Resilient Syunik: Strengthening Civil Society Organisations in ArmeniaPublished: Jan 12, 2024 Reading time: 4 minutes
The need for local non-governmental organisations is evident in the community of Sisian in the Syunik Region of Armenia. Thanks to international organisations, various programmes have been implemented in the community. However, "local NGOs are the ones who deeply understand the daily issues and needs of the community", says Hayk Ohanyan, president of Together for Communities Development.
To help the people of Sisian, we founded "Together for Communities Development" in 2022. Its creation was driven by a need to address local social problems and provide support to families affected by conflict. All of these social issues and displacement posed additional challenges for the community and the functioning of municipalities, explains Lusine Harutyunyan, the Project Coordinator. Concerned by the community's problems, Hayk and Lusine, along with their friends, established "Together for Communities Development” non-profit organisation in Sisian. In addition to social programs, their focus extends to educational, youth, and cultural-oriented events as well.
Our "Partnerships for Syunik – Enhanced Community-Based Social Service" project holds great significance for us. The project plays a vital role in our growth. As a newly developed organisation, we find ourselves like new students facing barriers despite our organisational inexperience. While Lusine and Hayk have over 10 years of experience as NGO sector specialists, they acknowledge that, as an NGO, they are navigating new territory.
Partnership Arch is one of the oldest NGOs operating in Syunik. Established in 1992 by French Armenians, the organisation initially emerged to aid individuals affected by the Karabakh movement in the 90s. The Goris-based NGO officially obtained legal status in 2002. For over thirty years, the organisation has primarily concentrated on food provision programmes for older and socially vulnerable people. Through their work with older people and a deep understanding of their daily challenges, Partnership Arch recognised that the food programme alone is insufficient to tackle the problems faced by older people. Consequently, they have expanded their focus to include providing entertainment and care services as well.
Karine Avetisyan, President of the Partnership Arch, emphasises that their years of experience have enabled them to swiftly assess and identify the most vulnerable groups for specific assistance. The training we have provided has not only imparted knowledge but also served as a means of empowering new employees.
In September, during the displacement from Nagorno-Karabakh, the Partnership Arch played a crucial role by providing temporary shelter for older adults until they either recovered in the hospital or found new accommodation. This shelter became a gathering place for the most vulnerable displaced individuals during a challenging period for all Armenians. Conversations with Karine often revolve around the fates of the older people whom she and her team hosted under the same roof. Their difficult circumstances prompted ongoing updates from Karine regarding their stay and health. As she goes through pictures one by one, she recalls and shares details about each person who was accommodated, providing insight into their current situations and whereabouts after the displacement.
The EU-funded "Partnerships for Syunik – Enhanced Community-Based Social Service" project aims to strengthen local civil society organisations. At the same time, it aims to promote practical cooperation between them and local governmental bodies to jointly develop sustainable mechanisms for participatory planning and provision of community-based social services. Within the framework of this project, a series of training such as project Social services' Proposal Development, Beneficiaries and Stakeholders Engagement, Strategic Communication, Advocacy, and Political Dialogue have already been conducted for 15 NGOs.
EU-funded "Partnerships for Syunik – Enhanced Community-Based Social Service" project is implemented by People in Need in partnership with WINNET Goris Development Foundation and Armenian Caritas.
The Resilient Syunik Team Europe initiative is the joint undertaking of the European Union, the European Investment Bank and EU Member states Austria, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden, with Switzerland also joining as an external partner. The main objective of this initiative is to contribute to the sustainable socioeconomic and institutional development of the Syunik region in line with local development priorities. The initiative has an approximate five-year budget of €116 million, which may be increased.