Our homeland has been through a great deal of ordeal in the passing year. Fraudulent presidential elections, massive protests, rising emigration, the misguided commitment to join the Russia-led Customs Union, and mass arrests of activists protesting Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s visit to Armenia have all contributed to that. The economy has slowed down significantly and recorded practically no growth in the second and third quarters of 2013 compared to the same periods a year ago. According to the official statistics, one in every three Armenian residents lives in poverty. Unofficial estimates are much higher. In the meantime, the ruling regime continues to control in excess of an estimated 60 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Although this may have been one of the worst years for Armenia since independence, we have much reason for enthusiasm. The civil society is stronger than at any point before. Those on the barricades are determined to not only force the regime to leave but are also eager to build institutional foundations for a freer and independent Armenia. Our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora today are better informed about the conditions on the ground in Armenia and the true factors behind the misery and devastation observed outside of downtown Yerevan. As never before we are united with the understanding that with hard and persistent work we can turn Armenia into a country that we all could be proud of and will one day return to live.
We believe we have contributed to this positive message. By visiting our website you can see that with only modest resources (coming mostly from our members) we have been able to maintain a high level of analytical output and inform our stakeholders of the true problems faced by people of Armenia and the country itself. Only when you have the right diagnosis you can expect to find the right cure for the illness. We are the only organization in the Diaspora that produces consistent and professional output on completely volunteer basis without being paid for what we do.
Highlights of our 2013 effort are as follows:
- Election Research: within days from Armenia’s presidential election on February 18, 2013, PFA issued its analysis of the election outcome using statistical and econometric methodology and helped reveal massive fraud in favor of the incumbent.
- International Relations: In May 2013, PFA joined forces with the United States Atlantic Council to hold a high level round-table discussion with Washington-based senior experts on Armenia’s relations with NATO.
- Post-election Developments: In June 2013, jointly with the George Washington University Law School and Elliot School of International Affairs, PFA hosted Armenian presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian for a conversation on foreign and domestic policy, and to hear his views of the political and civil society development in Armenia.
- Diaspora: In August 2013, we hosted a discussion on the conditions of Armenians in Syria by Arménag Aprahamian, the President of Paris-based National Council of Armenians from Western Armenia, an organization accredited by the United Nations to represent the indigenous people of Western Armenia.
- Economic and Social Issues: In October 2013, we released our third State of the Nation Report on “Corruption in Armenia” where we focused on wholesale and retail corruption and offered mechanisms of reducing the cancer of corruption in Armenia.
- Environment: Subsequently we hosted a group of environmental activists and scientists, who brought to the US a documentary showing the extent of desecration caused by open mining in Armenia’s Southern Syuniq region.
- Institutional Development: we are extremely fortunate to have been able to put together a world-class Academic Board, which serves as the main quality-controller of our research, and receive a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status from the US Internal Revenue Service.
However, there is one area that leaves more to desire this holiday season. It is the knowledge that we could have doubled the amount of work we do to benefit Armenia and its people if only we had slightly more financial resources at our disposal. Therefore, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to enable us to continue to serve our mandate of providing independent, high-quality analysis of issues of true concern for Armenia today and tomorrow. A nation without a forward-oriented think-tank is bound to remain on the sidelines of history and is unlikely to make the jump forward that we are all dreaming about.
In closing, we would like to thank you for staying engaged with Armenia and with us. We wish you all Happy Holidays! May the New Year bring joy and new opportunities for Armenia, its residents, and every Armenian around the world.
Management and Fellows of Policy Forum Armenia