Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Government Decision jeopardizes the Financial Sustainability of Non-Profit Organizations Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:00:01 +0000 The decision of the government adopted in July of this year has resulted rather serious problems for the non-profit organizations. The 910-N Decree adopted on July 27, has established a professional commission qualifying altering or suspending as privileged the subsidies, subventions and grant programs. The procedure of its activities and composition has been approved. The same decision, has established the procedure for qualifying altering or suspending as privileged the subsidies, subventions and grant programs by the Commission

Today, representatives of the state structures and representatives of the interested civil society organizations (CSOs) discussed issues related to the legal regulation of grant programs and the problems arising from them. The discussion was organized within the framework of EU-funded “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” project.

“Studying the decision, we find that it does not completely regulate granting privileges of the organizations that implement grant programs, and defines a tax discriminatory approach towards grantee organizations,” Miss Syuzanna Soghomonyan, Coordinator of CSO-Government Dialogue of the Project said and presented a number of issues related to the government’s decision.

Problematic here is that the decision defines that projects that are implemented in information technologies, tourism, agriculture, science, education, energy and environment protection spheres which stimulate the development of the Armenian economy can be qualified as privileged. This definition jeopardizes the financial stability and future activities of non-profit organizations. There are about 4000 NGOs operating in Armenia, which conduct activities in the mentioned areas, but also in such areas as justice, culture, social sphere, small and medium-sized businesses, etc. Such an approach leads to unequal competition conditions and is manifested as an apparent discrimination between institutions that implement grant programs, and consequently results in a discriminatory taxation approach

Mr. Arsen Stepanyan, “Bridge for CSOs” Project Manager (Project implemented by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) noted that there is no justification, no research has been carried out on why the above mentioned spheres have been chosen and no other spheres. In response, the representative of the Ministry of Finance Artur Aleksanyan mentioned that the need for this legal regulation has appeared as a result of the issue in the case of IT sphere when the IT Company could receive a large grant, provide services within its framework, conduct works and not be taxed. At the same time anti-competitive activity has been taken into consideration.

S. Soghomonyan also presented the problem that the aforementioned commission which would examine whether grants are privileged or not, is composed from exclusively representatives of state structures. Taking into account the peculiarities of implementation of grant programs, it is also necessary to involve independent civil society experts in the work of the commission with the right of advisory vote. The latter may provide expert / professional conclusions on the evaluated program and its possible impact.

The other crucial issue is that the government’s decision only refers to subsidies, subventions, and grant programs. “It is unclear whether the sub-grant programs are also considered as grants or not; and whether the provisions of this regulation shall also apply to them. Therefore, in order to avoid misunderstanding, we suggest clarifying this issue,” Syuzanna Soghomonyan said.

Ms Anoush Margaryan, a representative of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, asked about the criteria that will determined, in which cases the income is privileged and in which cases not. Mr. Asanet Aloyan, representative of the State Revenue Committee, presented the cases in which the above-mentioned income would be taxed; but at the same time there were no clear answers to criterions or assumptions for considering the sub-grants privileged or not.

At the end of the meeting the participants of the discussion decided to coordinate the problematic issues and submit proposals for their solution to the Ministry of Finance.

The “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” Project, which is implemented with the financial support of the European Union by the “Armenian Lawyers’ Association” NGO in cooperation with its partners; Agora Central Europe o.p.s (an NGO from the Czech Republic), Armenian Center for Democratic Education-CIVITAS, “International Center for Human Development” Public Organization, SME Cooperation Association and Union of Communities of Armenia.

The Second Group of CSO Representatives received Graduation Certificates of the American University of Armenia Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:00:45 +0000 Today, representatives of 15 civil society organizations (CSOs) from 7 marzes received certificates of completion of the educational certification program for civil society organizations at the American University of Armenia.

The educational program is organized in the framework of the EU funded “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” Project, which is aimed at developing of CSOs’ capacity and skills to initiate and develop an effective dialogue with the government and local self-governing bodies.

