EPF’s experience in cross-border and peacebuilding work spans more than two decades and includes larger-scale peacebuilding and conflict transformation initiatives between Armenia and Turkey and between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. The 2nd Karabakh war demonstrated, on one hand, the insufficiency of these and similar efforts given the absence of will of the governments involved to cooperate; and on the other hand, the war also emphasized the importance of focusing on the conflict, increasing conflict sensitivity in the relevant communities, and breaking stereotypes. EPF’s programs adjusted to the new reality and included several components related to addressing the crisis situation.

Under its EU-funded ATNP-3 program, EPF and its partners in Armenia and Turkey continued collaborative work throughout 2021, which resulted in a fruitful collaboration between municipal and semi-governmental libraries, a performance of a play “Gomidas” by a Turkish theater in Yerevan, as well as in solid local and international participation in EPF’s “Think Future” Event, which was devoted to the discussion on the possibilities for actions that can contribute to resolving the issues between the two states.

One among many important results of the ATNP program in 2021 was the publishing and presentation of the Armenian translation of the book “Armenian within us” written by 35 distinguished contemporary Turkish writers in commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide and in memory of Hrant Dink. The original was published in Turkey in 2015 by a writer and literary translator Yegit Bener, while the translation was initiated by PEN Armenia’s Armen Ohanyan and the Antares printing house. The book is of particular value as it shows that Turkey is not homogeneous, and there are people who think differently.  

In the context of the EU-funded “PeaCE/Crisis Response” program, EPF supported 19 projects by Armenia- and NK- based civil society actors in 2021. The projects addressed the consequences of the trauma of the war as well as the pandemic. An unprecedented number of 11 projects were implemented by NK-based civil society organizations, many of which were formally registered after the war, thereby strengthening the civil society sector in NK and creating conditions for successfully addressing the consequences of the war on one hand, and for making NK into a more viable entity which increases its agency, on the other. This will allow for the NK population to be more capable of addressing their issues of concern if and when peace talks proceed. Also, throughout this time EPF continued organizational capacity building and the provision of critical thinking skills to its beneficiaries in Armenia and NK.


Civil Society

When CSOs engage in advocacy processes, some steps in the chain of the policy improvement journey require close collaboration and synchronized actions from the very beginning: identification and analysis of the problems and the needs of the target groups involved, researching and generating evidence or refutation of the assumed problems, discussing issues and possible solutions with various stakeholders and decision makers, and finally developing policy recommendations and advocating with central or regional governments towards their implementation. For this to be effective, CSOs need to cooperate with grassroots organizations, think-tanks, research groups, and the media, as well as the government and legislators. This complicated process requires a cultural shift; from acting on assumptions into generating evidence-based and implementable policy recommendations.

EPF’s flagship program in 2021 was the Swedish Government funded Civil Society Support that promoted human rights, good governance, and community development particularly through its grant-making scheme. Approximately 40 CSOs were funded, promoting reforms in various sectors of public life and governance. The “Disability Rights Agenda” NGO, in consultation with stakeholders, developed and submitted the National Comprehensive Program on the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities for 2021-2026. This was reviewed and accepted by the Ministry of Social Affairs as an official action plan. The Dilijan community Council approved the Youth Cooperation Center of Dilijan NGO’s recommendation to create a consultative body adjunct to the municipality for coordinating urban development. The body will engage civil society and business representatives, experts, etc., to discuss Dilijan’s development in a participative way for the first time in history, and will exist permanently. The “Right and Freedom Center” NGO applied to the Court of Appeal with 31 cases and to the Court of Cassation with 25 cases, appealing the verdicts issued against persons subjected to criminal prosecution due to their political views after 2008. As of the end of 2021, five cases were vindicated, others were under further consideration. The hopes that existed after the 2018 April change of power that this will be done by the State did not materialize, but thanks to this work justice is being restored, at least partly. The “Mission Armenia” NGO helps the Department of Migration with digitalizing tens of thousands of the case files of the refugees from Azerbaijan, which is still working on the first wave of the cases from the 1988-1994 period. The “Birdlinks Armenia” NGO developed an exam course for hunters in Armenia and actively advocated for making the exam mandatory for them. An article entitled “Revision of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas of Armenia” developed by “Birdlinks Armenia” was published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Zoology and Animal Biology.

The USAID-funded Data for Accountable and Transparent Action Program (DATA) helped five Network Consortia (NC) including 19 organizations, to practically engage in policy generation in specific fields. The NCs comprised CSOs, research, media, grassroots organizations and think tanks. NCs developed policy recommendations for legislative improvements in the fields of labor rights, state procurement, mental health management, as well as for the local government (LG) strategy improvements in the fields of communities’ social-environmental strategies, and measures for human security solutions’ integration in borderline communities. EPF and DATA partners developed a series of training modules, multimedia resources, instruments and texts to facilitate the projects, addressing effective policy change and dialogue with the State and stakeholders for targeted advocacy. The projects should result in policy recommendations and changes, as well as higher capacities of CSOs and their partners to translate societal problems into policies that address and resolve them. The results will be reported in 2022.

EPF’s InfoTun network continued actively working at community level in several dimensions: participatory policy making at local level, active citizenship, community initiatives etc. One of the major achievements was the recommendations’ package developed by Martuni InfoTun and submitted to the Martuni municipality was partly included in the Community Development Five-year plan.


Human Rights and Justice Reform

As a result of studies carried out through the provision of 16 small grants, fundamental problems in the field of justice reform were identified and solutions proposed. The problems concerned restrictions of access to justice, obstacles related to the maintenance of reasonable time requirements for court hearings, shortcomings in the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgments, overload of the courts, gaps in the human rights section of the Armenian Constitution, etc. EPF and its partners worked with decision makers to provide reasonable and timely solutions to these issues and produced some successes. The program contributed to the involvement of civil society in the ongoing processes of justice reforms, and also played a significant role in raising the problems and shortcomings in this sphere. Three hundred and forty young people, journalists, and civil society representatives from across the whole of Armenia participated in trainings on court monitoring, and the interested participants observed court sessions in the 10 regions of Armenia.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, EPF created a concept paper and a legislative package in order to establish an Arbitration Center in Armenia. The package has been approved by the Ministry and serves as the basis for the ongoing legislative amendments. As a result of a sub-grant project, the “Your Defender” law firm achieved the inclusion of important modifications in the Penitentiary Code., e.g. amends were adopted to grant the right to the convict to reinstate the appeal period if missed for a good cause, which ensures protection of the right to effective remedy. The “Law Development and Protection Foundation” carried out an in-depth analysis of the execution of ECHR judgments, and a number of recommendations contained in this research were accepted by the Government of Armenia.


Democratic Governance

As a part of the USAID-funded Civic Engagement in Local Governance (CELoG) project (lead partner Community Finance Officers Association - CFOA), EPF developed a Municipal Capacity Enhancement Tool (MCET). This is a unique tool that assesses the capacity of municipalities and provides recommendations on how to effectively identify community needs and priorities, define strategies for further development and involve community actors and stakeholders in these processes in a participatory manner. The MCET evaluates the LG capacities in three dimensions: 1) Policies and Procedures, 2) Human Resources and Structure, and 3) Management of daily routine. The assessment report serves as a basis for boosting the community development agenda based on identified priorities. The EPF team successfully conducted several assessments using the tool. EPF and CFOA also pioneered the use of local referenda in two communities, and achieved the inclusion of a budget line of grants for NGOs in one consolidated local community’s budget. Next steps require EPF training the LG on proper and fair grant-making procedures.