The Report of the Armenian Relief Society To the Armenia-Diaspora Conference Yerevan, September 23, 1999 Presented by Maro Minassian, Chair of the ARS Central Executive Board Excellencies, Your Holiness, Reverend Fathers, Fellow Armenians: With great joy, the Armenian Relief Society greets the Armenia-Diaspora Conference. As a pan-Armenian organization of nearly ninety years experience, feeling the necessity of a serious dialogue over the multi-faceted issues facing Diaspora-Homeland relations, three years ago, the ARS decided to organize a symposium with the participation of leaders and intellectuals from both Armenia and the Diaspora. After long preparation, in the spring of 1998, that project became reality when on May 29 and 30, under the high auspices of the President of the Republic, the Symposium entitled "Armenia and the Diaspora on the threshold of the 21st Century" took place in Yerevan. It was an initial dialogue, an attempt to overcome rigid provincial attitudes, unyielding priorities and prejudices with a process of unbiased evaluation and objective analysis. Today, the organizers of this Armenia-Diaspora Conference have focused mainly on four issues: - The obstacles in the way of Armenia-Diaspora cooperation; - The nature of the mutual efforts necessary for the coordination of Armenia-Diaspora activities; - The possibility of an umbrella structure for the supervision of all-Armenian activities; - The conclusions drawn by the pre-conference workshops on the main issues of Armenia-Diaspora relations. In reference to the first issue, given the limited time, it is not possible to enumerate here all the obstacles that impede the normal process of Armenia-Diaspora cooperation - among which, we consider paramount the right to citizenship of the Armenian Republic. In our opinion, there can be no question that the tighter and more binding the relationship between the Diasporan and the Armenian State, the more enthusiastic and generous the commitment of the Diasporan masses will be towards the needs of the Motherland. Therefore, the first factor to enhance the concept of "One Nation, One Motherland" will be the ratification of legislature granting Diasporans Armenian citizenship. At this point, we would like to state that, generally speaking, we find the objections and arguments put forth by certain quarters against this issue extraneous and unconvincing. After all, we needn't remind anyone, that many other peoples who, for various reasons, have emigrated and established residence abroad, have been granted citizenship of their country of origin by their respective national governments. Moving on to the second issue, in our estimation, it is possible to improve the coordination of Armenia-Diaspora activities by, first, guaranteeing the existence and viable economic and political continuity of established Diasporan communities. To this end, the planning has to be long range and pan-Armenian in scope. The Armenian Diaspora -- formed and organized in the crucible of the dire realities of geographic and political dispersion and the strained relationship with the Motherland -- must be accepted, along with its experienced cultural, religious and political establishments, as a factor of value and permanency. Consisting of distinctive denominations and communities, its common denominator has always been its concerted struggle for the reestablishment of the sovereign national statehood and the prosecution of the Armenian Case with pan-Armenian goals. To achieve palpable results, the coordination of Armenia-Diaspora cooperation must take into consideration the diverse geographic, political, cultural and economic realities of each and every community. The temptation to create "unity" through a homogenizing standardization process must be resisted at all costs. The third issue presented to the participants of the Conference is the rationale of the necessity for a coordinating, "umbrella" directorate. It is understood that future cooperation between Armenia and the Diaspora, in all its aspects, must take place in a coordinated manner, but as to under what kind of supervision, remains unclear. The official, state-run diplomatic missions along with pan-Armenian international organizations, such as denominational church structures, active political parties, humanitarian, cultural and athletic societies must, in a cooperative spirit, create practical and dependable vehicles to function under the administrative supervision of a ministerial department commissioned specifically for that task. It is also possible to trust this task to the National Assembly-the Armenian Parliament-which would create a special commission of Armenia-Diaspora relations, coordinating all-important activities. Whatever the case, this can be accomplished only with the consent and voluntary participation of the leadership of legitimately established pan-Armenian organizations. We regret that it will be impossible to comment on the fourth issue within the five minutes allowed to this initial organizational statement. In any event, it would have been a mere evaluation of already drawn conclusions; we are certain we shall all be given a chance to discuss the five important topics analyzed in those commissioned papers. It is our fervent wish, that following this conference, we all apply ourselves to the serious task of solving the many problems that concern us all today; their solutions will lead to the prosperity and security of our nation, Homeland and Diaspora alike. Thank you.
Translated to English by the ARS Central Office.