Spiritual Rebirth

Uniting the Global Armenian Community

#AGBUtalks launches groundbreaking conversations on new technologies to link  Armenians in Armenia and across the diaspora

On April 1 to 3, the AGBU 88th General Assembly held an inspirational series of symposia that engaged participants to develop ideas and roadmaps for strengthening the global Armenian community. The #AGBUtalks embody the organization’s recent efforts to propose new avenues of thinking and promote understanding between Armenia and the diaspora. 

The #AGBUtalks featured keynote speakers from major educational institutions and foundations as well as state and international organizations operating domestically and internationally. Streamed live on social media, the talks encouraged dialogue between AGBU General Assembly delegates, the local Armenian community and those who sent in questions via Twitter. The symposia—the first of their kind in Armenia—created an atmosphere full of positivity, optimism and excitement for attendees in Armenia and abroad, engaging Armenians across the diaspora—including those in smaller communities such as Georgia.

The three panels were moderated by journalist and Armenia TV news director Artak Aleksanyan and were comprised of world-renowned experts who proposed new approaches to understanding human capital in Armenia and the diaspora, facing challenges in Armenian state-building and positioning Armenians on an international platform. “We carefully chose successful, engaged panelists of different ages and generations to show the potential of the Armenian community and celebrate their stories of success. By introducing them to a wide audience and holding the talks in forward-thinking, success story venues, we are giving physical evidence of what is achievable with hard, collaborative work, consolidation of resources, vision and dedication,” said AGBU Central Board member Vasken Yacoubian.

The first panel, entitled “Human Capital in Armenia and the Diaspora,” was held at the Ayb School in Yerevan on April 1. The panel’s keynote speakers included Father Mesrop Aramyan, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ayb Educational Foundation; Armen Der Kiureghian, president of the Armenian University of Armenia (AUA); Yeva Hyusyan, country director of Microsoft Armenia; Aram Salatian, general director of National Instruments Armenia; and Sam Simonian, vice president of AGBU and founder of the Simonian Educational Foundation and the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies.

During the first talk, the panelists discussed the current prospects for developing pan-Armenian potential and creating stronger bonds between Armenia and the diaspora. It also highlighted the importance of education as key to ensuring stronger and more competitive human capital, which the speakers identified as the Armenian nation’s single most important resource.

The discussion examined various methods of creating conditions to keep Armenians in Armenia and encouraging their return after time spent abroad. Der Kiureghian summarized the theme of the panel in relation to his work at AUA: “The potential for Armenia lies in its people. The future of this country depends on building powerful human capital. Education and training are essential elements. Our focus as a university is Armenia, but we also emphasize bringing diasporan students to Armenia to add to the human capital of the country. Students from abroad may stay; some may go back. But they will be lifelong friends and business partners of Armenia,” said Der Kiureghian. 

The second panel, entitled “The Challenges of Building the Armenian State,” was held at AUA on April 2. Speakers included Daron Acemoglu, Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Arpi Balian, director of AUA Extension Program; Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, head of the Creation of Social Doctrine Department of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; Armen Harutyunyan, regional representative of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Central Asia; and Vigen Sargsyan, chief of staff to the president of Armenia. 

The panel brought together enthusiastic young participants from Armenia and the diaspora to share their perspectives on Armenia’s path towards development and propose approaches for advancement.

Economic considerations were at the forefront of the discussion and various models of development were debated: “The dispute in the development world has been: ‘Is development going to be state-led or market-led?’ We need to have that happy balance between the two. Most importantly, we need to create a middle class. We speak about small and medium enterprise creation continuously and create the environment needed to promote it, but we have to make a concerted effort to make sure both happen. Those will be the primary areas to place emphasis,” said Balian.

The final panel, entitled “Improving Armenians' International Standing,” took place at the United World College (UWC) Dilijan School on April 3. On the panel were Victoria Aslanian, CEO of Golden Grape ArmAs LLC (ArmAs Wines); Vasken Kalayjian, CEO of GK Brand; Timothy Straight, honorary consul of Norway and Finland in Armenia and founder of Homeland Development Initiative Foundation; and Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder and chairman of the RVVZ Foundation Board.  

The panel identified methods to advance Armenia on an international stage and draw investment and tourism. It also focused on leveraging the successes already achieved in Armenia to promote the country’s brand.

In his presentation, Vardanyan explored the factors that bring the global Armenian community together around the world and their role in branding Armenia: “Two things unify the Armenian people: pride and fear. Pride is when you are proud to be Armenian, when you want to be Armenian, and when you want the nation to be successful. But fear is also a driver. We must move from survivor mode to prosperity mode and concentrate on excellence rather than on mediocrity. We have to think: ‘We can achieve it; we are strong; and we can do it despite all the problems.’ I think this is an element that can bring us all back to the common notion that we want to be Armenian no matter where we are born,” said Vardanyan. 

The panel concluded with remarks by President Setrakian, who echoed Vardanyan’s sentiment and outlined the organization’s vision for the future of Armenia-diaspora relations: “I don’t believe that we have Armenia and the diaspora. We are one nation and we in the diaspora will contribute to the betterment of this country. All efforts have to be concentrated on Armenia. Why? Because we believe that the third generation in the diaspora, which is practically drifting away, will come back to us if we bring to this generation the pride of being Armenian. Armenia cannot become a source a pride if we don’t succeed in having a politically, economically and socially strong country,” said Setrakian. 

All three #AGBUtalks can be viewed in their entirety at http://bit.ly/1E5S2us.

Originally published in the 2015-09-01​ issue of AGBU Magazine. Archived content may appear distorted on your screen. end character

About the AGBU Magazine

AGBU Magazine is of the most widely circulated English language Armenian magazines in the world, available in print and digital format. Each issue delivers insights and perspective on subjects and themes relating to the Armenian world, accompanied by original photography, exclusive high-profile interviews, fun facts and more.