Fifteen years ago, the Tufenkian Foundation came to Artsakh. After five years of working in Armenia to advance social justice, we decided to broaden our mission and scope to Artsakh, where most of our work would be focused on the strategically significant liberated territories.
Last week, we devoted the day to celebrate our 15th Anniversary of working in Artsakh, for Artsakh. During these 15 years, we have worked to rebuild, resettle and develop this wonderful land by building and renovating houses, schools, kindergartens, clinics and community centers, installing or restoring water supply systems, giving homes to re-settlers (including Syrian-Armenians), current residents and wounded soldiers, planting orchards and cultivating lands and fostering objective media coverage of Artsakh in international media, among other initiatives.
The anniversary celebration took place later in the evening, in Stepanakert. We opened the event with a photo exhibition titled “15 Years in Artsakh, for Artsakh”, which walked our guests, partners, and beneficiaries through our work in Artsakh’s liberated territories. During these years, our work has focused on the most pressing issues facing Artsakh and the most under-served, vulnerable areas. Most of our efforts have taken place in remote border villages, where the years of war and occupation had left a deep scar, uprooting the local infrastructure and leaving Artsakh’s villagers without access to homes, schools, healthcare, water, electricity and other necessities.
While the situation in many villages has improved drastically during the past 15 years due to the range of resettlement and development efforts implemented by the Artsakh government and various organizations, a lot remains undone. We have a long path to cross until fully resettled and rebuilt liberated Artsakh. The second part of our anniversary event was devoted to discussing the future of Artsakh’s development.
To initiate a multi-stakeholder conversation about the results of past efforts and the path forward, we organized a roundtable discussion with representatives of government bodies and other relevant organizations, as well as our partners, Diaspora guests, and beneficiaries.
The discussion started with reflections on the past 15 years of rebuilding and repopulating Artsakh’s liberated villages: successes were presented, lessons learned were analyzed, and the overall trajectory of implemented actions was evaluated. This was followed with a lively debate on future efforts towards Artsakh’s resettlement and development, focusing on issues such as creating sustainable livelihoods and employment opportunities for resettlers, attracting newcomers through favorable living conditions, ensuring that educational and healthcare issues are resolved throughout Artsakh and charting a roadmap of strengthening Artsakh’s sovereignty.
Highlighting the importance of continued development of the liberated territories, Artsakh Republic Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Armine Alexanyan said: “Despite the political situation, we must continue resettling and strengthening Artsakh”.
As a critical precondition for Artsakh’s resettlement, provision of employment opportunities for re-settlers and current residents was pointed out. “Without employment, without a way for the villagers to make a sustainable living, the resettlement and development of Artsakh are impossible. We need to have a concrete plan on ensuring employment opportunities for people living here”, said Edik Grigoryan, Head of the Tufenkian Foundation Artsakh office.
The lack of a comprehensive plan on the development of the liberated territories, namely Kashatagh, was another issue highlighted by the participants.
The following key conclusions were outlined as a result of the discussion.
• The people of Artsakh must resolve the situation of Artsakh.
• Regardless of the political/geopolitical situation, efforts towards the resettlement and development of the liberated territories must continue.
• Employment opportunities are essential to the resettlement and development of Artsakh. Future efforts must focus on this issue.
• There is a need to create a comprehensive plan on the Development of Kashatagh, which will include concrete actions on resettlement and development of liberated villages.
• It is vital to raise awareness about Artsakh, both among the Armenian Diaspora and the international community.
We plan to utilize the results of the discussion in our future activities aimed at rebuilding, resettling and developing Artsakh’s border villages while continuing to cooperate with other organizations, government agencies and a range of relevant stakeholders in Artsakh and beyond.
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