CIVIL SOCIETY PROGRAM
The objective of the OSIAF-Armenia Civil Society Program is to foster the democratic process and the rule of law, to enhance respect for human rights and the protection of vulnerable groups, as well as to contribute to spreading liberal ideas and democratic values, while simultaneously encouraging citizens’ active participation in decision-making and an open society dialogue. The Civil Society Program strives to empower the civil society to promote and advocate democratic reforms through increasing its policy capacity, as well as monitoring and advocacy skills.
Development of policies in different fields was a priority of OSIAF-Armenia Civil Society Program during 2006. Policies were developed and discussed with local and state authorities, NGOs and interested parties in the areas of environment and local self-government. A mechanism of effective governance of self-government structures was developed based on one of the Yerevan’s district and presented to local self-government and discussed with the community before its subsequent implementation.
The Civil Society Program, in cooperation with the Partnership for Open Society Initiative, focused on monitoring activities related to the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) compact implementation in Armenia. Three Partnership member-organizations – Transparency International, Asparez Journalists’ Club and the Community Finance Officers’ Association - received funding from OSIAFA to monitor the public procurement process, implementation of activities within the framework of MCA, and to raise the awareness and protect the interests of MCA beneficiaries, thus encouraging public oversight over MCA-related activities. Even though the funding was received in 2006, the bulk of the actual work will be carried out in 2007.
OSIAF-Armenia attaches great importance to human rights initiatives and programs designed to support integration of marginalized groups into the society. In 2006, OSIAFA’s effort to develop the advocacy capacity of the civil society was acknowledged and further supported by the government of the Netherlands through a 3-year grant to the Foundation to develop the capacity of human rights NGOs. Within this initiative six independent organizations were selected for three-year grants each to increase human rights protection activities in closed institutions; to develop policy recommendations for making closed institution such as the army, pre-trial detention facilities, more open for civic control; to protect free speech and independent media; and to protect the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups.
In 2006, NGO capacity development remained a priority area for OSIAFA. The Foundation supported a project on empowering NGO practitioners with new capabilities and tools applicable in their everyday operations, such as improving their public outreach skills.
During 2006, the Civil Society Program mainly focused on improving the protection of marginalized and vulnerable groups and enhancing their civic participation, while raising the awareness of the public at large on human rights and freedoms, and identifying and resolving issues related to restriction of these rights and freedoms.
OSIAF-Armenia supported a project aimed at enhancing human rights and promoting women’s social and political participation. In 2006, OSIAF-Armenia continued to support activities of the Armenian Association of Women with Universities Education, aimed at enhancing the role of women in the society and politics and wider involvement of women in democratization processes in Armenia and in Parliamentary Elections in 2007.
In 2006, OSIAFA continued supporting the integration of disabled children into society by providing them with rehabilitation treatment through development of their physical and mental abilities and providing the families of those kids with psychological support. Within the project an integrated kindergarten was established with OSIAFA support, and is now supported by the Government.
Emphasizing the importance of raising the awareness of society at large on developments in the country that have a direct bearing upon human rights, OSIAF-Armenia continues supporting the activity of the www.hra.am human rights web portal. The Portal serves as a database on the state of the human rights protection in Armenia for local and international human rights organizations by presenting diverse information in both Armenian and English.
OSIAFA continued cooperation with the World Bank Yerevan Office and co-funded projects, designed to empower marginalized and vulnerable groups. Within this program projects focused on identifying refugee problems in the regions, as well as problems of concern to the poor stratum of the population and presenting them to the public at large and government bodies through articles written by investigative journalists. The OSIAFA and WB in 2006 focused on problems of disabled people and their integration into the society.
During 2006, OSIAF-Armenia Civil Society Program initiatives received financial support from the World Bank Yerevan Office in the amount of US $35.000 and from the Netherlands Government US $260.000.