In his opening remarks to the two events on November 1 and November 7, Werner Thut, Deputy Head of Mission of the Swiss Embassy in Armenia and also responsible for the Swiss Cooperation program South Caucasus in Armenia, recalled some fundamental conditions for success in this field. “We have learned from our own Swiss experience: territorial and institutional reforms take time and patience.” But the fruits of the labor are worth it: “Decentralized governance structures offer favorable conditions for democracy, accessible and efficient institutions and sustainable economic development. Especially for mountainous countries like Switzerland and Armenia.”
Armenia‘s territorial reform and decentralization – Step by step to success
With two events in Dilijan for municipalities in the North and in Goris for the South, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure MTAI, together with the implementing partner GIZ, shared experiences on day-to-day efforts and progress of the ongoing Local Self-Governance project (LSG).
In his view, there is proof that Armenia is on the right path. Part of this success story is a small grant fund to support local economic development which has been set up by Switzerland and Germany, in 2020, in the midst of war and the COVID pandemic. Since then, 21 projects were selected from 218 applicants for funding by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and its project implementing partner Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Ranging from EURO 5’000 to EURO 20’000, the grants were developed by municipal workers and realized in the countryside with and by people on the ground. The projects enabled municipalities to improve the social and economic infrastructures in their respective communities, as well as create jobs, promote self-employment, address household income issues, ensure diversification of local production, and more.
To present the results of the projects financed through the Grant Fund, the GIZ, MTAI and SDC brought together representatives of the MTAI, representatives of local authorities, municipal workers responsible for the local economic development in their respective communities and members of the nation-wide working group on LED. The two conferences were followed by field visits to the projects’ sights of implementation.
On November 1, opening the first conference in Dilijan, the Deputy Minister of MTAI Vache Terteryan underlined the contribution of the Grant Fund to the economic development of Armenian municipalities and mentioned that the Fund is a continuation of fruitful cooperation with both German and Swiss governments which has started back in 2014. In his view, the modality developed in the scheme is very innovative and should lead the way for future involvements of local governments in LED. Since then, Switzerland has invested over CHF 16.5 million in supporting the local governance system in Armenia.
During the conferences, several community representatives presented their LED grant projects, describing the processes of preparation, implementation and impact of the projects on their communities.
- Aram Mirzoyan, the Deputy Mayor of Tegh Municipality talked about the project on establishing a Community Development Centre.
- Zemfira Harutyunyan, LED Officer of Areni Municipality, shared insights from the project which enabled her community to construct an internal network of irrigation system in Aghavnadzor settlement
- Lilit Harutyunyan, the Head of Finance and Socio-Economic Development Department of the Sisian Municipality described how the project financed through the Grant Fund contributed to the tourism development in Sisian community.
Following the conferences, the participants visited several of the implemented projects, for example the Community Development Centre in the Tegh community of Syunik region. This newly set-up building will soon house several businesses in the community, directing the generated revenue from the collected rent into the further development needs of the community.
In Gorayq community of Syunik, the Swiss-German co-funded grant enabled the community to purchase a tractor with plough, loader and other attachments. Since spring, this machinery has been utilized in the agricultural work supporting the families effected by deteriorating security conditions of this community bordering with Azerbaijan.
In Gladzor village, the grant scheme is supporting the construction of a parking space for existing heavy machinery, as well as workshops for various craftsmen and artisans. The facility is expected to start operating by the end of the year.