their own by-laws. It is important that the independent nature of this decision-making process be evident in order to avoid any negative legal or political implications resulting from the appearance of their acting as agents of a foreign government or entity.

Armenia, Karabagh and Diaspora should engage in extensive three-way consultations to shape a common agenda for coordinated action. The implementation of this agenda should take into account the diverse capabilities and varying reach of the two governments and the full range of Diaspora advocates. Where individual priorities of a given party cannot be integrated into the common agenda, steps should be taken to avoid working at cross-purposes.

VI. What is Being Advocated?

The range of issues advocated by Diaspora advocates has been limited, although increased substantially since Armenia's and Karabagh's independence. Core issues impacting Armenia and Karabagh have been addressed on a priority basis, based on their immediate impact on our interests. Among the issues currently on our common advocacy agenda are the following:

A. The Armenian Genocide: Universal affirmation of the Armenian Genocide with all that such affirmation implies.

B. Nation-Building - the Immediate Agenda: National/international support for Karabagh's de-facto independence; the prompt resolution of the Karabagh conflict via direct negotiations among Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabagh; national/international support for Armenia's transition to a market economy; national/international support for Armenia's and Karabagh's ongoing economic transition; and, development of a democratic society and security via humanitarian, technical and development assistance, as well as increased foreign investment.

C. Countering Adversary Advocacy: Countering adversarial allegations harmful to Armenia, Karabagh and the Diaspora by governments, national/multinational corporations, foreign policy/international affairs institutes and the media. An important element of this is to deny adversaries the opportunity to misrepresent Armenia's and Karabagh's policies and actions by explaining them in appropriate contexts.

D. Internal/Domestic Agenda: While not of direct or immediate benefit to the governments and peoples of Armenia and Karabagh, Diaspora advocacy organizations also allocate resources to strengthen our organizations and to deal with national, regional and local issues that are priorities to our constituents. In our view, there is considerable medium-term value in increasing the size and power of each advocacy organization. Such growth would not be possible if our organizations did not also address our community's local, regional, and national concerns. Clearly the Diaspora accepts that priority must be given to the peoples of Armenia and Karabagh at this unique and welcome moment in history. Nevertheless, some advocacy attention must also be allocated to building our power base and attending to local issues. There is a direct correlation between the actual and perceived power of local groups and institutions and their capacity to advocate successfully for the peoples of Armenia and Karabagh. Successes at the local, regional and national levels promoting issues and personalities not directly related to Armenia and Karabagh serve to bolster the reputation of the Armenian Lobby and the Armenians as effective players in the political process. As our Diaspora communities enter the fourth generation and beyond, there is a clear pattern of greater involvement in local, regional and national politics by an increasingly diverse range of advocates. Militating against this welcome involvement is the inevitable assimilation of many of the participants into the values and identity of the dominant culture. These new activists may not exhibit the same degree of Armenian identity intensity as the generations that preceded them. As noted earlier, the responsibility to initiate and nurture a practical and relevant outlet for this assimilated Armenian identity rests with more traditional Armenian activists. They are the bridges to the peoples of Armenia and Karabagh.

As already noted, there have been successes in each of the above categories. Non-Armenian opinion makers periodically comment on the so-called powerful Armenian Lobby. However, we must note that more could and should have been accomplished since independence was secured by Armenia and Karabagh. For example, it is clear that the political yield has substantially exceeded the economic yield of our combined advocacy efforts to date. Throughout this paper, we have pointed out multiple areas that require new perspectives, additional resources and better performance. We should not be lulled into complacency by the begrudging praise of our adversaries and even neutral opinion makers.

In addition to proposed actions noted in the commentary thus far, we also call your attention to the following section on recommendations.

VII. Recommendations

A. Develop Shared Data on Resources: Armenia and Karabagh should develop and share information useful to the international advocacy effort, including detailed facts about Armenia and Karabagh, as well as official views on key issues. In addition, Diaspora advocacy organizations should develop and share information about the advocacy environment of each targeted country or institution. Advocacy success depends on knowing who takes the decisions, who influences the decision-makers and who can be relied upon to advocate our agenda. This data must be current, readily accessible and immediately useable.

B. Common Advocacy Agenda: Extensive consultations between Diaspora, Armenia and Karabagh should be aimed at communicating priorities, sharing information and developing a common agenda. These discussions should formulate shared goals in the fields of government affairs, academia, think tanks, non-governmental institutions, ethnic organizations, the media and elsewhere. The media requires special attention. Consideration should be given to research the role of for-hire public relations firms.

C. Prioritize Consultation and Collaboration: In order to maximize our limited human and financial resources in the pursuit of our common agenda, it is essential that the entire and growing community of advocates regularly exchange: advocacy data; timely updates and analysis of developing events; advance notice of and reports on advocacy efforts and diplomatic initiatives (including notice of visiting delegations); communication of priorities and targets; and, the Actions should be coordinated by Armenia, Karabagh and Diaspora advocates based on an intelligent division of labor reflecting the capabilities of each. At a minimum, points of contact need to be identified at every juncture in the network so that all participants can use the network efficiently and effectively. To the extent practicable, advance knowledge empowers all advocates. This is particularly relevant as each participating government and advocacy organization goes about adopting its agenda for the following year or in anticipation of the deliberative cycle of the targeted government or institution.

