“Incidents at the border shall be registered and cases instituted to collect evidence”

Interview with Chair of the Board of Civil Society
Institute Artak Kirakosyan

What type of a program does Civil Society Institute implement
at the bordering communities, what is its goal?

The program we implement in cooperation with Saferworld, a British organization,
aims at strengthening bordering communities and their security issues. The term
security we understand in a broad context: first of all, we try somehow to
struggle against military actions, gunfire aimed at peaceful population living
in bordering villages, and to help solve issues of vital importance, which can
be regarded as security issues, such as water, roads, economic development,
creation of opportunity to cultivate the land and so on.

You are aware that bordering villages are under a great
risk, and our task is to lessen the risks as much as we can through different
means. When we talk about military actions, our approach is that all actions shall
be registered, because we always hear about different numbers on how many times
the ceasefire was violated, how many times gunfire was used (it does not
matter, whether by us or them). Prior to our program there was no special
attention towards violations against peaceful inhabitants by targeted or
occasional shooting.

We register all the cases, which can be proved,
specifically, if there is a damage to commodities, or, for god sake, if the
fire reached people. The size of damage is not important, more important is the
possibility to prove it.

How do you register the facts, do you keep it for your
use or you also publish it?

Saferworld has created web pages, (http://protectcivilians.blogspot.com/
http://protectcivilians-ru.blogspot.com/) on
which the incidents are placed. The information is two-sided: it presents the
impact of incidents both on our villages and on Azerbaijani villages. The site
is currently available in English and Russian. We provide the information, and Saferworld places it on the
site. The aim is to lessen the losses of civilians. 10 villages in Armenia and
10 villages in Azerbaijan have been selected, and the same program is also
carried out in Azerbaijan.  As a result
we will prepare a report, which will include issues of the bordering
communities and recommendations on solutions of these issues.

is a difference between the situations when you are aware of problems so you
can plan activities to solve them, and when you face the problems during the
program implementation. You regularly visit bordering villages, what are the
main issues?

We should
accept that these villages live in a totally different situation, very
different from the usual situation in Armenia. It is not an easy life for many
Armenians, especially living in villages, they have various problems: economic,
social, cultural. So, all these problems are common, but you shall add here the
situation, when one cannot cultivate his/her land, one is under constant
stress, because of continued gunfire. 
For investors here the economic risks are combined with other risks.
Thus, additional incentives are needed to engage investors in these regions. In
some cases, they invest money with the aim to help the motherland. However, the
money spent may not return back, and this becomes an obstacle. For example,
shops in these regions pay the same taxes as shops in Yerevan.  The state defined some reduced taxes for land
and property, but this is not a fundamental solution. The majority of people in
these regions cannot cultivate their lands because of the risk of being shot.

main approach is that we shall accept that these communities are in a special
situation. This relates not to all bordering communities, but some 5 or 6,
which require special attitude.

our visits we understood that it is not right to say that these villages are
overlooked, some sponsors invest money, some international organizations or the
government undertake actions to assist from time to time. However, in our
opinion, there is no systematic approach, concrete plan, created through
involvement of various governmental departments, which would consider issues of
all these villages, and plan actions aimed at protection and not just
protection but development of these villages.

systematic approach would be much more efficient and productive.

we could observe, initiatives have a spontaneous nature. For example, some
sponsors help to plant trees to block the site from the opponent's side, walls
are built in some other places, and in some other places there is a need to
build walls. The Prime Minister has recently visited Movses village and
promised something to certain students. And a question comes up: why Movses and
not Aygepar village, or why Chinari and not Nerkin Karmiraghbyur? Because the
solution came as a response to the urgent call, the population raised an issue
and the Prime Minister responded. I believe that this is not sufficient. It is
good that he reacted but not sufficient.

talked about spontaneous assistance projects. A similar project took place at
Civil Society Institute. Will you tell us how the idea came about and what
results did it bring?

one of our regular visits we observed that employees of a kindergarten in
Chinari village almost attacked the village head with a question: 'when will we
have running water?'. Then we discovered that the kindergarten have not had
water supply for two months. Then it became clear that the majority in the
village were in the same situation, living without running water. We learned
from the village head that although some water pipes have been renovated with
assistance of the Red Cross, there were other parts in the system which needed
renovation in order for the system to operate effectively and provide the
village with water.

thought that the both sides of the problem are important- that people learn
about the problems of bordering villages and wish to participate in solving these
problems, and collection of money and providing direct support in solving the
problem. I am very grateful to our good friend, blogger Samvel Martirosyan, who
responded to the initiative and wrote about it on Facebook. The prompt reaction to the call was amazing. 

wrote about the initiative at about 6p.m., and on the next day, the two times
the required sum was collected, and there were still people who wanted to give
money. We were very glad for this fact, as it demonstrated that there is a
potential, and that the public understands these issues, and also after it the
government took some actions, and new initiatives were raised aimed at helping
the bordering villages. 

I do
not intend to connect directly these actions to our initiative. However, one
was clear that people appreciate importance of this problem. We only need to
have systematic approach for actions.

the collected money was transferred to the municipality of Chinari village. I
am glad to say that the water pipes in the village were replaced and water
supply restored.

the program does finish and what will we have as a result?

The first phase of the project finishes at the end of the year. I already mentioned that we will prepare
a report about 10 villages, presenting their issues and will try suggesting
recommendations to our society, the government, and the international

register incidents of the ceasefire violations and now no one representing any international organization can deny that they are not aware of such incidents.

example, recently the State Department Assistant Secretary did not answer a
question related to regular ceasefire violation from the Azerbaijani side,
saying that he does not have any facts.

would be good to have also a print version of the report. I believe that it is
also important that the Prosecutor's office will institute cases on these
incidents to collect documented facts, for later use, if necessary, because the
problem is not solved by responding with a back gunfire. We should use other

by Mary Alexanyan