Ms Metaxia Davtyan from “Lori Citizens Union” Benevolent NGO notes that the training has been effective for jer and she has been thoroughly familiarized with such items as public policy development, budget monitoring tools, types of coalitions and their management skills.

“We will definitely apply it during the activities of our organization, because participation in the training was a must. We needed this knowledge, especially in public policy development and budget monitoring, and because at this point we have a change in strategic directions, and these directions have become dominant for us. In the near future, we will use the knowledge gained here,” Metaxia Davtyan said.

Mr. Arman Marukhyan, from Gavar Community of Gegharkunik marz, Director of “New Bayazet Community Development Benevolent Foundation” stated that the courses will have a great impact on their organization’s future activities. “The course gave us knowledge on forming coalitions and thus to be more effective in the development of public policies and decision-making,” the graduate of the CSO educational program noted.

It should be noted that about 120 CSO representatives from Yerevan and regions will participate in the educational program. Within the framework of the educational program the participants will be trained on the issues of public policy development, monitoring of public budget and public policies, coalition building and building CSO-Government constructive dialogue.

The “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” project is implemented with the financial support of the European Union by a Consortium of civil society organisations, which are the Armenian Lawyers’ Association (lead organisation), Agora Central Europe (NGO based in the Czech Republic), the Armenian Centre for Democratic Education-CIVITAS, the International Centre for Human Development, the SME Cooperation Association and the Union of Communities of Armenia.

Anonymous reporting on Corruption Crimes Thu, 14 Dec 2017 16:00:29 +0000

Karen Karapetyan: “We need to take steps to develop a new ambitious anticorruption strategy” Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:00:29 +0000 At today’s cabinet sitting, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan issued new instructions on the results of the anti-corruption strategy and the development of a new strategy.

The Prime Minister said that during this period, a number of measures have been implemented on the government’s initiative aimed at combating and preventing corruption. Some measures are still in progress, but at this stage steps should be taken to develop a new, ambitious anticorruption strategy.

Karen Karapetyan instructed the heads of central executive agencies to finalize work on the relevant legislative packages and undertake measures to fulfill the existing anticorruption strategy within the predetermined time frames.

Karen Karapetyan gave the responsible officials 30 days to develop proposals on the new anticorruption strategy and submit them to the Ministry of Justice.

The Prime Minister next instructed the Minister of Justice Davit Harutyunyan to take measures to develop a new, ambitious anticorruption strategy, identify new target areas, and specific measures aimed at preventing corruption.

The Prime Minister instructed to engage civil society representatives, entrepreneurs, law scholars and other stakeholders as much as possible in the strategy drafting activities.

Cooperation Agreement is intended to strengthening the Mechanisms of Legal Protection of Medical Workers Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:38:24 +0000 Doctors today often become defenseless in the society. The doctors become the scapegoat as a result of an error or erroneous perception of the action. The recent cases of civil disputes or criminal cases show that doctors remain alone. Today, the Armenian Lawyers’ Association represented by President Karen Zadoyan and the Armenian Association of Young Doctors, represented by President Gevorg Grigoryan, signed a cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening the mechanisms of legal protection of medical workers.

The two organizations unite their efforts for the following purposes:

  • Strengthen and develop the mechanisms of legal protection of medical workers in Armenia;
  • Promote the legal awareness of medical workers;
  • Increase the level of legal protection of medical workers through legal assistance and implementation of public monitoring;
  • Promote the implementation of legislative amendments aimed at defining and protecting the rights of medical workers;
  • Promote raising public awareness about healthy lifestyle;
  • Promote the implementation of anti-corruption reforms in Armenia.

Prior to signing the agreement at the workshop for the stakeholders, representative of the Armenian Association of Young Doctors Eva Chichoyan and the lawyer of the Armenian Lawyers’ Association, Mariam Zadoyan, spoke about the introduction of the Institute of Medical Ombudsman and the differentiation of the terms “medical error and medical negligence” as well as the international experience related to these issues.

