The DEPOP Research Group, in partnership with AGBU and the Kololian Foundation, has just concluded a worldwide tour to present its report “The Depopulation Crisis in Armenia.” The group’s stop in California, which followed events in Beirut, Paris, Toronto, New York, was organized by the AGBU Western District and drew over 250 guests to the Glendale Central Library. There, guests weighed in on a new dialogue about emigration, demographic and socioeconomic challenges in Armenia today and possibilities for building a stronger future for the republic.

The report, which was first introduced at a United Nations Population Fund conference in Yerevan in October 2013, is based on extensive fieldwork conducted across Armenia. For more than a year, four independent research teams, selected by the International Center for Human Development in Yerevan on behalf of the Kololian Foundation, gathered data on the ground.

The researchers include Dr. Khatchik Der Ghougassian of the Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation; Veronica Aghajanyan, Ani Avetisyan, Tatevik Hovhannisyan, Elena Kozhemyakina, Elena Muradyan, and Elina Sahakyan of the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University; Kristine Antonyan, Karlen Khachatryan, and Haik Sargsyan of Yerevan State University; and independent researchers Arshak Balayan, Armen Gakavian, and Avetik Mejlumyan.

The DEPOP teams’ focus groups, interviews, media monitoring and surveys revealed startling statistics: a near 20% drop in Armenia’s population over the past two decades. Their research shows that although those numbers were initially tied to a lack of economic opportunities, in recent years, families with higher earnings are even more likely to leave the country.

In light of these findings, the DEPOP group proposed recommendations, which they shared with the Glendale audience. Vahan Kololian, co-founder of the Toronto-based think tank the Mosaic Institute and the sponsor of the DEPOP project, pointed to the need for the Armenian diaspora to help reverse these demographic trends. Using Israel and its repatriation efforts as a case study, he called on diasporans to join together in their efforts to help Armenia.

In his address to guests at the AGBU Central Office in New York, Kololian remarked that “the Armenian people have a history of uniting in the face of crisis. The country’s readily declining population is yet another crisis that we must resolve together, whether it is by investing in local businesses and micro-lending or by engaging with the Ministry of Diaspora to support civic projects that lead to greater citizen involvement.”

The first step to bringing about meaningful change, he continued, is to strengthen civic institutions across Armenia and to organize public discussions, which they were able to initiate with the AGBU Western District as a partner. The presentation prompted the audience members who filled the Glendale Central Library to ask questions, offer comments and share anecdotes. Krekor Karaguezian, the AGBU Western District chair, noted that “this event was the first of its kind to raise awareness within our local community in the Los Angeles area about what is now unfolding in Armenia. Our members left with new insights into the current situation, inspired to do what they can to strengthen the democratic process and create a prosperous future for our country and our people. We are thankful for the support of the Kololian Foundation and the young researchers who helped to create this important platform.”

With its first international tour complete, the DEPOP Research Group is now seeking to partner with local civic groups to encourage transparency and participatory decision-making and to empower Armenian youth country-wide.

To learn more about the DEPOP group, and to download a copy of the report “The Depopulation Crisis in Armenia,” please visit www.depop.am.

Photo: Event Organized by AGBU Western District Draws Hundreds to Glendale Central Library

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