The National Citizens' Initiative
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel.: (+374 - 10) 27.16.00, 27.00.03
Fax: (+374 - 10) 52.48.46
E-mail: [email protected]

September 22, 2005

National Citizens' Initiative Takes On Youth Issues

Yerevan--The National Citizens' Initiative (NCI) today convened a youth
roundtable on "The Generation of Independence: Present and Future Tasks."
The meeting brought together young public and political figures, heads of
student and other non-governmental associations, human rights advocates,
analysts, experts, and media representatives.

NCI coordinator Hovsep Khurshudian welcomed the audience with opening
remarks. "The nationwide awakening in 1988 and, starting from 1991, the
institution of Armenia's sovereignty inspired hope that the new generation
that was formed under the conditions of an independent statehood would
inherit the values of those years, possess the push for becoming the masters
of their country, and be prepared to shoulder the heavy burden of
responsibility for the integrity of the state. Today, however, we are
bearing witness to a profound apathy among youth circles in regard to
national matters. An overwhelming majority of young people do not see
themselves as owners of the country, but rather its tenants at best. High
concepts, for one reason or another, were not passed on to the new
generation. And today we convene this roundtable in order to identify its
causes," Khurshudian said.

In his intervention entitled "The Question of the Youth's Perception of
Independence," chairman Mihran Hakobian of Yerevan State University's
Student Council deemed the discord among the youth as one of the impediments
to the establishment of "the independence generation" in the country. He
criticized the authorities' youth policy and accused them of ineffective use
of state means in and for youth affairs. "The 'Baze-2' gathering, for the
organization of which a tremendous amount of money was allocated from state
budget, in fact was a failure," Hakobian said. He also harshly disapproved
of the recent government-endorsed laws and regulations diminishing the
autonomy of university administration. In essence, he continued, the most
conscientious and devoted of the independence generation are alienated from
the country's governance, the precept of natural selection is encroached
upon, and those young people who are guided not by principles but by
self-serving pettiness are penetrating into power.

In his talk on "The Yesterday and Today of the Independence Generation: A
Comparative Briefing," NCI program coordinator Edgar Hakobian touched upon
the history of the youth movement in Armenia starting from 1988. Since then,
he said, the characteristics of the youth have largely changed, with guiding
ideals such as patriotism, dedication, and spirituality succumbing to
egotism, consumer mentality, and a readiness to rank petty self-interests
above vital national interests. "Speaking in the name of the entire youth, a
group of pro-governmental young people formed by the authorities themselves
is trying to secure its own financial welfare," Hakobian concluded.
Moreover, the greater part of the youth is extremely passive when it comes
to the resolution of numerous public problems. This refers to the rights of
those serving in the army as well as the protection of those citizens who
have been illegally evicted from the Northern Avenue-Biuzand Street
construction zone. Hakobian made an appeal for youth organizations to
intensify their participation in these and related processes.

During his address entitled "Youth Obligations for the Sovereignty of the
Country," Aren Manukian of the "Development of Knowledge" group said that
while the old generation played a meaningful role in achieving Armenia's
independence, a solution to the Artsakh question, and consolidation of the
country's sovereignty, the new generation has not yet demonstrated a
capacity to continue the work of its elders and to assume responsibility for
the country's future. In his opinion, without the engagement of the youth en
masse, the involvement of a number of young activists in matters concerning
the restoration of the rule of law in Armenia would have only limited
effect. "When the matter referred to granting postponement of military
service to graduate students, we succeeded in having thousands of students
hold protests, but now that we are taking part in the reinstatement of the
rights of citizens who have been thrown out of their homes in the Northern
Avenue and Biuzand Street construction belt, you can count on your fingers
the number of people who come with us," Manukian worried aloud.

The day's final speaker, Armenian Center for National and International
Studies (ACNIS) analyst Syuzanna Barseghian, introduced and analyzed the
results of a series of sociological surveys recently conducted by ACNIS on
"generation next" and its outlook on Armenia's independence, avenues for
resolving the Karabagh issue, the Genocide, and Armenia's European
integration process. According to those findings, although Armenian youth
are prepared to take part in the defense of the Homeland if Armenia or
Karabagh is again attacked, the bulk of respondents find that Armenia's
independence has brought with it more setbacks than accomplishments. In
Barseghian's words, such thinking by the new generation is exceedingly

Also noteworthy were interventions by ACNIS analysts Alen Ghevondian and
Hovhannes Vardanian; "Development of Knowledge" group representatives Arsen
Kharatian and Ararat Mirzoyan; Heritage Party members Armen Martirosian and
Sargis Manukian; and many others.

In his closing remarks, NCI coordinator Hovsep Khurshudian accentuated this
matter's significance for Armenia and the Armenian public. "The youth are
the tomorrow of this country, and the future of the sovereignty of the
Republic of Armenia and the prospects for the institution of civil society
are dependent on them," Khurshudian concluded.

The National Citizens' Initiative is a public non-profit association founded
in December 2001 by Raffi K. Hovannisian, his colleagues, and fellow
citizens with the purpose of realizing the rule of law and overall
improvements in the state of the state, society, and public institutions.
The National Citizens' Initiative is guided by a Coordinating Council, which
includes individual citizens and representatives of various public,
scientific, and educational establishments. Five commissions on Law and
State Administration, Socioeconomic Issues, Foreign Policy, Spiritual and
Cultural Challenges, and the Youth constitute the vehicles for the
Initiative's work and outreach.

For further information, please call (37410) 27-16-00 or 27-00-03; fax
(37410) 52-48-46; e-mail [email protected]; or visit