We close this year with our brothers and sisters in Artsakh and Armenia facing yet another crisis – a cold-hearted blockade that is again testing our spirit and our resolve. So as we end 2022, we are reminded – yet again – of our need for vigilance and perhaps, more importantly, ongoing resilience, which time and again defines our people and drives our work at AGBU.
With that in mind, as I reflect on our last 12 months of global activity, this past year has proved to be a time of new beginnings for AGBU. At the foundational level, many of our most popular signature programs returned to their pre-pandemic models, enabling our AGBU communities to once again engage in person and experience the benefits of group interaction in dynamic settings.
Our schools, summer camps, youth leadership programs, and Young Professionals (YP) events resumed in full force and our AGBU Arts events sold out in world-class venues around the world. Our local chapters opened their doors once more with a broad range of activities and opportunities to rekindle the Armenian community spirit after more than two years of social distancing online.
Also important for so many reasons, we were able to gather again under one roof for our 92nd AGBU General Assembly in Armenia this past October. Our members traveled from more than 25 countries in solidarity with the people of Armenia, who continue to endure Azeri aggression and who, just weeks before our meetings, saw an invasion on sovereign Armenian soil that took another 200 Armenian lives.
Looking back in history, especially these extraordinarily challenging past three years, and looking forward to the future with a clear vision for our global nation, AGBU chose 2022 as the year to galvanize our global network of district and chapter offices, local community influencers, respected scholars, and international thought leaders to participate in regional summits to help us determine the future direction of our 116-year-old organization.
During these gatherings, attendees were encouraged to offer their informed perspectives on the state of the Armenian community in their respective regions. More specifically, we met in person to hear how their experiences, expectations, and regional needs connect with AGBU’s mission at a time when we find ourselves at generational, geopolitical, and technological crossroads.
AGBU President Berge Setrakian
These forums will continue into 2023 and are part of an intensive process of reassessment, realignment, and reimagination of our organization’s place in a changing world. Our goal is to draw from these candid discussions and develop new strategies and priorities that reflect AGBU’s timeless core values, while harnessing the right resources and best tools to help manage whatever challenges and opportunities the future may bring.
To this end, this year AGBU launched the Applied Policy Research Institute of Armenia (APRI Armenia), a nonpartisan think tank and policy accelerator focused on advancing regional stability, sustainable prosperity, and civic engagement. With programs and initiatives oriented toward concrete problem-solving, APRI Armenia is addressing key challenges for the near- and long-term realization of Armenia’s potential, and is creating a space to work on critical policy issues in a constructive and collaborative way. Founded as an independent organization, APRI Armenia is action-oriented, with a combination of long-term initiatives and near-term capacity building projects.
We also continued to see the impact of our AGBU Artsakh Research Grants, launched in the wake of the 2020 Artsakh War to raise awareness and enhance knowledge of Artsakh by expanding both mainstream and scholarly access to the region’s history, culture, and current affairs. Timely, relevant, and revealing findings from the 18 grants awarded in 2021 are still being released, with new opportunities for funding in 2023.
Just these two examples out of many speak to AGBU’s significant efforts in the fields of discovery, discourse, research, and producing reliable, sharable content.
The world is changing fast and the Armenian world is not exempt from shifting trends, movements, and disturbances to regional and global constructs, as we learned so viscerally in recent years. We must stay aware of and alert to external forces that ultimately impact Armenia’s internal welfare. We must also keep our eyes on the internal dynamics in Armenia, as well as the Diaspora, that can either strengthen us as a united front or weaken our potential through lack of cooperation, collaboration, and mutual respect.
We suffered through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent impact on the supply chain that fuels global inflation. The now-chronic Lebanon financial crisis has derailed the hopes and dreams of so many Lebanese Armenians with no end in sight. Then there is the war in Ukraine and its effect on global markets, not to mention the influx of Russian immigrants to Armenia, sending Armenia’s rental and housing prices sky high.
Lessons from the tumultuous past years must inform our approach to the future. Yet, we should proceed in a spirit of optimism because we possess the human and technological advantages to solve tough challenges and create opportunities as a well-informed, well-prepared, well-organized, and well-versed network of experts, leaders, communicators, volunteers, partners, and benefactors.
Simply put, every Armenian anywhere in the world can play a part in shaping the future of our people, our land, and our cultural identity. Fortunately, the momentum is already high as demonstrated in 2022 with the resurgence of volunteerism, mentoring, and philanthropy from all corners of the Armenian World.
AGBU is resolved to begin a new chapter in problem-solving, preparedness, and meaningful programming to make a positive and constructive difference within the framework of our mission – all with the clear-eyed recognition that we do live in uncertain times.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our benefactors, friends, partner organizations, as well as our districts, chapters, and the active and devoted volunteers and staff of every global AGBU community. Only by working together will we overcome the critical challenges that lie ahead while also take advantage of every opportunity before us. As always, thank you for your dedicated service and my sincere wishes for a healthy, happy New Year and a blessed Armenian Christmas.