The Future of Armenia cannot happen without its Diaspora. On the other hand, we cannot have a strong Diaspora worldwide without a strong Armenia. The transformation of the Diaspora-Armenia relations is vital since we need to strive for mutual, two-way partnerships.
The Future Armenian initiative needs to engage as many young and talented people as possible. We need to see their thoughts, see how they envision the future, and their solutions to some critical issues.
The Future Armenian initiative was born as a result of the Artsakh war. Still, it existed before that, in the form of Armenia 2041, which envisioned various projects including the creation of an investment fund that would enable substantial investment flows into Armenia. The war put all those plans on hold. And as a result, brought us to realize the need for a national vision for the future. This vision is not supposed to be the state’s, one company’s, or one individual’s vision, rather a national, all-Armenian vision for the future of the global nation.
After a long process of consulting with wider circles of the initiative, 15 goals were set, and the initiative was launched at the end of April. Like every campaign, this one has a start date and will have an end date. And we aim to get out of the initiative with a solid plan of action and a clearer vision of the future for our nation.
Armenia is not the only country with a diaspora. And we can indeed look at other examples and historically successful cases of state-diaspora relations, including certain Armenian cases. After the war, one thing is sure: the Armenia-Diaspora relations surely need to be revisited, the roles each one has would need to be restated and transformed. Armenia as a state and as a society should change its views towards the Diaspora, and the Diaspora in its turn, be it individuals or organizations/institutions, should redefine the support they give to Armenia: why and who they support, and what’s the vision towards which they support.
In the 21st century reality, it is no longer important where you live geographically versus where you belong. It should not matter where you live unless you define yourself as an Armenian; you need to have the right, together with the responsibility, to participate in the decisions of the Armenian future.
Armenian Diaspora is a tremendous tool, with so many talents and knowledge, and we can do so much more than just send money. In the meantime, Armenia has so many issues that are impossible to be handled single-handedly.
We need a strong Diaspora minister, someone equal to the Defense Minister, who will represent and put bridges with the Diaspora. It’s time we bring down the wall that has been built between Armenia and the Diaspora. We need to create a strategy of governance that will work for the future of Armenia-Diaspora relations.
We cannot do things without the government. The volume of the issues that we face cannot be tackled by a single party, neither by the government alone nor by the society or the diaspora alone. We need to come together.
We face institutional issues. Our institutions do not function properly. State-building is a vital mission we all need to work for. And therefore, the question posed is not whether we want or need to work with the government; it is how we do it and the mechanisms that will help us.
Building trust between Armenia and the Diaspora is the cornerstone here. Governments have much to do with trust-building. However, we do not go into politics since governments come and go, and the nation and the land remain.
To enable Diaspora Armenians to participate in the Armenian state affairs, all Armenians need to obtain Armenian citizenship. This will be the first step towards building trust with the Diaspora. Citizenship is not merely a paper; it is an impetus for many to have a reason to spend their holidays in Armenia, to spend their time and money in Armenia, and maybe even settle down.
As a further step, transparency of funds that the Diasporan money goes to will create a trust that does not breach.
We need to gather the Armenian talents worldwide to help us find paths and tackle issues that will enhance our independence, especially in the energy sector, that will help us stand on our feet.
Why should the Diaspora care – are there other incentives than the mere patriotic emotional grounds? In this sense, the initiative’s mission is to deliver the message that without a strong state, we are nobody; the Diaspora is strong when the state is strong.
First and foremost, we should have a vision for Armenia’s future, and the Diaspora should be a big part of this discourse. Secondly, each ministry should have an advisory board made up of diaspora representatives at the ministerial level. On the civil society level, we have a positive progression – Diaspora often gets into direct contact with NGOs and other organizations to help financially or otherwise. On the average social level, there need to be many opportunities for the Armenian youth to come to Armenia, build those trust relationships, and create their world in Armenia. This would be the best way for the Diaspora to get interested and involved in Armenia.