D. Common Promotion of Greater Participation: At the same time, we should all work together to strengthen existing advocacy organizations, broaden their reach to Diaspora individuals and help them engage additional Armenian organizations. Relevant Armenian and Karabagh officials should prominently convey the message that all Diaspora organizations should closely cooperate with those organizations whose primary purpose is advocacy. Our goal should be to have a continuously growing network of informed and active institutions and individuals.

However, advocates must not overlook an emerging and potentially significant new nexus of support - indigenous NGOs within Armenia and Karabagh. As they develop their expertise to operate within their nations, these NGOs also represent partners in the overall advocacy effort within and beyond their borders. Within their borders, they have a role in supporting and legitimizing government policies with which they are in agreement. They can serve the same purpose advocating a common agenda to the embassies and other international representatives present in Armenia and Karabagh. Beyond their borders, the NGOs can represent their members and their nations in a broad range of fora from the UN to the OSCE to other regional entities that specifically encourage the participation of NGOs. It is in the interest of Armenia, Karabagh and the Diaspora to encourage indigenous NGOs to become as effective as possible as quickly as possible. In the short term, it is

Particularly important for the governments of Armenia and Karabagh to promote the value and role of these NGOs prominently. For more established NGOs in the Diaspora, engagement with

E. Financing: Armenia, Karabagh and Diaspora institutions should collectively address the financing needs of increased advocacy. None of the above recommendations for increasing the impact of Diaspora advocacy will be possible without significantly greater financial resources.

F. Structure: It is evident that the conference organizing committee intends to propose a Diaspora-wide "umbrella" entity to address the obvious lack of structure and communication within the Diaspora, between the Diaspora and Armenia and between the Diaspora and Karabagh. Whether this ambitious objective is realized in the foreseeable future, intermediate initiatives need to be considered for early implementation to increase advocacy focus and yield, as follows:

  1. The Diaspora/Armenia conference represents a global attempt to focus our collective attention and energy around a number of mutually beneficial universal themes. It is a top-down initiative. In addition to this approach, we propose that specific consultations and structures be considered to address the advocacy requirements of targeted priority nations, regional and international bodies. Each targeted government or entity requires a unique advocacy plan of action that takes into account the perspectives and abilities of the known advocacy community and the goals of Armenia and Karabagh. Advance face-to-face consultations, augmented by structured systems of communication and coordination noted earlier in this report, should yield greater results and may provide valuable insights for the ongoing effort to develop Diaspora-wide models.

    In the absence of any formal pan-Armenian advocacy organization or a universal umbrella entity, Diaspora advocacy organizations have adopted lobbying agendas that largely reflect the priorities of Armenia and Karabagh. It is clear that many advocacy organizations and relevant government authorities have established direct, functional relations with one another. It would also appear that government authorities have conveyed a consistent message to these Diaspora organizations and that these organizations have been sufficiently adept at monitoring events and needs in Armenia and Karabagh. While this process of direct relations will undoubtedly continue, it is also important to establish systematic, multi-party communication, consultation and collaboration in anticipation of a growing network of competent and engaged advocacy players. This is particularly important for the subject of a common advocacy agenda. As already stated, each government or entity independently selects their agenda. The next step, the collaborative evaluation and prioritization of common elements, is not taking place beyond the direct relations noted above.

    We propose that multi-party consultations begin on a select, priority basis. Each consultation on a targeted country, regional or international body would include not only a review of common agenda items, but also a critical assessment of every aspect of the Armenia, Karabagh and advocacy organizations' relations with, knowledge about, and ability to influence the targeted entity. Over time, the existing direct relationships with a limited number of Diaspora advocacy organizations would be augmented by systematic and functional relationships that are broader in scope and impact.

  2. A careful study of other states that enjoy large, active Diasporas should be undertaken to assess the variety of models in place. There may be valuable lessons in analyzing what Greece, Ireland, Israel, Lebanon and others have established over time with their Diasporas to promote coordinated advocacy.

VIII. Conclusion

Without question, there is room for the so-called Armenian Lobby to grow exponentially and quickly. One can foresee an advocacy network that is capable of producing greater results in a more compressed time frame for the benefit of the peoples of Armenia and Karabagh. With the even greater power of the Diaspora-wide Armenian Lobby, Armenia's and Karabagh's decision-makers will enjoy a much broader range of options in promoting the interests of their citizens. At the same time, this increased power will help Diaspora advocates better serve the local interests of Diaspora communities. To realize this future, all of the current advocacy players must assume new perspectives and responsibilities.

Advocacy organizations in the Diaspora need to systematically reach out beyond their core constituencies to attract new organizations and non-affiliated individuals to the cause. The advocacy organizations must also commit to systematic cooperation, discarding the notion that other Armenian advocacy groups in the Diaspora are their competitors. The advocacy organizations need to accept that some entity should be charged with the coordinating role. Finally, advocacy organizations cannot take on these new responsibilities without setting aside the requisite funds and talent exclusively for collaboration.

The governments of Armenia and Karabagh also need to embrace the consequences of genuine collaboration. In addition to allocating funds and staff, the governments must put in place a systematic method of regular communication so their representation abroad and their advocacy friends can better serve the citizens of Armenia and Karabagh.

All of the steps outlined in this overview analysis and presentation are measurable and achievable. All that remains is for a critical mass of government officials and Diaspora advocacy organizations to begin the process and stay the course.

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