Speakers at the AGBU Fund for Artsakh press conference. From Right: AGBU Armenia Executive Director Talar Kazanjian; AGBU Armenia President Vasken Yacoubian; AGBU President Berge Setrakian; and State Minister of Artsakh Grigory Martirosyan

STEPANAKERT — Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) organized a formal press conference on June 4, at the Vallex Garden Hotel in Stepanakert, to formally announce a major push behind its AGBU Fund for Artsakh, a four-way strategy for sustainable socio-economic growth in Artsakh centered around programs in education, culture, humanitarian relief, and socio-economic development.

In addition to the presence of AGBU’s senior leadership, Grigori Martirosyan, the state minister of of Artsakh and Jorge Del Aguila-Eurnekian, representing Fruitful Armenia and Converse Bank, were invited to make brief remarks to the cross section of attendees from the local community including public servants, representatives of major companies in Artsakh, as well as existing and prospective beneficiaries of Fund programs.

According to AGBU President Berge Setrakian, a sustainable growth economy for Artsakh is as indispensable to its survival as negotiating a just peace and defending the right to self-determination, stating that, “Along with providing a better life for the people, a strong economy also means a stronger military and eventually a safer homeland.”

Artsakh Chamber Orchestra

Building on the organization’s decades of support for humanitarian and socio-economic initiatives in the war-stricken enclave, AGBU Fund for Artsakh was officially launched in 2018 as an umbrella entity that better reflects the interdependence among programs to achieve optimal national renewal—from providing emergency medical support in response to the April 2016 four-day war, educating the next generation of innovators through its collaboration with the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, helping advance deserving students with university scholarships, and supporting Military Officer Education for both on and off the battlefield. On the cultural front, the Fund continues to support the Artsakh Chamber Orchestra that it helped found in 2004. The orchestra has since toured the world, paving the way for a new music school in Artsakh, thanks to its global success.

Two new agriculture-based initiatives were added to the Fund in 2018—AGBU Fields of Hope and AGBU Olive Tree Orchards. Both are designed to empower farmers, including Syrian-Armenian refugee settlers, to transform Artsakh into a cornucopia of produce to sustain the populace and open new markets for regional trade.

AGBU Fields of Hope

In concert with announcing accelerated efforts behind the Fund, AGBU introduced two new ambitious programs aimed at stimulating economic activity and reducing poverty: AGBU Women Entrepreneurs (W.E.); and AGBU Learn to Earn Artsakh Program (LEAP).

AGBU LEAP is a professional development initiative that helps locals with different educational backgrounds and skill sets to create more sustainable and remunerative sources of income through self-employment and enhanced employability. The program also aims to support public servants in their professional development, as well as to cultivate a more supportive environment for small and medium-size enterprises in Artsakh.

Selected entrepreneurs will enroll for a course in Business Administration from the American University of Armenia Extension Program. Upon completion, they will have the opportunity to compete for mini-grants and benefit from year-long handholding from experts in relevant fields.

Other beneficiaries will also receive English language training and a non-degree certificate in Tourism and Hospitality Management upon completion of at least five of AUA Extension’s 12-course program.

AGBU Learn to Earn Artsakh Program also commits to strengthen capabilities among officers employed in the public sector through professional development courses and exchange visits with Armenian counterparts. The program will help the Artsakh government develop action plans to resolve policy gaps and improve the business climate for small and medium enterprises.

AGBU Women Entrepreneurs (W.E.)

AGBU Women Entrepreneurs (W.E.) in Artsakh is implemented together with Fruitful Armenia Charity Foundation to boost the entrepreneurial skills of women in Stepanakert and the regions and help them succeed in the world of business. The project is part of the AGBU Women Empowerment Program which began in Armenia in 2017 to help promote human rights and equal opportunity for women in Armenia.

“The establishment of enterprises, the creation of new jobs, and the promotion of export are all key to economic development. This is why we are joining AGBU in supporting women entrepreneurs in Artsakh by helping them expand their knowledge of finance and entrepreneurship and to be more effectively involved in the development of the country’s economy,” noted Jorge Del Aguila-Eurnekian, Board Member of Fruitful Armenia Foundation and Converse Bank.

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