EPF Armenia – for social justice and human rights

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview mit EPF Armenia, working for social justice and economic prosperity in Armenia. An important aspect of its work with the civil society is also the effort for a normalization with Turkey and human rights. 

How was Eurasia Partnership Foundation fouded and with what aims?
Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) became a local foundation in 2007. EPF is the successor of Eurasia Foundation, DC. Its mission statement is ‘to empower people to effect change for social justice and economic prosperity through hands-on programs, helping them to improve their communities and their own lives’. EPF has developed a unique package of activities defining the Foundation as a think and do thank, which develops and implements strategies, unites networks and consortia, works on civil society capacity building, policy research and advocacy, creates alternative content, implements grant-making, organizes peace-building processes, as well as supports the state in development of the state policy on human rights. 
In what does the capacity of strengthening services of the CSO Development Program consist of?
The “CSO DePo: CSO Development Program” is a consortium project implemented by EPF with five other local partner CSOs through USAID support. Its aim is to foster sustainable civil society development through strengthening the capacity of CSOs.  The project is called “DePo” as an opportunity for organizations to repair, modernize, upgrade their systems and structures for better implementation of their missions.
As a part of DePo, EPF organizes CSO Management Schools for local organizations. The Schools are interactive and experience-sharing space for CSOs coming to learn about the importance of organizational systems and structures, policies and procedures, fundraising and financial management, program management and communications, and other practices which increase the chances for CSO sustainability. 
EPF has developed an Organizational Development Tool which assesses the six basic structures and systems of CSOs and consults on the ways to improve these. A CSO DePo  portal has been established, http://www.hkdepo.am/en/ which provides essential resources to CSOs: information about grant announcements, news, training announcements, expert and service providers’ contacts, networking and visibility opportunities. 
How do you support the Armenia-Turkey normalization process?
EPF, in collaboration with 7 other civil society organizations from Armenia and Turkey implements a project “Support to the Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process 2″ (ATNP 2) with the financial assistance of the European Union. The current stage of the project builds upon the achievements of the activities implemented between 2014-2015. The objective of the project is to empower and engage civil societies of Turkey and Armenia to contribute to the enhanced regional peace and stability, democratic pluralism and social inclusion across and within their societies. This will be achieved through engaging new actors in economic, cultural, educational, and awareness-raising activities between Armenia and Turkey, and improving information flow, communication exchange and networking between media, expert communities and institutions. The project, which started in April 2016, will include a series of activities in the areas of Business, Policy Research, Culture, Education, Media and Youth. The project will support travel and fellowship opportunities targeting different actors and segments of societies. Within the project various activities will be implemented, including workshops and trainings for youth; exchange of architects and entrepreneurs; research on business and economic opportunities; media research; agribusiness development; youth and community development, as well as policy analysis. More information can be found at: armenia-turkey.net
How have authorities been responsive to your activity of human rights advocacy so far?
Within EPF’s Human Rights Program and with support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Georgia and Armenia EPF has been implementing a chain of intertwined projects on religious tolerance and anti-discrimination since 2012. These projects aimed to improve public attitudes towards different religions, promote sensitive and balanced media coverage on religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence and diversity, support the improvement of legislative framework on non-discrimination. In 2014 EPF implemented a comprehensive legal analysis which highlighted the need in adopting a stand-alone anti-discrimination law in Armenia. Based on this research an agreement was reached with Armenian authorities, namely the Ministry of Justice of Armenia to draft a new non-discrimination law. EPF, apart from playing a role in advocacy of the law, has become a platform gathering the government, Armenian CSOs and IOs to discuss and further develop the anti-discrimination draft law and its adoption strategy. The process marked an unprecedented level of cooperation between a CSO and the government, since this was one of the rare instances in Armenia when a CSO facilitated the process of adoption of legislation and elaborated a legislative act together with Armenian authorities. Through involvement of civil society organizations the anti-discrimination draft law (with the preliminary title “On Equality”) has been revised ensuring its compliance with international best practice and Armenia’s international obligations, and was submitted to the Ministry of Justice. EPF believes that working with authorities as human rights decision makers proactively and constructively through different platforms is essential in effectively addressing the pressing human rights issues and reaching the improvement of human rights situation in the country. Hence, apart from drafting the law, EPF has made 16 recommendations pertaining to the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and faith, combating discrimination, rights of a child and persons with disabilities for the new Action Plan deriving from the provisions of the Armenia’s National Strategy on Human Rights protection initiated by the Ministry of Justice. Moreover, EPF is represented in the Ministry of Justice and UNICEF Juvenile Justice Council within the project on “Improvement of Access to Justice for Children” contributing to the improvement of the sphere of children’s human rights in Armenia.