Monday, March 26, 2007

Demonstration cut short...

The idea is to create a concerned citizenry- one which is aware of what is going on its country, and voices its concerns because it recognizes its right and responsibility to play an active role. The idea is growing momentum as evidenced by the fact that attendance at Sunday's Sksela/Transparency organized demonstration was higher than ever.

The 'cause celebre' of this particular demonstration? The illegal construction happening in downtown Yerevan and the unconstitutional eviction of people from their homes in order to make way for said construction.

Great article about the demonstration...I wish you could all read Armenian:

However, just a few blocks short of reaching the Mayor's office (the final destination of the petition which was signed by hundreds), the march was cut short as the following, highly unexpected, news became public:

[02:01 pm] 25 March, 2007

Today Prime
Minister of the Republic of Armenia, head of the Republican Party of
Armenia Andranik Margaryan died of heart attack.
What does this mean?

YEREVAN, March 26 (RIA Novosti) - Armenian President Robert Kocharyan has accepted the government’s resignation following the death of Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan, a government spokesman said Monday.

PM Markaryan, 55, the leader of the Republican Party, part of a ruling coalition, died of a heart attack March 25.

“The head of state has directed Cabinet members to continue with their duties until a new Cabinet of Ministers is formed,” the spokesman said.

Under Armenia’s Constitution, the president can accept the government’s resignation if the post of prime minister becomes vacant for any reason.

A new prime minister is to be appointed within 10 days, while a new government is to be formed within 20 days following the prime minister’s appointment.

And so, the opportunity arises to appoint a new Prime Minister and government just one and half months away from Parliamentary interesting new chapter of Armenian politics is sure to unfold right before our eyes.

Skeptics will likely denounce the elections as entirely superflous at this point. Let's just let the new predetermined government assemble itself and get it over with, without going through all the symbolic motions and pretending that the public actually has some say in the whole thing...

Ironically, things come full circle. Sksela: Armenia needs you.

Cultural Diplomacy

Interesting website. "The think tank for everyday democracy"- DEMOS' thoughts on "cultural diplomacy":

Cultural Diplomacy argues that the huge global reach and potential of Britain’s world class artistic and cultural assets – from Razorlight to the Royal Ballet - should be at the heart of government relationship building abroad.

Cultural Diplomacy argues that, more than ever before, culture has a vital role to play in international relations. This stems from the wider, connective and human values that culture has: culture is both the means by which we come to understand others, and an aspect of life with innate worth that we enjoy and seek out. Cultural enables us to appreciate points of commonality and, where there are differences, to understand the motivations and humanity that underlie them.

As identity politics exert an increasing influence on domestic and international exchanges, culture is therefore a critical forum for negotiation and a medium of exchange in finding shared solutions. Cultural contact provides a forum for unofficial political relationship-building: it keeps open negotiating channels with countries where political connections are in jeopardy, and helps to recalibrate relationships for changing times with emerging powers such as India and China. In the future, alliances are just as likely to be forged along lines of cultural understanding as they are on
economic or geographic ones.

However, culture should not be used as a tool of public diplomacy. The value of cultural activity comes precisely from its independence, its freedom and the fact that it represents and connects people, rather than necessarily governments or policy positions. Cultural Institutions and others in the cultural sector must not only retain their independence, but also be brought more into the policy-making process.

A little olive branch, but not a cross

It should be spelled "Akh-Tamar"

Turkey fixes Armenian church as gesture

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer

AKDAMAR ISLAND, Turkey - An ancient Armenian church, perched on a rocky island in a vast lake, has become a modern symbol of the divisions and fitful efforts at reconciliation between Turks and Armenians whose history of bloodshed drives their troubled relationship.

The Akdamar church, one of the most precious remnants of Armenian culture 1,000 years ago, deteriorated over the last century, a victim of neglect after Turks carried out mass killings of Armenians as the Ottoman Empire crumbled around the time of World War I. Rainwater seeped through the collapsed, conical dome, treasure-hunters dug up the basalt floor, and shepherds took potshots with rifles at the facade.


Next week, the church will showcase Turkey's tentative steps to improving ties with its ethnic Armenian minority, as well as neighboring Armenia. Turkey completed a $1.5 million restoration of the sandstone building, and invited Armenian officials to a ceremony there on March 29 to mark what Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has called a "positive" message.


