The recent political change in Armenia and the government’s subsequent public commitment to greater transparency have unlocked new opportunities for civil society to contribute to the policy process. However, evidence- and data-based policy recommendations are not something that most Armenian CSOs are used to delivering to the public and government. There is a need to strengthen CSOs’ capacities to identify problems, work with constituencies, improve their strategic communication, formulate evidence-based policy recommendations, cooperate within the sector and, as result, have a greater impact on policy.
In order to enhance CSO capacities of evidence-based policy formulation and policy-participation, a grant opportunity “Networking for Policy Improvement” was launched, as part of the Data for Accountable and Transparent Action (DATA) program. The DATA program is implemented by EPF with USAID support, in collaboration with four partner CSOs: Boon TV Foundation, SOCIES Expert Center CSO, Sose Womens’ Issues CSO and Youth Cooperation Center of Dilijan.
The grant provision cycle included a series of outreach meetings in all the regions of Armenia for potential applicants, submission of concept papers by CSO Networks (Network Consortia - NCs); in-depth training of pre-selected NCs on the Value Chain of Policy Processes, co-creation discussions for refining the pre-selected proposals; approval of the NC full proposals and grant awards, grants management seminars and signing contracts with the NCs.
The DATA program received proposals from 29 consortia (comprising 108 CSOs) to address various policy-related issues. Five policy initiatives proposed by five NCs were selected to be implemented starting from June 2021, as described below.
1. Socio-Ecological Responsibility in Local Government Strategies. This project will contribute to sustainable community development by introducing and strengthening the socio-ecological component in LG strategies. Currently, there is no socio-ecological development policy in the local government strategies of the RA. Project partners will develop and introduce a socio-ecological policy in 6 communities in 3 regions of RA. The project will develop an assessment tool for communities’ social risks, problems, data collection, priorities and needs, to be used for each target community. Socio-ecological policies will be developed in a participatory format, and will then be submitted to be adopted by local governments. Main activities include: conducting legislative analysis, compiling socio-ecological risks, problems, priorities and needs of particular regions. Discussion of possible solutions through public discussions, round tables and forums. Drafting socio-ecological policies of the target communities, advocacy at the local and national level for their adoption by the local government bodies. The major results will include: Socio-ecological policies of the 6 target communities are developed using participatory methods. Socio-ecological policies are on the agenda for adoption by local governments in the 6 target communities.
The Project is implemented by a NC consisting of the Center for Community Mobilization and Support NGO, Martuni Women’s Community Council NGO, New Horizons NGO, EcoLur Informational NGO and Armenian Forests NGO.
2. Improving data-driven policy processes in the field of labor rights. The goal of the project is to contribute to the protection of labor rights in Armenia by identifying and addressing the constraints in the field of registered labor. The field of job contracts will be researched, identifying common issues at the legislative and law enforcement level, facilitating a public discussion of the identified issues and options for improvement, developing a package of data-driven proposals (policy paper) for legislative reform and carrying out targeted work with relevant state authorities to include and implement policy changes based on the recommendations.
As a result, the State agencies (Health and Labor Inspectorate, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, State Revenue Committee) will receive packages of recommendations for improved protection of labor rights in RA, improved, transparent and accountable process/situation of job contracts in Armenia, increased awareness of employees of their rights, improved transparency and accountability in labor transactions, reduction in corruption risks and rights violations. An important outcome of the Project will be an increase in the influence of various CSOs in the development and implementation of public policy in the field of labor rights.
The project is implemented by a NC comprised of Armavir Development Center, Prisma Research Center, Law Development Center NGO and Public Journalism Club.
3. Transparent, Accessible and Accountable Procurement (TAAP). The goal of the project is to increase the efficiency of public procurement by identifying barriers and proposing solutions. The project envisages an analysis of three areas of public procurement: the single source (one-person) procurement procedure, procedures for development and publication of terms of reference, and comparative analysis of “centralized and decentralized” procurement systems. The project will develop policy proposals based on the analysis, and create networks that will facilitate the inclusion of these proposal packages in the policy/legislative agenda.
The project is implemented in collaboration with “NGO Center for Civil Society Development” NGO (NGOC); Freedom of Information Center of Armenia (FOICA) NGO; and Community and Youth NGO.
4. “Human rights-based policies in the field of mental health” (Alternative). This project aims to support the development of an evidence-based policy for the introduction of the system of small social care homes and related services in the field of mental health in Armenia. As a part of the project it is planned to: establish a network for the protection of rights of persons with psychosocial and mental disabilities; develop a toolkit for conducting evidence-based research and advocacy in the field of mental health; develop the capacity of civil society to use the toolkit; conduct research on the possibility of large-scale rollout of small social care homes for people with mental health problems in the Republic of Armenia; and advocate for the implementation of the project results and recommendations.
The project is implemented in collaboration with the Institute of Public Policy NGO, Legal Research and Development Center NGO, Healthcare Policy and Innovation Center NGO and “Warm Corner” Foundation.
5. “Improvement of Local Strategies for Crisis Management and Public Protection in Syunik region”. This project will contribute to the identification of problems of vital importance for safe, secure and healthy living of the population of Syunik Region, and their inclusion in the local government strategies. The project will consider the consequences of the war and the COVID-19 global pandemic, and public protection measures that emerged in response. The consortium intends to support the development of policies necessary for safe living and civil protection for the residents of Syunik region, the southern region of Armenia which is severely affected by crisis situations. To achieve this goal, the consortium will conduct a study of the major factors of global human security concepts and will conduct a needs assessment in the Syunik region. With the involvement of local government and CSO stakeholders in the Syunik region, a working group will be set up aimed at evaluating public protection measures and needs and crisis response strategies, and it will draft a concept based on these needs and local risks, and advocate specific activities to include this concept in the strategies of local government bodies. As a result, CSOs, local government, experts and the public will work together to develop and introduce public protection and crisis management strategies in the agenda and programs of local governments in Syunik region.
The project is implemented in collaboration with “Journalists for the Future" NGO; Goris Press Club NGO; and “Rainbow” Leaders Educational Center NGO, Syunik.