The Report of the Armenian General Benevolent Union To the Armenia-Diaspora Conference Yerevan, September 22, 1999 Text of Address Given by Berge Setrakian Vice President of AGBU, Central Committee On behalf of Louise Manoogian Simone, President of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), and its membership, I applaud the convening of the Armenia-Diaspora Conference in the capital city of Yerevan. The AGBU is participating in this august Conference with a representative delegation. Making up our delegation are AGBU Central Executive Committee Vice Presidents Nazar Nazarian and Berge Setrakian, as well as members Sinan Sinanian, from the USA; Sarkis Demirdjian, from Lebanon; Karnig Yacoubian, from Syria; and Levon Kebabdjian, from France. In addition, Honorary Member of the Central Committee from the USA, Barry Zorthian, and Albert Boyajian, representative from the West Coast, as well as chairmen of AGBU chapters and/or executive representatives who comprise part of the delegations from various countries in the Diaspora. President Robert Kocharian President Arkady Ghukasian National Assembly Chairman Garen Demirchian Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian Clergy and Delegates: The current Armenian state is faced with the necessity of solving complex and thorny issues, which have been inherited from the past and which require long-term systematic effort by all segments of the Armenian people. The Conference undoubtedly will discuss proposals pertaining to key national issues, such as the rebuilding of Artsakh, the stemming of emigration from Armenia, the return to Mesrobian orthography in the Homeland, and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the international community. In the precious few minutes allotted to us, we would like to simply share certain thoughts with you, which, although not new, yet perhaps may serve as an impetus to new ways and means and through which our Union, with its polycommunal structure and membership, can participate in a positive manner in the progress of the Homeland. The most important factor in strengthening Armenia is the reestablishment of the Homeland's economy, for which it must utilize all internal and external means. In this connection, we applaud the definitive decision made by the Armenian government to rebuild the country's economy. We must not spare any effort toward developing domestic industry and foreign commerce, which are the keys to the elimination of unemployment, the stemming of emigration, and our bright future. We are facing a critical new period as a nation. At this stage, Armenia and the Diaspora, through unified efforts and by synthesizing its world-class resources, must accomplish well-developed vital projects. The realization of this initiative must be entrusted to a Pan-Armenian Organization, which shall select a qualified group of experts with international standing to develop both immediate and long-term plans as well as oversee their implementation. Since this organization shall enjoy the patronage of the Armenian government, it is essential for it to be endowed with complete powers, to synthesize Armenia-Diaspora cooperation and to have offices and staffs in Armenia as well as the main Diasporan centers. Naturally, Armenia-Diaspora relations have not been exempt from difficulties in the past, and today there are difficulties which shall certainly become smoothed out over the course of time. At this stage in particular, it is mandatory for the Armenian government to solve bureaucratic complexities so that Armenia may enjoy the reputation of being a lawful and stable country and so that trust of all segments of Armenian society as well as the international community with regard to Armenia be and remain unwavering. All of us know that, with the exception of the Middle East, the majority of Western Armenians no longer live in traditional Armenian colonies. We have third and fourth generations, which comprise numerous talented and successful young Armenians. This Armenian potential is in need of encouragement to return to the Armenian fold. That encouragement can only come from a prosperous and strong Armenia. From the first day of its existence, the AGBU has been on the side of Armenia and the Armenian people. During the period of the first republic, the 70 years of Soviet rule and these years of independence, we have remained loyal to our principles; we have done as much for the fatherland as conditions and our means have permitted, and we hold to the conviction that the Armenian Diaspora can survive only with the presence of a powerful fatherland. It gives me pleasure to state that, during the past ten years, the AGBU has put forth over $40 million for its projects in Armenia. Today, a work force of over 1200 people who live and work on its soil is involved in those plans. During this period, thanks to the generosity of its faithful donors, the AGBU has also established funds amounting to more than $15 million, on behalf of its projects in Armenia. The AGBU shall continue its patriotic activity and offers its polycommunal structure and membership for the strengthening and flourishing of Armenia-Diaspora links and for Armenia-Diaspora Union. Under the present conditions facing the Armenian people, this august conference can be a turning point in our history, if it succeeds in finding the paths whereby the two segments of the Armenian people can join forces to overcome the difficulties faced by them. Many thanks to the organizers and participants of this historic Conference.
Translated to English by Aris G. Sevag.