"A positive sign and a move on the part of Turkey ...would be the opening of the border with Armenia and establishment of diplomatic relations," the news agency Armenpress quoted Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian as saying this week. He said the Armenian delegation could reach the church by
land in just a few hours if the border were open, but instead will have to fly to Istanbul, and then take another flight back toward the Armenian border.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 during a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a Muslim ally of Ankara. The move hurt the economy of tiny, landlocked Armenia. Turkey also lobbied against a proposed U.S. congressional resolution that would recognize the killings of Armenians in the last century as genocide. Some of Turkey's 65,000 Armenian Orthdox Christians say they endure harassment in Turkey, which has an overwhelmingly Muslim population.

Hrant Dink, the ethnic Armenian journalist murdered in Istanbul in January, was apparently targeted by nationalists for his commentaries on minority rights and free expression.

Patriarch Mesrob II, the spiritual head of the Armenian Orthodox community in Turkey, has asked the government to mount a cross on top of the church, which used to have one, and to allow periodic eligious services there.

The government has yet to respond, but placement of a cross could be sensitive for Erdogan, who plans to attend the inauguration ceremony, and his Islamic-rooted government. The symbolism could upset some Muslims, and Turkey's powerful military, might regard it as a concession to Armenia and the Armenian diaspora.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


From Well-Having to Well Being
Nathan Gardels, Fall 2000

To raise the notion of frugality in the midst of the greatest consumer boom in economic history may seem wildly out of place. But if globalization only half succeeds in lifting many more millions into the middle class in this century, by necessity frugality will become a virtue.


The technological promise that we can have our cake and eat it too may well substitute for self-limitation up to a certain threshold. In the end, however, the expectation that some kind of planetary liposuction will save us from ourselves can be no substitute for a lean ethos that emphasizes the art of living over the ideology of consumerism.

Clearly, the answer is not technology but a cultural transformation that redefines wealth as well-being instead of well-having. The alternative of frugality does not mean poverty. It means living intelligently instead of wastefully as if there were no tomorrow, as if the polar icecap would never melt no matter how hot the fevered pitch of industrialized desire...
Proper Education
Eric Prydz, Winter 2006

Saturday, March 24, 2007

NPQ | What set of policies in the advanced countries can make globalization work?

Stiglitz | The prescription for making globalization work is what is generally called “the Scandinavian model.” That means high levels of investment in education, research and technology plus a strong safety net. That, of course, also entails, as in the Scandinavian countries, a highly progressive income tax.

Far from making these countries less competitive, it has made them more so. Though it may seem a contradiction to conservative ideologues who think cutting taxes is the answer to everything, the fact is that people are more willing to take entrepreneurial risks if they can count on a safety net and if they have the training to be innovative.

From "Making Globalization Work" NPQ Winter 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

It continues :)

I'll just copy and paste from Onnik's report from Transparency International's blog for now since he summed it up so extremely well. Barring any further internet and technical difficulties, my video footage from the event will be up soon...

It’s been included in the Oxford English Dictionary since 2004, but it’s unlikely that more than a handful of people in Armenia know what a flash mob is. It’s even less likely that anybody actually cares, but nonetheless, history was made in Yerevan today when Sksel a, an informal grouping of civil society activists working to activate youth in time for the May parliamentary election, organized Armenia’s first ever flash mob.

In modern usage, flash mob describes a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, do something unusual for a brief period of time, and then quickly disperse. They are usually organized with the help of the Internet or other communications networks.

The term has also been applied to distributed mobs, who use similar means to coordinate sudden large scale simultaneous actions in multiple locations. An example of such an action is the widespread use of mobile phones in the 2005 civil unrest in France to coordinate widespread social disruption.

Usually, the organizers of such events don’t tell participants what exactly will happen and why, and today’s event was no exception. Apart from a non-descriptive advert posted on various blogs such as this one, no other details were announced prior to the
event. Even so, after two previously successful events, enough interest was aroused to attract around 150-200 young Armenians to turn up at the park opposite Yerevan’s Conservatory.

