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A Promising Dual Effort

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  • A Promising Dual Effort

    28 November 2011

    It took almost 20 years following the tragic events of the '50s
    (particularly in Lebanon) for Diaspora Armenians to finally see
    eye-to-eye and start thinking about Pan-Armenianism in practice.

    Probably the establishment of the Association of the Armenian
    University Graduates in Beirut in the '70s was that concrete example
    of the trend which heralded the start of the healing process of
    our self-inflicted wounds. Several conventions, held in Paris and
    elsewhere, initiated by Rev. James Karnusian were a search for
    a formula around which Armenians could gather together. Then, of
    course, the policy of "positive neutrality" during the civil war in
    Lebanon helped solidify the trend. In recent years the announcement
    of the infamous Protocols provided an impetus to carry forward the
    task of organizing the Diaspora in a manner that would reflect its
    priorities and assert itself on the international scene. Lastly,
    the forthcoming 100th Anniversary of the Genocide of the Armenians
    has subconsciously imparted urgency to activities aimed at unity,
    if not in organization in principles.

    Overall while Diaspora wants to move forward and meet the challenges of
    today and tomorrow in a unified manner, there still persists a sector
    which harps on divisions, enumerates failed attempts and shortfalls
    in technicalities as arguments, and thus hinders progress.

    Excuses abound why unity cannot be achieved. In most cases these are
    symptomatic of a predisposition to inaction. Fortunately, there is no
    scarcity of people who, despite being skeptic, are willing to share
    their experiences with well-documented discourses, pointing out the
    pitfalls and what to look for when establishing an entity manifesting
    unity of purpose.

    In recent years has devoted many words to the subject of
    unity and about recent initiatives, singling out Harut Sassounian's
    proposal of "an Elective Democratic Diaspora Structure" (EDDS)
    and the "Western Armenian National Congress" (WAN-C). These earnest
    activities, representing two concepts, almost coincided and led to
    confusion among some readers.

    The "Elective Democratic Diaspora Structure" refers strictly to
    Armenians living in the Diaspora. It plans to create an entity from
    bottom up through ballot--on the one person one vote principle. It
    proposes to deal with all the problems that the Diaspora faces,
    including but not limited, to social, educational, political and
    genocide issues along with HAI TAD. There is no illusion among
    adherents that such a task is not of Herculean proportions. However,
    it is heartening to hear from Sassounian himself: "I am continuing
    my private discussions with all sorts of people, including heads of
    Armenian organizations. Recently, I made important headway with the
    leader of a major organization. I will continue my efforts in this
    regard, until the worldwide structure becomes a reality."

    Meanwhile, in less than two weeks, a group of Ottoman-Armenian
    survivors' descendants will convene in Sèvres, the famed suburb of
    Paris, to lay the cornerstone of the "Western Armenian National
    Congress." Attendees will come from the Middle East, Europe, the
    Americas, and Australia, in addition to representatives from Armenia,
    Artsakh and the Russian Federation descended from Genocide survivors.

    Ostensibly the primary goal of WAN-C is to be "a legitimate
    representational institution that can negotiate for the rights
    of the victims of genocide and their descendants" in international
    institutions. Unlike EDDS, the promoters are intellectuals, diplomats,
    politicians, historians, journalists, businessmen and activists.

    Obviously, in contrast to EDDS the "Congress" has an "elitist"
    approach at least in its initial formative phase of establishment,
    but it is proposed that delegates will be "elected" by communities in
    the future. In June of this year an attempt was made to create such a
    possible prototype, based on democratic principles. 120 people, some
    representing various compatriotic associations, convened in Moscow
    and elected 40 delegates by secret ballot. They were from Moscow, St.

    Petersburg, Doni Rostov, Vladikavkaz, Sochi, Adler, Krasnodar, Omsk,
    Petrozavodsk, Vladivostok, Crimea and Abkhazia. team and its friends welcome both above initiatives despite
    several reservations we have aired about WAN-C. Ultimately, one has to
    "work in the garden." Only by getting involved and exchanging opinion
    can change occur. The sidelines are a dead end. A number of close
    friends have pointed out that these may lead to "two divergent,
    separate efforts" implying that supporting one or the other may
    be perceived as being pro or anti the other. We prefer to look
    at it differently. Yes, they are "separate efforts" and there are
    dissimilarities, but the two are not mutually exclusive.

    Dissimilarities emanate from the goals that each supports and the
    composition of membership.

    1.EDDS ideally would like to be a representative body of Diaspora
    Armenians, as pointed out above; WAN-C proposes to represent only
    the descendants of Genocide survivors wherever they are.

    2.EDDS plans to deal with a whole array of issues that face the
    Armenian Diaspora, while WAN-C limits itself primarily to being an
    entity pursuing our rights beyond recognition of the Genocide.

    3.EDDS is a populist democratic body that will involve people from
    all walks of life. Being a specialized entity WAN-C can't claim the
    same membership numbers as EDDS, but may garner vast popular support
    provided it walks the talk.

    An area where the two "efforts" may converge is in the most crucial
    matter--HAI TAD and all related issues. We hope WAN-C will be
    established as planned and over the coming years amass an invaluable
    experience for all concerned, not excluding RoA, the traditional
    Armenian political parties and EDDS when "it becomes a reality."

    Supporting WAN-C does not exclude participation in EDDS and vice
    versa. WAN-C has the potential of acting as a complementary entity
    to already existing organizations or individuals who are pursuing HAI
    TAD, with the difference that the undertaking will be more specialized
    and focused.

    No single existing or proposed organization can be without fault; the
    contemplated congress or EDDS will be far from being perfect. However,
    to limit failures and pitfalls it's essential to participate in either
    initiative with an eye on "progressive democratization, transparency
    of efforts, focused approach to issues at hand" as a close friend of Viken L. Attarian of Montreal would say.

    From: A. Papazian