July 17, 2003
ACNIS Hosts Roundtable on the Rights of National Minorities in Armenia
YerevanThe Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened today a specialized policy seminar on The Rights of National Minorities in Armenia: Armenias Prospects after Admission to the Council of Europe within the framework of the Coordination among National Minorities and Information Exchanges on Minority Rights in Armenia project.
Organized with the support of the Council of Europe Confidence-building Measures Programme, and held in the Hotel Hrazdans conference hall in Yerevan, the roundtable brought together experienced specialists and policymakers, representatives of various organizations belonging to national minorities in Armenia, as well as international organizations and foreign missions.
Hrach Hakobian delivered opening remarks to the capacity audience: We take up this in-depth examination to improve the general knowledge and awareness of national minority issues in Armenia and thus to contribute to the protection and maintenance of minority rights in our country. Armenians are scattered throughout the world and represent a national minority in different nations. Hence we ourselves should have a deeper understanding of the problems minority groups face and be committed to the vision of full respect of national minorities rights inside our own borders. Though there is still a long road to pave to that end, we believe that in the very near future Armenia will be a country which embraces all of its citizens.
Program director Stepan Safarian presented the seminar theme, program and participants.
Head of the Center for Ethnographical Research Hranush Kharatian delivered the keynote address on The Mosaic of Ethnic Minorities in Armenia: Key Issues and Solutions. Regional and international conventions on national minorities focus on surveys in protection of their ethnic identity. They particularly emphasize the protection of minority languages and religions. However, other leverages should be considered as well. Open society countries are no longer predominantly religious, and religion mostly serves ethnic norms, she stated.
Member of Parliament Vazgen Khachikian treated the topic of Armenias Commitments to the Council of Europe on National Minority Rights: State Policy and Key Issues of Armenian Legislative Compliance with International Legal Acts. Khachikian noted that According to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the protection of national minorities and of the rights and freedoms of persons belonging to those minorities forms an integral part of the international protection of human rights. The signatory parties undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities, including to preserve their religion, language, traditions and cultural heritage. In accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages national minorities enjoy the right to use their minority language without obstacles. Armenia has undertaken to attach importance to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. There are still many shortcomings in this sphere to be addressed by the authorities.
Head of CIVITAS NGO Mara Sahakians intervention addressed European Standards and Armenian Reality against the Backdrop of the Rights of National Minorities. In this context, Sahakian argued that Our authorities pay no attention to the issue of national minorities. This is not a matter of scarce possibilities but lack of political will and respect towards the national minorities.
The formal deliberations were followed by questions, answers, and a lively exchange among Aaron Sherinian of the US Embassy; Alexander Zagainov and Maksim Sizov of the Russian Embassy; Rabbi Gersh Bourstein, head of the Mordekhay Navi Jewish religious community of Armenia; Razmik Khosroev of the Assyrian community; Hasan Hasanian, head of the religious organization of Armenian Yezidis Followers of Sharfadin; Kniaz Hasanov of the Kurdish community; Alexander Yaskorski, head of the German community; Olha Parkhomenko, head of the Association of Ukrainians; Tinatin Asatiani of the Georgian community; Natalia Voutova, head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan; Irina Urumova of the OSCE office in Yerevan; Sergei Vardanian, former vice-chairman of the State Council on Religious Affairs; Avetik Ishkhanian of the Armenian Helsinki Committee; Institute of Human Rights and Democracy executive director Hripsime Manukian; Armen Galstian of the International Center for Human Development; Hovhannes Torosian of the Ministry of Justice; Ruzan Khachatrian of the Peoples Party of Armenia; Ara Sahakian of the Armat center; and many others.
Founded in 1994 by Armenias first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian, and supported by the Lincy Foundation and a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2003, the Center focuses primarily on public outreach, civic education, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.
For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com