In partnership with the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the third 11-day evening DemSchool was launched at the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs with “Challenges to Democracy” heading.

Third Evening DemSchool alumni with AIISA team Photo: Third Evening DemSchool alumni with AIISA team

14-26 December 2015, Yerevan. In partnership with the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the third 11-day evening DemSchool was launched at the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs with “Challenges to Democracy” heading. About 20 students from Armenia’s higher educational institutions have applied for participation in the school.

Day 1

At DemSchool opening AIISA founder Styopa Safaryan welcomed the participants introducing the two-week programme and the speakers, and the participants expressed their expectations from the programme in their turn. Then Safaryan appeared with a lecture on “Linkage of domestic and foreign policies with democracy, democratization and security.”

The speaker outlined the security aspect of domestic and foreign policies, their interrelation with constitutionally defined fundamental values, i.e. with human rights and freedoms, country’s sovereignty.

Practical workshop was focused on assessing the path of Armenia’s democratic transition, as well as revealing the structure of democratic political system.

Day 2

Speakers of the second day were Ashot Aleksanyan and Arusyak Aleksanyan, PhDs and professors from the Center for European Studies at Yerevan State University (YSU).

Firstly the speakers touched upon political factors for democracy index and methodology of their evaluation, which have been worked out by them at YSU Center for European Studies to assess indices of the post-Soviet republics.

Then Ashot and Arusyak Aleksanyans introduced the results for Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova based on that methodology.

Under the context of comparative analysis special attention was drawn to tendencies of democratic developments in the group of countries, which have chosen either European or Eurasian integration.

Day 3

Evening school speaker was AIISA expert and political scientist Armen Vardanyan with a lecture on “Democracy and security.”  Together with the participants he thoroughly spoke of evolution of democracy concept, democracy and its interrelation with security.

Practical workshop and discussion was devoted to the privilege of democratic systems towards other systems of governance, especially for a country with small resources and complicated geopolitical location like Armenia.

Comparisons made between other regions of the world and post-Soviet countries revealed both issues and challenges of democratization, and the imperative of democratic governance for Armenia’s domestic and foreign policies as the best and only option.

Day 4

David Shahnazaryan, head of “Concord” research center, former head of RA National Security Service and ambassador, appeared with a lecture on recent regional developments.

The speaker especially drew attention to Russia-West confrontation, its impact on the Caucasus region, as well as recent tensions in Middle East, especially between Russia and Turkey, which overloaded West-Russia agenda with one more issue.

Question-and-answer between the participants and the speaker, as well as lively discussion touched upon Armenia’s positioning under global confrontation, reflection of those developments on its domestic and foreign policies, maintenance and development of Armenia-West, Armenia-NATO relations.

Day 5

The fifth day’s meeting was conducted by Daniel Ioannisyan, head of “Union of Informed Citizens” (UIC), with a lecture on “Public awareness on issues of domestic and foreign policies.”

The speaker highlighted the importance of public awareness to bring human rights, the interest of Armenia’s sovereignty and public opinion into national agenda, and making them a crucial precondition for decision-making.

Through videos and mini-researches on various issues the speaker presented the awareness-raising methods, which have been applied by UIC for over 2 years.

Day 6

Emma Begijanyan, AIISA associate fellow and expert on Iranian issues, brought discussions to the Middle East and Caucasus, introducing the background of Iran-USA, Iran-West relations and process of normalization started early this year.

On account of the outlining perspective of unsanctioned Iran’s return to regional politics in near future, the speaker especially spoke of Armenia’s role in Iran-West communications, as well as on challenges and possibilities to diversify its economy and policies.

Along with participants the speaker made an in-depth analysis of Iran’s role and importance for Armenia and Azerbaijan as functioning of Tehran-Yerevan-Baku triangle, as well as EEU and other factors, greatly affect Armenia-Iran bilateral relations. 