Of course, most of those attending were also present at Sksel a’s Barekendan and Կես կատակ կես լուրջ ցուՅցահանդես events, but for Armenia even this is impressive given the level of apathy and non-involvement in society. However, when interviewed by one journalist, a 15-year-old girl said she had attended all three events so far, but wasn’t too sure what this one was hoping to achieve. Still, perhaps that’s not too surprising.

Standing at the corner of each intersection leading into the roundabout opposite Yerevan’s Opera House, as well as circling the grassy area in its center, each participant stood with a newspaper reading separate articles of their choice out aloud. Also wearing hats made out of newspapers, the sight and sound of that alone was surreal and unexpected enough for Armenia even in this day and age.

As were leaflets handed out asking “are you satisfied with yourself, or with the person next to you?,” “are you guilty?,” and “are you afraid, or don’t you care?”

Tamar Palandjian, Youth Program Coordinator at the Civil Society Institute (CSI) says that the purpose of the event was straightforward enough. Under banners that asked “Shall We Read?” the event was aimed at encouraging the population to read newspapers. With all of the television stations under direct or indirect government
, the only plurality of opinion and diversity of information can be found in the print media.

Even so, newspaper circulation remains low with actual readership even lower, and even the most popular of papers can publish only a few thousand copies each day. Nevertheless, if the purpose of the event was to get people to take interest in the press, then the flash mob achieved its goal. Cars and public transport passing by stopped to take copies of the newspapers participants were handing out until the police asked the organizers to stop in case traffic was disrupted.

Once again, there were even a few members of the Diaspora in attendance, including representatives of two significant organizations albeit there in a personal capacity, and most observers were overall impressed with the new approaches taken by Sksel a with regards to activating society, and in particular youth. However, many still remain unsure as to where Sksel a is heading, and whether it’s ultimate goal is clear enough.

One participant attending for the first time, for example, said that she wanted to be involved with something, but wasn’t entirely sure what. Still, such events might help direct young Armenians in that sense, and it was interesting to see that after the initial action itself, participants were encouraged to cut out those articles they found most interesting to paste to a large board erected in the park.

“They’re making their own newspaper,” remarked one young Armenian from the Diaspora. “I wonder what it says?”

More events are planned in the very near future.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'Global Civil Society'

"As major new challenges like climate change and escalating religious conflict threaten our common future, people from around the world are coming together to take global politics into their own hands. (Our name means "Voice" or "Song" in several languages including Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, Nepalese, Dari, Turkish, and Bosnian) is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. Our aim is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people -- and not just political elites and unaccountable corporations -- shape global decisions. members are taking action for a more just and peaceful world and a vision of globalization with a human face."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

World Press Photo of the Year 2006

Do you remember last summer?


On March 4th Sksela organized a "Half-silly/Half-serious" public exhibition.

The goal of this event was to transform the park surrounding Komitas’ statue near the Opera into an enclosed environment, which contained many opportunities to provoke thought. The circle was physically divided in to two sections: one half represented things satirical and comedic, while the other half presented facts about Armenia’s reality today.

For example, on the “serious” side an exhibition of photojournalistic photos of Armenia was set up, while on the “silly” side blank pages were put up with markers- allowing participants to write whatever they wanted. On the “serious” side an information booth was set up where publications and information packets from reputable NGOs and IOs were distributed, while on the “silly” side a storyteller read from a book of Armenian fairy tales. On the “serious” side a large exhibition of critical recent news articles was set up, while on the “silly” side satirical headlines were exhibited. On the “serious side” colored signs boldly declared positive civic values (“honesty” “integrity” “hard work” “education” “responsibility”) while the “silly” side hosted artificial values (“materialism”, “cheating”). All the while, alternative and progressive music with messages of action echoed through the entire area.

All in all, the elements inside the “Half-silly/Half-serious Exhibition” were intended to engage participants and raise questions about whether they are satisfied with the reality around them.

In the end however...perhaps this quote by Milan Kundera, one of my favorite writers, which Bella found, summarizes everything best:

"Circle dancing is magic. It speaks to us through the millennia from the depths of human memory.

Madame Raphael had cut the picture out of the magazine and would stare at it and dream. She too longed to dance in a ring. All her life she had looked for a group of people she could hold hands with and dance with in a ring.

First she looked for them in the Methodist Church (her father was a religious fanatic), then in the Communist Party, then among the Trotskyites, then in the anti-abortion movement (A child has a right to life!), then in the pro-abortion movement (A woman has a right to her body!); she looked for them among the Marxists, the psychoanalysts, and the structuralists; she looked for them in Lenin, Zen Buddhism, Mao Tse-tung, yogis, the nouveau roman, Brechtian theater, the theater of panic; and finally she hoped she could at least become one with her students, which meant she always forced them to think and say exactly what she thought and said, and together they formed a single body and a single soul, a single ring and a single dance".

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

changing the world, one letter at a time it egotistic to think i had something to do with this ;-)
POSTED: 0206 GMT (1006 HKT), March 11, 2007


• NEW: Chirac urges nation to reject "extremism, racism, anti-Semitism...rejection"
• NEW: Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen calls Chirac departure "a great joy"
• NEW: Chirac says he would have liked to have modernized France more rapidly
Nicolas Sarkozy, Segolene Royal, Francois Bayrou lead contenders for president

PARIS, France (Reuters) -- President Jacques Chirac announced on Sunday he would not seek re-election next month after 45 years in frontline politics and made a final appeal to French voters to shun extremism.

Chirac, 74, has served as head of state since 1995 and leaves behind a checkered record that consists as much of symbolic gestures as concrete policies.

This article is first on this list of "Top Stories" in the Latest News section of CNN international's home-page and was reported among the headlines of World News as I watched this morning.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Letter to CNN

After days of bitching to my roomate and anyone else who will listen, I tried complaining directly to the source.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am disappointed with the complete lack of coverage regarding the French presidential elections which are now almost ONE-month away.

Unfortunately, I could fathom why domestic US CNN may not carry much content on anything not of direct interest to the general American public. However, as a US citizen living and working abroad, I watch CNN INTERNATIONAL frequently and am very disappointed to have seen not one segment or report on this critical election happening in a very important EU state.

Instead, CNN International IS saturated with news of the US's 2008 election...still TWENTY-ONE months away.

My French friends tell me that their country is in the midst of a serious identity crisis and these elections could prove pivotal for the future.

As Chirac held the post of Prime Minister and then Mayor of Paris before taking Presidential office, my friends in their 20s have not yet lived a day when Jacques Chirac was not a dominant figure in political life. This is France's first chance in over two decades to have a change in leadership.

My friends also describe candidate Sarkozy as "the French George Bush." In the meantime candidate Bayrou labels himself as the French version of a Bill Clinton or a Tony Blair.

If even these comparisons aren't enough to make our American-centric news agencies pay some attention, I'm not sure what is.

If CNN International truly intends to report global news, I implore you to report much more about elections happening outside the US.

Thank you.

Sent today via Send one, it's fun.

In the meantime, here's at least one article worth reading about France's ignored Presidential race.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Dear Diaspora,

Take Action! Become an Election Observer in May

The 2007 Parliamentary Election
scheduled for 12 May is considered critical to the process of democratization in Armenia.

Some even consider that the election is the most important parliamentary vote in Armenia’s recent 15-year history as an independent nation. However, international observers have continually reported that elections in Armenia fail to meet international standards.

When asked to prioritize possible solutions to improve the situation in the country, the Center for Regional Development/Transparency International Armenia’s
2006 Corruption Perceptions Survey identified that most respondents pointed to the necessity of ensuring free and fair elections.
As more and more ethnic Armenians living in the Diaspora connect with the modern-day Republic, what can a citizen of another country do to help make the coming election in May free and fair for the citizens of this country?

Take Action! Become an ELECTION OBSERVER this Spring!

It’s Your Choice, the largest domestic election observation organization in the Republic of Armenia, and the Center for Regional Development / Transparency International Armenia invite Armenians from abroad to take part in this critical and historical event. Communities in the Diaspora are particularly encouraged to send representatives to monitor the conduct of the vote.

• Training and official certification will be provided by IYC.

• Observers will receive preparation packets on how the process works ahead of Election Day, and checklists to follow at the polling stations they can monitor on 12 May.
• Small stipend for food on Election Day provided by IYC.

