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ARS' Address at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference, 1999

    The Report of the Armenian Relief Society
    To the Armenia-Diaspora Conference
    Yerevan, September 23, 1999

    Presented by Maro Minassian,
    Chair of the ARS Central Executive Board

    Excellencies, Your Holiness, Reverend Fathers, Fellow Armenians:

    With great joy, the Armenian Relief Society greets the
    Armenia-Diaspora Conference. As a pan-Armenian organization of
    nearly ninety years experience, feeling the necessity of a serious
    dialogue over the multi-faceted issues facing Diaspora-Homeland
    relations, three years ago, the ARS decided to organize a symposium
    with the participation of leaders and intellectuals from both
    Armenia and the Diaspora.

    After long preparation, in the spring of 1998, that project became
    reality when on May 29 and 30, under the high auspices of the
    President of the Republic, the Symposium entitled "Armenia and the
    Diaspora on the threshold of the 21st Century" took place in

    It was an initial dialogue, an attempt to overcome rigid provincial
    attitudes, unyielding priorities and prejudices with a process of
    unbiased evaluation and objective analysis.

    Today, the organizers of this Armenia-Diaspora Conference have
    focused mainly on four issues:
     - The obstacles in the way of Armenia-Diaspora cooperation;
     - The nature of the mutual efforts necessary for the coordination
       of Armenia-Diaspora activities;
     - The possibility of an umbrella structure for the supervision of
       all-Armenian activities;
     - The conclusions drawn by the pre-conference workshops on the main
       issues of Armenia-Diaspora relations.

    In reference to the first issue, given the limited time, it is not
    possible to enumerate here all the obstacles that impede the normal
    process of Armenia-Diaspora cooperation - among which, we consider
    paramount the right to citizenship of the Armenian Republic. In our
    opinion, there can be no question that the tighter and more binding
    the relationship between the Diasporan and the Armenian State, the
    more enthusiastic and generous the commitment of the Diasporan
    masses will be towards the needs of the Motherland. Therefore, the
    first factor to enhance the concept of "One Nation, One Motherland"
    will be the ratification of legislature granting Diasporans
    Armenian citizenship.

    At this point, we would like to state that, generally speaking, we
    find the objections and arguments put forth by certain quarters
    against this issue extraneous and unconvincing. After all, we
    needn't remind anyone, that many other peoples who, for various
    reasons, have emigrated and established residence abroad, have been
    granted citizenship of their country of origin by their respective
    national governments.

    Moving on to the second issue, in our estimation, it is possible to
    improve the coordination of Armenia-Diaspora activities by, first,
    guaranteeing the existence and viable economic and political
    continuity of established Diasporan communities. To this end, the
    planning has to be long range and pan-Armenian in scope.

    The Armenian Diaspora -- formed and organized in the crucible of
    the dire realities of geographic and political dispersion and the
    strained relationship with the Motherland -- must be accepted,
    along with its experienced cultural, religious and political
    establishments, as a factor of value and permanency. Consisting of
    distinctive denominations and communities, its common denominator
    has always been its concerted struggle for the reestablishment of
    the sovereign national statehood and the prosecution of the
    Armenian Case with pan-Armenian goals.

    To achieve palpable results, the coordination of Armenia-Diaspora
    cooperation must take into consideration the diverse geographic,
    political, cultural and economic realities of each and every
    community. The temptation to create "unity" through a homogenizing
    standardization process must be resisted at all costs.

    The third issue presented to the participants of the Conference is
    the rationale of the necessity for a coordinating, "umbrella"
    directorate. It is understood that future cooperation between
    Armenia and the Diaspora, in all its aspects, must take place in a
    coordinated manner, but as to under what kind of supervision,
    remains unclear. The official, state-run diplomatic missions along
    with pan-Armenian international organizations, such as
    denominational church structures, active political parties,
    humanitarian, cultural and athletic societies must, in a
    cooperative spirit, create practical and dependable vehicles to
    function under the administrative supervision of a ministerial
    department commissioned specifically for that task.

    It is also possible to trust this task to the National Assembly-the
    Armenian Parliament-which would create a special commission of
    Armenia-Diaspora relations, coordinating all-important
    activities. Whatever the case, this can be accomplished only with
    the consent and voluntary participation of the leadership of
    legitimately established pan-Armenian organizations.

    We regret that it will be impossible to comment on the fourth issue
    within the five minutes allowed to this initial organizational
    statement. In any event, it would have been a mere evaluation of
    already drawn conclusions; we are certain we shall all be given a
    chance to discuss the five important topics analyzed in those
    commissioned papers.

    It is our fervent wish, that following this conference, we all
    apply ourselves to the serious task of solving the many problems
    that concern us all today; their solutions will lead to the
    prosperity and security of our nation, Homeland and Diaspora alike.

    Thank you.

Translated to English by the ARS Central Office.

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