Presenting the differences between medical negligence and medical error (based on international experience), Mariam Zadoyan noted that medical negligence may include medical errors, but not all medical errors are resulting from medical negligence.

Eva Chichoyan mentioned that in case of introducing the ombudsman’s institution, tere may be risks that the Ombudsman is viewed as a method of meeting patient complaints, and there is a tendency to ignore the medical workers providing medical services. And in case of introduction of this important institute, the healthcare workers should not be out of the “game”. In addition, at present, there are definitions in the legislation that do not allow doctors to effectively exercise their defense today.

How the new law fits into the international framework of military service? Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:21:44 +0000 According to the European Convention on Human Rights, article 4.3.b related to Prohibition of slavery and forced labour, “any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors, service exacted instead of compulsory military service” is not included in the term “forced labour”. Thus, Armenia as a member of the Convention it is not infringing the international legal framework when designing the new law on compulsory military service.

Despite this fact, it is remarkable that conscription goes against the current trend in military recruitment. Starting by Belgium in 1994 and finishing with Germany in 2011, already 15 countries substituted Military Draft by professional armed forces; Spain, France, Portugal, Hungary, Italy, Czech Republic, Bosnia, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland and Albania.

At the same time it is notable that Armenia cannot be compared with the above mentioned countries, considering geopolitical and other circumstances.

Although it may look like it is just a trend of Western Europe, it is remarkable the example of Lebanon which has abolished mandatory military service for men in 2007. The country is subject to constant risk because its neighbors have wars currently open and in addition both Syria and Israel have ongoing conscription, the latest even for women. However, such a danger has not prevented Lebanon from replacing compulsory military service with professional armed forces. For already ten years is that the country has the second largest army per capita recipient of foreign military aid, after Israel.

Until 2007, all Lebanese men were required to do 1 year of military service through age 18+. Trainings were only done whenever the young’s had free-time or time off school including summer vacations and holidays. There was also training done alongside high school. On May 4, 2005, a new conscription system was adopted, making for a six-month service, and pledging to end conscription within two years. As of February 10, 2007 mandatory military service no longer exists in Lebanon.

Another fact of interest related to Conscription, most democratic countries offer the option of an alternative service, social service or “Zivildienst” as it is the case of Austria and Switzerland, but also Russia, Greece, Estonia, Finland, Denmark and Cyprus. In addition, they offer the right of Conscientious Objection to bearing arms. That right is recognized by all the members of the Council of Europe except from two states: Turkey, Azerbaijan.

Thus, after the ratification of the new law, Armenia will join the seven countries in East Europe and Caucasus that keep Conscription nowadays; Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine.

José Nicolas Dominguez Mendoza
EVS Volunteer at the Armenian Lawyers’ Association

There will be Innovations in the SRC System, aimed at reducing the Corruption Risks Wed, 13 Dec 2017 18:00:19 +0000 On 9 December, the Annual Anti-Corruption Award Ceremony was held on the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day. The event was organized on the initiative of the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia and the Armenian Lawyers’ Association within the framework of the EU-funded “Commitment Constructive Dialogue” project.

The programs and recommendations on the 4 target areas (Education, Health, State Revenue Collection and Police) of the RA Anti-Corruption Strategy 2015-2018, were discussed at the event.

Mr. Karen Zadoyan, “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” Project manager and President of the Armenian Lawyers’ Association facilitated the discussion on the problems in the state revenue collection sector and the proposed solutions for them. He highlighted the fact that the submitted proposals were mostly accepted by the SRC.

Mr. Armen Saqapetoyan, Deputy Head of the SRC, who was present at the meeting, mentioned that a number of programs have been implemented over the past one and a half years, and as a result corruption cases have dropped significantly.

