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April 20, 2011

ACNIS Examines the Arab Revolts and Their Potential Impact on the South Caucasus

Yerevan—Against the backdrop of the most recent uprisings in several countries of the Arab world, the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a policy roundtable to analyze the likelihood of these rebellions’ penetration into the countries of the South Caucasus, including Armenia. The discussants specifically looked at the preconditions of, and challenges facing, the sociopolitical processes that have caused widespread discontent in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and a number of other countries in the region, and also assessed the international response to these processes. The meeting brought together representatives from international organizations and the diplomatic community in Yerevan, leading analysts, policy specialists, and members of the press.

Welcoming the audience with opening remarks, ACNIS Director of Research Manvel Sargsian stated that the revolts in several countries of North Africa and the Arab world were a result of changes in the general situation, and specifically in terms of the growing societal role. “But the situation is virtually the same in Armenia. The society rejects the current policy and no longer believes in those promises which the authorities are attempting to pledge,” Sargsian noted.

In his intervention, Arab Studies expert and former Ambassador Davit Hovhannisyan examined the socioeconomic disparities in the Arab countries, and, according to him, this disproportion is the source of these uprisings. As indicated by Hovhannisyan, the range of economic disproportion in those countries is between 30,000 and 670,000 US dollars when it comes to annual per capita income; so, as the speaker maintained, each country has its peculiarity with respect to the development of events. The expert also pointed to three main trends by which the Arab revolts impact our region, and, as per Hovhannisyan, these are the geopolitical, ethical and psychological, and economic trends. “And the basis for these processes was the failure of the industrial projects in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere, and especially the sharp increase in prices because of the food shortage, and the second wave of the financial crisis,” Hovhannisyan underscored, also drawing attention to the growing Islamic fundamentalism which, as maintained by him, could enlarge its geographical scope.

The next speaker, Iranian Studies expert Emma Begijanyan, stated that public rage in the Arab world grew following the global economic downturn, also highlighting a very important factor: the growing divide between the society and the authorities. “Azerbaijan still is the only South Caucasus country where the Arab uprisings can have a noticeable impact because the Islamic factor in that country is fairly strong. In the case of Armenia and Georgia, however, the Armenian authorities seem to have been able to relieve the people’s anger while Georgia’s pro-western orientation and the fact that Georgian laws are more or less functioning are beneficial for that country,” Begijanyan noted. In her view, the Arab people rebelled as a result of the dire economic conditions, but because of its interests in the region, the West is trying to capitalize on the current unrest.

The presentations were followed by a series of questions and answers, and featured a lively exchange with the audience. The roundtable discussants also included former Deputy Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly, Karapet Rubinyan; governance expert Harutiun Mesropyan; chairman Armen Grigoryan of the “Democracy for Development” NGO; chairman Edward Antinyan of the Ramkavar Liberal Party of Armenia; political scientist Sergey Shakaryants; ACNIS analyst Edgar Vardanian; Haik Balanyan of the Sardarapat Movement; expert Armen Torosyan from the Heritage Party faction in the Armenian parliament; and several others. The participants discussed in particular the danger which the Mountainous Karabagh Republic (MKR) will face in the event of public unrest, the adoption of the UN Security Council resolutions, the creation of new lines of separation, and the terrible demographic situation in Armenia.

In his closing remarks, ACNIS Director of Research Manvel Sargsian informed that the agenda of the issues to be discussed next month will enable to gauge in a wholly new way Armenia’s domestic political and societal developments and the content of international approach.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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