Day 7

Day’s speaker was Avetik Ishkhanyan, head of Helsinki Committee of Armenia, who delivered a lecture on “Human rights in Armenia, their reflection in domestic and foreign policies.”

Ishkhanyan first analyzed systemic defects in the field of human rights in Armenia under the light of previous and new constitutions.

Then the speaker stressed the importance of international organizations and fundamental documents in providing and protecting human rights.

Practical workshop was meant to better perception of wide-range approaches and issues of human rights defence, as well as development of strategic approaches for Armenia. 

Day 8

Ashot Yeghiazaryan, AIISA associate fellow and PhD in economy, made an extensive reflection on the background of Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), its geo-political and geo-economic goals.

Speaking of collision of Russia’s geo-economic project with EU Eastern Partnership programme, the expert introduced its disastrous economic and political implications for Armenia—Armenia’s sovereignty blockade and isolation from the world, suspension of economic and political rapprochement and integration with EU.

Through figures the speaker highlighted bankruptcy both for EEU and Armenia in terms of promised perspectives in it. Yeghiazaryan and the participants discussed issues of neutralization or exclusion of the Union’s impact on Armenia’s domestic and foreign policies, exit strategy from EEU, re-definition of EU-Armenia partnership, and so on.

Day 9

Hovsep Khurshudyan, AIISA associate fellow touched upon other tools and levers of Russia’s influence on South Caucasus countries, i.e. unsettled or frozen conflicts.

The speaker appeared with an analysis for major players having active engagement in the region, i.e. the USA, EU, Russia, especially in maintaining and furthering peace or unfreezing conflicts.

Practical workshop was devoted to interest analysis of international, regional and national actors, particularly, converging or diverging interests of international players with parties to the conflict, i.e. Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, democratic developments inside them.

Recent regional developments to prevent military activities on conflict zone, various possible scenarios in case of war resumption, shared interests of the West, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to maintain and strengthen peace, as well as a concept for respective strategy on that ground have also been discussed.

Day 10

Ruben Mehrabyan, AIISA associate fellow, developed the topic of Armenia’s engagement with EEU, bringing forward its political implications and influence on Armenia’s inner political life.

Mehrabyan made a comparative analysis of EEU member countries’ political systems, which are based on one person and his/her worship, corruption and vertical organization of political power, cracking down or keeping controllable democratic processes.

The topic of practical workshop was Armenia’s benefits and disadvantages from membership in EEU, particularly, from domestic and foreign policies’ perspective.

Through individual work the participants revealed and discussed mid-term and long-term negative impacts for Armenia and options to counteract them.

Day 11

Last day’s speaker was Syuzanna Barseghyan, researcher of the department of Diaspora Studies at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography NAS RA, and AIISA associate fellow, who delivered a lecture on “Sociological methods in social sciences: public opinion on domestic and foreign policy issues.”

Firstly, Barseghyan thoroughly introduced the applied research methods: polls, interviews, content analysis and etc.

Practical workshop was devoted to the two topics chosen by the participants: public participation in democratic processes and public opinion on constitutional reforms. The two groups worked out and presented their research plans and tools on selected topics.

The speaker also introduced results of her personal researches on domestic and foreign policies, i.e. polls, content analysis, speaking of recent developments, when sociological polls are used as a tool to influence over the consciousness of the society, especially to discredit Armenia’s sovereignty and to increase Russian influence.

Certificate award ceremony was held on the DemSchool 11th day. David Sanasaryan, member of AIISA Board of Trustees, young politician and activist, also participated in it.

After the certificate award AIISA founder Styopa Safaryan wished the participants success in their political and research works. In their turn the DemSchool alumni expressed an interest to be actively engaged in research programmes of the Institute.

Welcoming the participants’ proposal, at the beginning of 2016, AIISA will invite all three DemSchools alumni to its first youth forum to discuss Armenia’s domestic and foreign policies and issues with all experts, thus providing a good ground for networking of young researchers and activists.

Third Evening DemSchool alumni with AIISA team

Events team of the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs