YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenian foreign minister Vartan Oskanian on Nov. 18 addressed the board of trustees of the Hayastan pan-Armenian Fund ahead of the annual November 22 telethon. Below is the text of his address, provided by the foreign ministry of Armenia.
“Dear Friends, it’s a pleasure to be here, again, with you on the eve of the 10th Armenia Fund telethon.
As I look around this room, I see the faces of an unwavering Diaspora supportive of an Armenia and Karabakh that are growing and developing. Today, you have welcomed the third elected President of Nagorno Karabakh. How improbable such a sentence would have sounded just a decade ago. Today, it is a welcome and momentous fact. And one that places a large obligation on us.
You are also welcoming a new Executive Director of the Armenia Fund, ready to take on Armenia’s and Karabakh’s new challenges — a Diasporan who has chosen to live in Armenia, and who will combine the best of Armenia’s spirit and Diaspora’s know-how. In a sense, he represents that conscious willingness to take on this great responsibility that has been placed on our generation.
I’ve always thought the Los Angeles audience is the hardest audience to address, because despite the fact that you are half a world away from Armenia, between television and frequent visitors and shared programs and of course, a large community from Armenia , you are in close contact and have strong opinions. I want to tell you that whatever goes on in Armenia, during this election year, or any time, whatever complaints and accusations are heard, whatever disappointmen’s are felt, whatever shortfalls and frustrations are recorded, don’t dismiss the achievemen’s.
Despite the most dire, most restrictive, most acute social and economic conditions, to everyone’s great astonishment, not only have we survived, but we competed with our neighbors, and, in many areas, we came out ahead of them. Armenian statehood is consolidated. We are on the path of democracy. We do have an economy that is consistently rated open and liberal. Each of these is a source of pride.
Of course, there are some who see only these successes and achievemen’s, paying only lip service to the deficiencies. Others don’t want and have not wanted to see anything positive, stressing only the deficiencies, the mistakes and the inadequacies. One thing is certain:
Our achievemen’s, as well our failures, we are responsible for ‘s all of us, together. We have inherited them, together, and like it or not, they will serve as the basis of the agenda we develop together for our country’s development in the next period of our history. Just as the successes of today are built on the audacious reforms that began yesterday, at the same time, the ills that we all see would be much easier to eliminate if it were not for the grave shortcomings and mistakes of those first years. In other words, all that we have today ‘s good and bad, positive and negative, hopeful and discouraging ‘s are the consequence of all that our leaders have done since the beginning of our statehood.
Governmen’s come and go, but the country, the people will continue to live and prosper by building on what we have today. We have worked hard to reach this day. We must work hard to consolidate what we have and harder still to go forward. Don’t underestimate the wisdom and the determination of the Armenian people. They know this is not the time to squander our hard-earned stability for short-term political gain.
In other words, dear friends, you should neither take what we have for granted nor be satisfied with it. Our people deserve credit for what they have endured and at the same time, they deserve better. Most of all, do not underestimate your role in sustaining and deepening these great accomplishmen’s. The telethons have become a public confirmation of the inextricable role of the Diaspora in Armenia and Karabakh and an affirmation of our shared historic opportunity to have a lasting strategic impact on a future of our own making.
I’ve said before our resources are not under the earth, they’re around the earth. Our people have always inhabited lands that extend beyond our borders. Diaspora has expanded the geographic reach of our nation.
Today, for the first time in history, there is an inarguable conflation of interests between Armenia and Diaspora: Armenia wants stability, democracy and prosperity. The Diaspora needs a stable, democratic and prosperous Armenia through which it can see and assure its own viability and reproductivity. The young generation’s Armenian identity is tied not just to Armenia, but to a democratic and prosperous Armenia.
The Diaspora must participate in the creation of such an Armenia, and do this wholeheartedly and completely — not with conditional or partial use of its potential, but rally all its resources, realizing that it is doing so for its own survival — as well as Armenia’s.
Indeed, an independent Armenia and Karabakh offer the Diaspora new ways to engage. The Diaspora’s generosity is not new. Diaspora’s charitable and philanthropic giving predates Armenia’s independence. So, with independence, it was expected that this kind of engagement would continue in even more significant ways.
The telethon is one of those significant new ways and it is not mere coincidence that it was born here in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is a different Diaspora. It is the transformed Diaspora. If Lvov and Calcutta were the 10th century Diaspora, and Aleppo and Beirut and Tehran gave birth to the 20th century Diaspora, then Los Angeles is the Diaspora of the 3d millennium, the 21st century. Here, different backgrounds, different histories, different languages even, intersect, family and professional networks overlap, and all this together create a new Diaspora for a new Armenia. Today Los Angeles means an extension of the homeland ‘s not a permanent dislocation, not a destructive dispersion, but life at a distance, that can even be beneficial.
The Diaspora’s engagement has been extremely beneficial. But in its current form, it does not bring long-term sustainability. Individual schools repaired, health care centers receiving heat and water, water pumps being installed here and community centers refurbished there ‘s each generous, but without the impact that partnership would bring.
Karabakh’s Martakert region was the first place where the Armenia Fund looked at comprehensive, integrated development. With this telethon, we will be broadening this program throughout Karabakh and Armenia.
So, just as you built a road to bring Yerevan closer to Stepanakert, now we will bring drinking water to homes so that ten-year-olds can carry their books home from school, instead of pails of water. And we will do this together.
We will bring irrigation water to villages so that a family’s income depends on their own hard work and not on the whims of a changing climate. And we will do this together.
We will build roads because without roads, there is no access to markets and without markets, there isn’t sufficient income to pay for water or electricity. And we will do this together.
We will bring gas to Armenia’s villages so that the next generation doesn’t think that forests exist solely to provide firewood.
We will work with Armenia’s business community to bring microfinancing to the grandmothers who are willing to knit when they’re not milking and we will do this together.
We will bring Armenian television to villages so that Azerbaijani TV is not their window to the world. And we will do this together.
We will renovate schools and train teachers so that children will have a future.
We will bring hope and jobs to villages and fathers and uncles back home. And we will do this together.
What is this program? It is Nation building ‘s One village at a time. It is a first effort to institutionally combine our huge resources ‘s Armenia and Diaspora ‘s and together impact and accelerate Armenia’s and Karabakh’s even development, thus assuring our security and stability. And we can only do this together.