• Observers must be able to read and speak Armenian or Russian.
• Observers must be non-partisan.
• Register at least 25 days in advance by email at
• Arrive in Armenia by 2 May 2007.

For Armenians from the Diaspora living outside of Armenia, we regret that It’s Your Choice and CRD/TI Armenia are unable to contribute to the cost of visas, flights or accommodation. However, information on locating affordable accommodation in Armenia is available on request. Contact IYC for more details at

Saturday, March 03, 2007




Rebellious Diplomat Finds Work as Envoy of the Voiceless


GUILT is not a word that most diplomats would choose to sum up their careers, but Carne Ross uses just that as he looks back at much of his work over 15 years. Guilt, frustration and anger.

Until about two years ago, this 40-year-old with closely cropped hair had a promising career ahead of him in the most prestigious ministry in British government, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. By his 30s, he had done foreign service in Germany and Afghanistan and held a senior post in the British delegation at the United Nations Security Council, where he was responsible for Iraq policy.

He seemed headed toward an ambassadorship as a member of the elite, fast stream of the Foreign Office, followed by a comfortable retirement.

But things fell apart in the most public fashion, unusual among the tight-lipped mandarins of Britain’s foreign service.

Unhappy with American and British claims that Iraq was developing unconventional weapons, Mr. Ross testified in June 2004 at an official inquiry into the British government’s use of intelligence. Two months later, convinced he could no longer work in the foreign service, he resigned. Since then he has written many articles criticizing the American and British rationale for going to war.

But it is his broad critique of the way international diplomacy is conducted that has ruffled feathers the most.

In a book released in April, “Independent Diplomat: Dispatches From an Unaccountable Elite,” he takes the foreign service to task. He says it routinely made “bad decisions in closed rooms” and acted “with little or no consultation of the people in whose name those decisions are made.”

The British Foreign Office scrutinized the book before publication to see if it breached the Official Secrets Act. It deleted some parts and concluded that Mr. Ross “risks damaging the credibility and morale of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the relationship of confidence and trust within the government,” according to a statement later released to the news media.

MR. ROSS seems to relish the controversy. The rupture of his career over Iraq, he says, made him realize that much of what he did in the foreign service gave scant thought to the people he was affecting, and that realization gave rise to his anger.

“Diplomacy is too closed a box,” Mr. Ross said, dominated as it is by the big powers on the United Nations Security Council. Its permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — create policies without insight into their impact, Mr. Ross argues.

“More often than not, we took decisions with little understanding of the situation,” he said. “The people we were discussing were not present, whether it was Iraq, Palestine or the Western Sahara.”

That prompted to him to find a way to help those countries and regions he considered to be excluded from the world of international diplomacy.

The result is a nonprofit agency called Independent Diplomat, like his book. It offers advice to inexperienced or politically marginalized regions and groups. Its motto is “a diplomatic service for those who need it most,” a phrase that some former colleagues derided, he said.

Full article here.

Reminds me of Confessions of an Economic Hitman and Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and its Discontents, among others.

I wonder if these critiques and exposés coming from insiders mean our institutions must prepare to make some changes? Or ar they just attempts by a few individuals to personally repent for what they have been a part of, while accepting that the big wheel keeps on turning.

Free Media? What's that?

Screening the Message: Ruling on Parliamentary broadcast sharpens debate about TV bias

A weekly live broadcast of questions and answers in the National Assembly has been ruled unconstitutional by Armenia’s Constitutional Court.

The court said that Public Television could not be obliged to show the four-hour broadcast because it would contravene laws separating the operation of television from government control.
Opposition politicians also criticized the ruling, but suggested that it was linked to the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 and 2008 respectively. They argue that the weekly broadcast provides one of the few opportunities for opposition parties to get their messages across to the electorate without interference from pro-government TV stations.
Public TV, known as the First Channel, plans to summarize the
question-and-answer session, rather than allow unedited broadcast, selecting the questions considered most important to the viewers.

and my favorite part:

Alexan Harutyunyan the chairman of the Public Television and Radio Council, considers the court’s ruling to be fair. He says it helps to improve the general quality of the legislation governing media by bringing it closer to conformity with European standards.