Armenia Diaspora Conference III: Oskanian says poverty eradication begins today

Sounding as much like a Head of State as Armenia’s Foreign Minister, Vartan Oskanian today called on Diaspora to be “apostles” for a program spearheaded through the Foreign Ministry that would erase poverty in Armenia’s villages by 2020.

When the main session of the Third Armenia-Diaspora Conference convened (albeit an hour later than scheduled), the minister followed introductory comments by Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan and other members of the Government to bring attention to an issue everyone knows, but not enough have addressed:

Capital gain in the capital has not spread to the larger population of the republic.

In introducing a 112-page two-language volume “Rural Poverty Eradication”, Oskanian told several hundred of the 1,985 registered participants that: “This (roundtable meeting) is the beginning of this program”.

Endorsements for the minister’s initiative (first announced in July) came also from international aid agencies including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

New York businessman Garo Armen, whose Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) became a model for the Government’s new plan, praised Armenia for its “outstanding job, with its limited resources”, but called on his fellow Diaspora to rally behind the Foreign Minister’s appeal.

For his part, Oskanian said the Rural Poverty Eradication program offers a chance for “every Armenian to participate”, and challenged the “2000 apostles” (conference attendees) to engage their communities, if even “one school, one classroom, one desk” at a time.

Oskanian said that if Diaspora could contribute about $20 million, the plan – initially aimed at 50 villages – could stretch much further.

His impassioned report that the 5-year initial phase has already found 30 fixed sponsors brought applause from the crowd gathered in the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Cultural Complex.

As introduced in the booklet, the RPE program would address the condition that “natural economic and social activity is nonexistent in a large number of communities.”

The program promises to “offer supplementary support in the form of comprehensive infrastructure and economic assistance” to “push (villages) out of poverty and towards sustainability and self-reliance.”

ArmeniaNow reporter Gayane Abrahamyan contributed to this report.