YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL)–The Armenia-Diaspora Conference opened at Yerevan’s Sports Complex on September 22. About 1,200 representatives of Armenian communities from 50 countries of the world have arrived in Armenia to participate in this first nationwide forum. The Diaspora is represented by politicians–cultural workers–scientists–clergymen and others.
In the words of President Robert Kocharian–the conference should "mark the beginning of a new–higher level of organization of the world’s Armenia’s," reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
We need not only to ascertain our priorities in the national-political–economic–scientific–health–cultural–information and other areas–but also to put the emphasis on developing comprehensive programs for their implementation," Kocharian told the delegates.
He described the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Armenia’s economic development as the chief "pan-national objectives" of the world’s estimated eight million Armenia’s–most of them living outside their historical homeland.
We are meeting the new millennium with numerous unresolved national problems and concerns," said parliament speaker Karen Demirchian who presided over the gathering.
A synchronized translation of Armenian speeches into English–French–Russian and Spanish was available for Diaspora delegates–reflecting the large geographical span of the communities they represent. The main Armenian communities abroad are concentrated in the United States–Russia–France–the Middle East and South America.
The participants will split into six different groups on Thursday to focus on specific issues of concern. The conference is expected to adopt two statemen’s: one of a general character and another on Nagorno-Karabakh.
Kocharian also stressed that cooperation does not imply re-organization of the already existing structures–but these structures must get actively involved in this process. Among the specific trends of further activities the president mentioned:
*the establishment of a common information field. The first step has already been performed as satellite TV broadcasts from Armenia for diaspora have started.
*a Development Agency–aimed at stimulating the economic activity in Armenia–in particular–by the Armenia’s living abroad. "I have kept and will keep to say that the diasporian Armenia’s must have economic interests in Armenia," the President said.
*holding of regular cultural and sporting events–the Pan Armenian Games being a recent very successful example.
*the establishment of a youth center in Armenia to operate on a regular basis. This will enable thousands of young Armenia’s to visit the Homeland every year. Speeches were also delivered by Catholicosal Locum Tenens Arch. Nerses Pozapalian and His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia.
Aram I noted in his speech that neither Armenia’should dictate to the Diaspora nor vica versa while the two ought to decide what to do jointly.
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukassian said that the victory in the Karabakh war would have been impossible to gain without the contributions to it made by all the sections of the Armenian nation. Ghoukassian attached importance to victories in peacetime–i.e. to ensure economic improvemen’s in Artsakh.
The conference is to be closed on September 23. Besides the plenary sessions–it will include the following Discussion Groups:
*Armenia – Diaspora Institutional Links
*Lobbying and Advocacy
*Armenia – Diaspora Cultural and Social Issues
*Philanthropy: Accomplishmen’s–Issues and Prospects
*Information & Communication
*Economic Development: Outlook and Diaspora’s Role
In a Noyan Tapan interview Glendale College Professor Levon Marashlian–who is also attending the Armenia-Diaspora conference in Yerevan referred to the conference’s key role in establishing durable and long-term ties between all parts of Armenia and its Diaspora. It is important for Diasporan fragmen’s–whether parties or movemen’s–to form the warmest atmosphere in their Motherland after having stayed in disconnection for so long. This is what justifies the enthusiasm that emerged among the communities in the Diaspora immediately after the idea of holding a nationwide forum was declared.
Marashlian described it as desirable that this forum should set up permanent structures to develop and submit to subsequent ideas for consideration. That is the only means of solving most vital problems of today.