(Armradio) – On September 25, Tufenkian Foundation celebrated its 15th anniversary of working in Artsakh. To mark the occasion, a special event featuring a photo exhibition and a roundtable discussion was organized in Stepanakert. State officials of the Artsakh Republic, representatives of local and international organizations, Diaspora guests, as well as Tufenkian Foundation’s beneficiaries and partners took part in the event.
Founded in 1998 by entrepreneur James Tufenkian, the Tufenkian Foundation was launched in response to the most pressing social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges facing the Armenian society. In 2003, the Foundation broadened its scope to Artsakh, where it has since worked to resettle, rebuild and develop the strategically significant liberated borderlands.
Focusing on Artsakh’s most under-served communities, the Tufenkian Foundation builds houses, schools and clinics, installs water supply and irrigation systems, gives housing support to wounded soldiers, re-settlers and refugees, cultivates lands and orchards, restores Artsakh’s historic/cultural monuments and contributes to fair and balanced response to the NKR situation in international mass media, among other initiatives.
The 15th Anniversary Event was launched with a photo-exhibition that walked guests through the key efforts implemented by the Tufenkian Foundation during the past 15 years.
Following the opening of the photo exhibition, Tufenkian Foundation Executive Director Raffi Doudaklian presented the work of the Foundation since the expansion of its mission to Artsakh.
Summarizing the key accomplishments of the Foundation during the past 15 years, the following figures were presented:
More than 150 major construction works were completed
108 houses were built or renovated for re-settlers in Kashatagh, including for Syrian-Armenians
5 schools were built or renovated in Artsakh’s border villages, giving access to education to more than 200 children
9 homes were given to Artsakh’s wounded soldiers (with 3 more planned by the end of the year)
4 medical clinics, serving a total of 50 villages, were built or renovated
Water supply and irrigation systems were installed for 7 rural communities, giving clean water to over 850 villagers
51 hectares of land were cultivated in the liberated borderlands
50 permanent workplaces were created in areas with high unemployment and scarce opportunities
115 persons were re-settled in the Arajamugh village established by the Tufenkian Foundation
Congratulating the Tufenkian Foundation on this important milestone, Arayik Harutyunyan, Adviser to the Artsakh Republic President, said “The work of the Tufenkian Foundation in Artsakh is invaluable, and it is very important, that this work is continued and built upon in the future, both by the Tufenkian Foundation and other organizations and stakeholders, including the Artsakh government”.
The event was concluded with a roundtable discussion on “Developing and Resettling Artsakh: The Path Forward”. Representatives of the Tufenkian Foundation, other charitable and humanitarian organizations, Artsakh Republic ministries, National Assembly and other government agencies, educational institutions, as well as Tufenkian Foundation beneficiaries and partners participated in the discussion.
The discussion started with reflections on the past 15 years of rebuilding and repopulating Artsakh’s liberated villages: successes were presented, lessons learnt were analyzed and the overall trajectory of implemented actions was evaluated. This was followed with a lively debate on future efforts towards Artsakh’s resettlement and development, focusing on issues such as creating sustainable livelihoods and employment opportunities for re-settlers, attracting newcomers through favorable living conditions, ensuring that educational and healthcare issues are resolved throughout Artsakh and charting a roadmap of strengthening Artsakh’s sovereignity.
Highlighting the importance of continued development of the liberated territories, Artsakh Republic Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Armine Alexanyan said “Despite the political situation, we must continue resettling and strengthening Artsakh”.
As a key precondition for Artsakh’s resettlement, provision of employment opportunities for re-settlers and current residents was pointed out. “Without employment, without a way for the villagers to make a sustainable living, the resettlement and development of Artsakh is impossible. We need to have a concrete plan on ensuring employment opportunities for people living here”, said Edik Grigoryan, Head of the Tufenkian Foundation Artsakh office.
The lack of a comprehensive plan on the development of the liberated territories, namely Kashatagh, was another issue highlighted by the participants.
The following key conclusions were outlined as a result of the discussion:
- The Artsakh situation must be resolved by the people of Artsakh.
- Regardless of the political/geopolitical situation, efforts towards the resettlement and development of the liberated territories must continue.
- Employment opportunities are key to the resettlement and development of Artsakh. Future efforts must focus on this issue.
- There is a need to create a comprehensive plan/strategy on the development of Kashatagh, which will include concrete actions on resettlement and development of liberated villages.
- The lack of human resources/skilled labor is a key challenge for the development of Artsakh. There is need for targeted job training and educational opportunities.
- There is a strong need to raise awareness about Artsakh, both among the Armenian Diaspora and the international community.
The Tufenkian Foundation plans to utilize the results of the discussion in its future activities aimed at rebuilding, resettling and developing Artsakh’s border villages, while continuing to cooperate with other organizations, government agencies and a range of relevant stakeholders in Artsakh and beyond.