Hetq talks to Arsen Kharatyan; a member of the newly launched Civic Contract initiative’s governing council.
Arsen, one of the major clauses of the Civic Contract (CC) is that those who sign on must return to Armenia if they are living overseas. But you reside in the USA. Isn’t this a violation of the CC?
This is exactly what I spoke about in my statement to the press on December 9. By signing the CC, I have assumed the responsibility of returning to Armenia. If you look at the first draft, you will see a five year return deadline. We then started to edit the CC text and in July of this year, the next draft appeared.
This process is important for us. That people have a chance to participate in amending the CC’s charter. In the July draft, we didn’t specify a deadline for returning to Armenia. But we will clarify the mechanisms for assuming this responsibility in the future.
Yes, by signing the CC I have assumed the obligation to return and hope to do so very soon.
One of the principles of the CC is to avoid leading citizens to a defeat. Doesn’t this sound a bit abstract? What is meant by defeat and how do you plan to avoid it?
That’s a very good question. In essence, our logic of avoiding defeat refers to us not entering any process in which our defeat is predetermined from the start, or a process in which we see our success as highly unlikely or any road to success. It’s better if we don’t enter such processes since the ensuing disappointment would be much more damaging if we again enter the arena with lofty sounding promises and only suffer defeat. Such a defeat, yet again, could lead to increased exodus from the country or deepening apathy.
First, we will not engage in any process where there are no visible chances of success from the very start. This is a fundamental principle of ours. Second, we will try to learn from our past mistakes and not to repeat them.
What mistakes would you specify in this regard?
Several, which we have already noted elsewhere. We believe that a crisis of governance principles has occurred. There has been a lack of horizontal relationships in the decision making process. In the past, there has also been a lack of transparency and accountability in this process.
There have also been tactical blunders. But I don’t want to focus on them. We can go on and one. But perhaps the most important is that the chosen methods and forms of struggle haven’t been taken to their conclusion, since there has been a lack of continuity. We will try not to repeat these mistakes.
We must rule out the notion of prophets and the cult of personality.
As a member of the CC, could you please succinctly formulate your objective?
In addition to all else, the objective is to establish a new logic of relations in Armenia and to engage anyone who wishes in the process, and to work with them on a much more serious and deeper level.
We must rule out the notion of prophets and the cult of personality. There are no saviors. This approach doesn’t work. Perhaps such an approach has worked in the past somewhere else, but the reasons have been the local processes in a particular country. We believe that team work and horizontal relations are very important. We will have a collective leadership; i.e., a group of leaders.
It is frequently said that there is a crisis of civil consciousness in our society. Isn’t this a wide expanse for the CC to bridge? How will you overcome it?
It’s been different at different times. Generally, there is a crisis of public and civil consciousness after political defeats. It’s a kind of natural law. When there are huge segments of people engaged in a certain process which ends in defeat, there is a crisis of consciousness. I’ve experienced such emotions myself.
In every stage - staring from 1996, in 2003, after April 12, 2004, after March 1, 2008, and partially after April 2013. I think this is the case for many.
In reality, we have a great people and public that understand quite well what is happening and that there is a road, a possibility, leading to change. They are actively engaged and are trying to make things happen collectively.
Let me put it this way, when the people see and understand that the path we have taken, when they confide in us, such activism will be contagious. I am not saying that that our group somehow stands apart from the others and that it will take the lead. Not at all. Naturally, in this stage, we must talk and debate with all other groups that have proposed a way to achieve change in Armenia through political means.
Most of the people understand what it means to live well, to have civilized relations, what it means to have a normal government and the rule of law. The absence of these things, over the years, the fact that political groups haven’t been able to achieve these changes, has resulted in varying degrees of apathy, or what is called escapism. People leave the country because they see no solution. And this is the reason, in our estimation, that one of our primary targets, in addition to launching initiatives within Armenia, is to work for repatriation on a grand scale; a rational of return.
So what basic change will the CC make in terms of action?
Let me note a few. First, we will attempt to refrain from populist sloganeering. We will try to provide specific proposals, sector by sector, in order to achieve change. We will register successes and defeats along the way. But we attempt to forge ahead consistently along this path. We must understand what Armenia must choose, in the way of specific approaches and mechanisms, from foreign affairs to the health sector, to defense, so that we can alter the situation that is rotten to the core and doesn’t work.