The Country that Is Clean of Corruption Is a Prosperous, Developing Country

An idea is the most expensive thing. Ideas change systems. It is with good ideas that we can effectively combat corruption in our country. This is the approach adopted at the Youth-Business-Government Anti-Corruption Working Meeting.

High school and university students participated in the meeting. Eva Tovmasyan, a student at Heratsi High School, already has a goal to be an entrepreneur. “I’d like to have my own office where I would employ marketing specialists supporting small and medium business representatives,” said Eva, a student from the Group of Economists. She intends to share the knowledge gained during the seminar with her friends and larger surroundings. 

The experts who participated in the seminar, representatives of the public and private sectors gave various presentations during these past three days. The themes centered on fight against corruption and the anti-corruption work of public bodies and the CSO sector. 

Karen Zadoyan, the President of the Armenian Lawyers’ Association (ALA) and the Coordinator of the Secretariat of the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia, introduced to the participants the avenues of fight against corruption in Armenia. 

In his words, the Government currently works in a number of directions jointly mapped out with the Armenian Lawyers’ Association. Zadoyan brought the following example: The draft law on criminalization of illicit enrichment that was adopted by the Government on Friday had been jointly worked out by ALA and the RA Ministry of Justice. 

Moreover, he finds it vital to create an independent anti-corruption agency, introduce a whistle-blower protection act, etc. 

Deputy Minister of Justice Suren Krmoyan urged the youngsters to steer clear of corruption and stay free. He recalled a story, “During one of our meetings with business representatives, a businessman came out saying that he had been constantly asked to give bribes but refused persistently, continued to pay more money instead of getting bribed.”

Naira Gyulnazaryan, the Coordinator of Anti-Corruption Projects at the OSCE Office in Yerevan, stated that much work is placed today on our youngsters’ shoulders. “A lot has been said about our youth being our future. I am sure though that they are our present.”

Karen Azaryan, a Trade Officer at the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia, informed the young participants on the EU support via several projects in Armenia and its active involvement in the fight against corruption. He also stressed, “We ought to demand protection of our rights in our own country. How can we demand from other countries to recognize our rights without recognition in our own country? The country that is clean of corruption is a prosperous, developing coutry. In order to solve a problem, one first of all should accept its existence. Now the Government admits that there’s a problem and shows readiness to solve it. At this moment, the door of opportunity is open and you should be active.”

Representatives from the State Revenue Commitee attended the meeting. Arman Mnatsakanyan, the Head of the Legal Department of the State Revenue Committee, noted that tax and customs agencies intend to have a large spectrum of cooperation with the civil society. It is also expected to work on raising awareness of the public with an aim to restore trust towards the systems.  

Gevorg Saghoyan, the Head of the Customs Control Department of the SRC, noted that the previous meetings organized by the Armenian Lawyers’ Association had revealed problems that had been invisible for the agency. “I am very glad that we have such active youth that gets involved and tries to contribute to solving the issues and problems our country faces. It is impossible to fix everything right away. We take regular steps and such meetings help us reveal the directions to which we need to pay as much attention as possible.” 

Over the past three days, the following speakers gave presentations at the working meeting: Narine Sargsyan, the President of “The Future Is Yours” NGO and the Lead of the “Young Citizens Take Action” Programme, Albert Babayan, the Head of the Department for the Improvement of Business Environment at the Ministry of Economic Development and Investments, Hakob Avagyan, the President of the SME Cooperation Association and a Governing Board Member at the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia, Mariam Zadoyan, a National Expert on the “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” Project, and Carl Ulbricht, the International Expert on the same Project. 

The youngsters shared with us their positive impressions of the meeting. Arin Avanosyan, a 11th grader at the Heratsi High School, suggested that the fight against administrative and high-level corruption be commenced from schools through raising awareness among pupils. “I have been participating in this program for the second year already and I have lots of innovative ideas. The most significant one is that we need to combat administrative and high-level corruption at the same time. We might do it by expanding such programmes and organizing seminars in different schools,” said the high schooler. 

Gor Meliksetyan, another high schooler, recommends that everyone start from themselves. “Personally, I will neither give nor take bribes, and I will educate the ones in my surroundings. After these seminars I will make sure to make my milieu more aware of these issues,” Gor highlighted. 

On Sunday, the participants were divided into three working groups and revealed the corruption risks in the tax and customs sectors, as well as in the field of free economic competition and monopolies. They also tried to propose their own solutions. The main problem stated by all the three groups was the low level of public awareness. At the end of the working meeting, the participants shared their final thoughts on the seminar. 

The event was organized along the same lines of the “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” Project funded by the European Union and co-funded by the OSCE Office in Yerevan. This particular meeting was funded by the latter.

In the end, the participants were filmed by a drone. See the video below.