“CSO participation in such discussions and in the fight against corruption is very important, particularly within the framework of SRC functions,” Armen Saqapetoyan said.

He explained that the action plan was discussed in different platforms for about 5-6 months, including with NGOs. According to him, there were major reductions in the structure, around 500 employees were reduced, and structural changes that had a significant impact on the reduction of corruption risks took place.

Miss Syuzanna Soghomonyan, member of the independent experts of the expert center adjunct to the Anti-Corruption Council of the RA presented a number of priority points and innovations, submitted to the SRC, noting that international experience has been studied, domestic legislation analyzes have been conducted, focus groups of civil society representatives have been formed.

Susanna Soghomonyan mentioned that currently there are 3 types of customs control in Armenia: “Green” (without examination), “Yellow” (documentary scan), and “Red” (physical examination) zones. Now it is also proposed to introduce the 4th “Blue” (after-passage audit) zone.

When the system randomly chooses this or that custom cargo or product that must pass through the Blue Zone procedure; it implies that the product passes the customs border and after a certain period of time, the goods will be subject to inspection by the customs authorities through verification,” she said.

It should be noted that the criteria of the selective system will also be revised.

Another important proposal was made to the SRC as well, the installation of an online calculator when importing cars. That is, when importing vehicles into Armenia, the businessmen will be able to calculate through the SRC website how much the customs clearance for this vehicle will cost.

“In many cases, due to the unawareness of businesses larger amounts can be calculated at the customs checkpoints, whereas through this system we provide a directive price,” Syuzanna Soghomonyan explained.

According to her, corruption risks are manifested not only by the customs or tax bodies, but also by the economic entities. “When they are not informed or in an atmosphere of fear, they sometimes resort to corrupted proposals and rich an agreement with customs or tax inspectors,” the expert said. She also added that it is envisaged to create a public awareness block.

]]> Journalists play an Important Role in the Fight Against Corruption. RFE/RL Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:00:11 +0000 RFE / RL received this year’s “Mass Media of the Year” Anti-Corruption Award, for active coverage of electoral processes and restraining as well as detecting corruption risks during the parliamentary, Council of Elders of Yerevan City and Local Government elections.

Details in the video.

The National Assembly adopted the Law “On Prevention of Domestic Violence, Protection of the Victims of Domestic Violence and Restoration of Solidarity in the Family” Wed, 13 Dec 2017 09:26:31 +0000 Today, the National Assembly adopted in the second reading and completely the Law “On Prevention of Domestic Violence, Protection of the Victims of Domestic Violence and Restoration of Solidarity in the Family”. 75 deputies voted “for”, 12 “against” and 8 MPs “abstained”.

Ms Lusine Martirosyan, head of the Public Relations Department of the Ministry of Justice reported this.

Participants of the University Program for CSOs met with Karen Zadoyan Wed, 13 Dec 2017 04:58:36 +0000 Representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), participating in a new educational program at the American University of Armenia today, met with Karen Zadoyan, the “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” Project Manger.

It should be noted that this week the second phase of the new Certification Program has been launched. 15 CSO representatives from five Armenian marzes are involved in this phase. A new educational certification course has been created within the framework of the EU-funded “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” project and 120 CSO representatives will participate in free-of-charge training aimed at improvement of their skills and capacity.

During today’s meeting, the participants presented their impressions about the implementation of the educational program.

The participants positive assessed the content of the training. Other minor organizational issues were related to ventilation, water supply and other.

Karen Zadoyan, listening to their problems, mentioned that the issues raised will be discussed with the university and will be solved.

The training course is orgnised within the framework of The “Commitment to Constructive Dialogue” project implemented with the financial support of the European Union by a Consortium of civil society organisations, which are the Armenian Lawyers’ Association (lead organisation), Agora Central Europe (NGO based in the Czech Republic), the Armenian Centre for Democratic Education-CIVITAS, the International Centre for Human Development, the SME Cooperation Association and the Union of Communities of Armenia.