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Sustainable development in the regions of Armenia

Sustainable development is essential in the post-COVID space, which continues to have ramifications on all sectors of Armenian life. 

Last year, 2022, saw many EU-funded projects to boost sustainable development in a variety of fields, such as economic growth, educational quality and human rights. 

Since 2005, the European Union has cooperated with the Ministry of Territorial Administration of Armenia and provided technical assistance for the development of individual regions. The EU continues to invest in competencies, capacities, and skills, such as communication, management, leadership, problem-solving, decision-making, and computer literacy. All these ensure a sustainably developed society where people have equal rights and opportunities. One of the crucial aspects of this support is to raise the profile of the regions because they are comparatively less developed. In many cases, there are fewer opportunities for further development. In response, the Government of Armenia is in the process of implementing a policy aimed at the development of the country’s marzes (regions).

Among the EU programmes, it is important to underline the role of the EU-funded Mayors for Economic Growth (M4EG) Facility, the second phase of which has been ongoing since February 2022. Many municipalities are part of the M4EG network, and they are already reaping the benefits of this programme. The regions of Dilijan, Ijevan, and Kapan are focusing on local economic development, Areni is concentrated on its transformation portfolio, and Alaverdi, Ashtarak, and Charentsavan will enjoy mentorship, with a view to later competing for funding to implement innovative small-scale local economic development projects2. Through this initiative, the EU is investing in the development potential of these areas. The skills that will be developed as part of the programme will give all the communities the opportunity to reach their strategic objectives submitted to the project. It will help the people there to create opportunities to develop and initiate new business ideas. The regions will fulfil the prerequisites for development, and maximise the potential to grow economically.

The EU also funds the EU Green Agriculture Initiative in Armenia (EU-GAIA), through which the regions of Lori, Tavush, and Shirak have benefited by boosting green agriculture and enhancing local added value.

The EU supports people in these regions to take initiatives, acquire relevant skills, and take action in the development of their regions. For example, one resident in the Lori region founded the Armbee apitherapy centre, which is the only apitherapy centre in the region, with the help of EU support. Another example is of a charitable foundation that built a teach-in greenhouse and an anti-hail network for an open-ground test field in the Hartagyugh community of the Lori region.  These are not the only examples, but with EU assistance, we can see positive changes leading to sustainable development in the regions of Armenia.

Hailing from Tavush, I often visit my native region. The last time I went to the village of Sevkar, where I grew up, there was a clear increase in interest among young people regarding the development of the village. They are engaged in many activities, taking initiative for economic growth, social inclusion, and regional development. One example of this is the EULEAD4Lori and Tavush Regions project. The project helps the people of the region play an active role in inclusive, resilient and sustainable local development, and aims at designing local development models that involve citizens in setting the development agenda, decision-making, and implementation. Many young people in my home region continue to explore what grants they can apply for or what programmes they can participate in, especially youth initiatives, such as Erasmus+ youth exchanges, training courses, volunteering and other similar programmes. 

Armenia has faced great difficulties since 2020, resulting on the one hand from the pandemic, and on the other from the escalation of the ongoing tensions and conflict in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In light of this, it is not a coincidence that the Resilient Syunik Team Europe initiative was launched in 2023, the aim of which is to promote sustainable socio-economic development in Syunik. Syunik province is a place of fundamental importance for Armenian development․ It is home to many important historical and cultural sites, including the ancient Tatev Monastery complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as numerous other medieval monasteries, churches, and fortresses. These sites draw visitors and support the preservation of Armenia’s rich cultural history. Syunik is also a region of economic importance, with agriculture and mining being major industries. The region is known for its production of fruits, vegetables, and livestock, as well as its copper and molybdenum mines. The economic wellbeing of Syunik is therefore crucial for the overall prosperity of Armenia. Moreover, Syunik is strategically important because it borders Azerbaijan and Iran. The region is a vital link between Armenia and its neighbours, and its security is critical for the country’s defence. Nowadays, there is also a deep pressure on the province connected with the Zangezur Corridor. Nevertheless, gaining the skills needed for solving problems, communicating and decision-making empowers people to succeed, to be able to face new challenges, and to fully engage in society. In this way, the EU boosts the growth of Armenia.

On 24 February the European Union, in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank, officially launched the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability assessment exercise in the Republic of Armenia. The results of the assessment will be published at the end of 2023. It provides a framework for assessing and reporting on the strengths and weaknesses of Public Financial Management . This is important for understanding what are the main fields and sectors in which to invest, and the regions that need support. Thanks to this assessment, the reform process in Armenia will be coordinated more accurately and support will be delivered to where it is most needed.

These are examples of EU-funded projects aimed at promoting sustainable development in the regions of Armenia. The EU has been a major donor for development programmes in Armenia for many years and continues to support efforts to promote sustainable economic growth, protect the environment, and improve the well-being of local communities.