Strong property rights create an environment conducive to economic growth. Unfortunately, corruption in registration of property rights and in resolving conflicts about disputed properties are recurring problems in many post-Soviet states, including Armenia. Armenians in large cities and small villages alike see their property rights threatened by unscrupulous and corrupt officials.
Edik Abrahamyan’s story illustrates this problem. After five years in Russia, Edik returned to the province of Shirak to find his property illegally occupied by a neighbor. Edik asked the chief village administrator to intervene in vacating his property. When the administrator declined, Edik plainly asked him to measure his plot of land, which is a standard procedure to confirm ownership. The official also refused to conduct this task. Because the administrator was so uncooperative, Edik came to believe that he was somehow benefitting from the illegal occupancy.
Edik visited his local Advocacy and Assistance Center (AAC) to present his case. The Shirak AAC is one of eleven centers located throughout the country, operated by local NGOs, where victims of corruption can receive free legal assistance. The Shirak AAC notified the village administrator of his obligation to conduct the requested procedure. Confronted by the center’s lawyers, the local official could no longer justify his refusal and soon after measured the plot. As a result, the property boundaries were clearly delineated and ownership of the contested land was restored to Edik.
AACs provide effective mediation to citizens, like Edik. Coordinator of the Shirak AAC Levon Barseghyan explains his method: “I prioritize meeting directly with the parties at odds. It is very likely that conflicts may then be resolved without resorting to court.” Edik was also pleased with the results, “I would like to thank the AAC and its staff for their help. They resolved my case very quickly.”