Thursday, June 10, 2010

Regime has its own "NGO's"

Thanks to Twitter, I heard about a recent conference/event Civilitas had on NGO's and civil society organizations in Armenia. A couple of the tweets* specifically caught my eye, so I've been looking around - not only were the tweets confirmed, but I found some more very interesting stuff...

The tweets led me to the Civilitas site, which has a very toned down article on what sounds like was quite an interesting and even fiery conversation. The tweets also led me to google some of the speakers who made interesting comments, including Stepan Danielyan from the Partnership for Democracy. That let me this article on a1plus, which confirmed the tweets:
According to Stepan Danielyan, the authorities are often the ones creating NGOs to use them against the society and those NGOs are the ones receiving 80% of grants in Armenia.
Writer, publicist Marine Petrosyan noted that the society must gain from NGOs, but in Armenia it is the opposite. The NGOs are legitimized by the authorities, the government and, more often, from abroad.

Now, this reminded me of a blog post I did on a supposed NGO called Free Society Institute, one which has been an "observer" in elections in Armenia of late and has called them legal and up to normal standards; a member of which once threatened physical violence against a journalist at a polling station; one which I in fact tried to contact as I wanted more information about them, especially as I had read and heard that they were actually just a fake NGO set up by the regime - they never wrote me back, they still haven't.

Civilitas has started a new initiative in trying to catalogue and connect NGOs, which is a great idea. Included in the catalogue, as of two or weeks ago, is this Free Society Institute, and the contact email is, which is exactly the same email I wrote to back in January - the email is valid now as it was then. I guess they just didn't want to write back.

What's ironic is that Civilitas itself (in my opinion) is one of these organizations - claiming to be something it is not. I won't belabor the point as I have made my opinions and reasoning clear in past blog posts. But here's the short of it: How do you talk of Civil Society, without talking about Human Rights, and how do you talk about Human Rights if you don't address free speech and press? And as Amnesty International put in a recent Tweet, "Human rights must be at the centre of efforts to eradicate poverty."

Why would the regime do such things? Well, it allows them to control not only grant finances coming in to the country, but also allows them to guide and limit what directions are taken and progress (if any) is made. Not to mention that having so many NGO's, some trustworthy some not, makes it difficult for the average Armenian citizen to tease out the true ones from the bunch - thus, in effect, drowning them all out, encouraging feelings of distrust, disinterest and disengagement on the part of citizens towards NGOs, rather than the opposite. They've used similar strategies with misinformation and disinformation of news and events, so this is no surprise.

And as a cherry on top, I just saw that Civilitas is promoting Asbarez as a news source for the Armenian Diaspora. It doesn't get much more ARF than that in terms of publications. I suppose in return Asbarez will publicize Civilitas and promote the priorities (read 'diversionary tactics') of Civilitas over the next few years, until at least the next elections...

I wonder if Oskanyan will go on another book tour soon...

[*Addendum: The original tweets were sent out by Lara Aharonian (Lara-Aha) during the event itself]

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