CDN In Armenia 2015

arm6Since 2008 CDN is present in South Caucasus and together with local partners we try to realize what is the region of South Caucasus, how people transit from past to future through present days and how to make region Green(er). This Caucasus puzzle is solved piece by piece. Thus, this March we went to Yerevan, capital of Armenia.

In up-coming April we are organizing seminar “Sharing is caring!”, on topic of Commons. Supported by European Youth Foundation of Council of Europe and Green forum Sweden, we will be hosted by our local partners Youth section of Association for Sustainable Human Development and Partnership for Green Development.

We gather super motivated people who volunteer to prepare program for participants, explore the topic, search for information, moderate discussions and support participants further involvement within the topic. For a week in Yerevan we bit a big piece of preparation cake, but we also managed to explore the city, its civil society, its routines and extravagances.

Why Commons in Armenia?

Pictures from protest for Teghut forest :

Protest for Teghut forest

It seems like very easy question to answer. Because Commons have to be discussed, explored, developed, fight for everywhere. However, direct reason lies in last years very frequent uprise of the civil society and wider public in Yerevan and across Armenia, standing up for Commons against very malicious decisions of government and local stakeholders.

Maybe not naming it under the name of Commons, but in 2013, 2014 people gathered on streets for many causes. One of the biggest protest was organized for more fair and accessible Public transport. In parallel, Yerevan witnessed citizens protest against destruction of it s old architecture and housing heritage. In Lori region Teghut forest was endangered by mining industry, gathering Armenian and international civil society to stand against industrial devastation of the region.

 As not being only one hit by processes and decisions where profit and corporations in the name of development hijacked natural resources and citizens’ democratic rights, Armenians also expressed support and empathy to similar problems in the region. CDN’s local partners in South Caucasus took part in this pan-regional activities too.

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Protest for Teghut forest

Following these initiatives CDN wanted to support people’s right to democratic decisions in processes of management of Nature resources and Heritage. Further we wanted to contribute to the civil society by providing opportunities for learning about Commons, discussing positive examples with young people from whole Europe and hand out possibilities for putting things in wider context, aiming to the core of the problem and being able to move from healing the consequences.

Yerevan 2015

So we wrote the project, we got it approved and we started preparing it on spot. Arrival in Yerevan was big excitement for all members of prep team and for our hosts. For the ones coming for the first time, or for the ones coming back or even for the ones living in Yerevan these few days were intensive intercultural experience, where culture, politics, activism, routine mixed and brought our minds, motivation and actions to flourish.

We explored through discussion with local organizations how Commons are preceptive today, how young people see access to public services, what is understanding of public space, where intellectual commons make sense and when they are big taboo, what resources belong to people and what to the state (and if there is any difference ???). We also walked around and saw how Yerevan is vibrantly living on day and sense its pulse during the night. Local food, local drinks, magnificent panoramas, involving dialogs were offered to us and enjoyed every second. But this was not pure hedonism if you thought so 😀

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Prep team working on program development

At the end of the 14 hours working day we visited local artists squat. It is one of the oldest buildings in Yerevan, one of the latest building of this kind in wider center of Yerevan. Its assigned for demolition, to open space for new business place, shopping facilities and other tokens of consumer culture we are used to in our lives. Several artists occupied the building, moving in their studios and arranging commons space, used by other civic groups.

Neighbors are providing electricity and water supply and different groups of supporters bring food, music, support, happiness. We engaged in dialog with squatters and trying to understand their reasoning we came to very interesting discoveries about Yerevan nature.

Now this building to be destroyed is very old (as plus but also minus side) and its reparation is almost as far as its preservation. So logical question is why? What local people were explaining to us is that it is of course against ruining everything old and building new centers that are mere show off and elite utilities than people choice, but also these buildings are last witnesses of Communal architecture, in which buildings are oriented towards inner gardens, providing community with commons space, to enjoy the sun, wash laundry, have an eye on kids running for ball safe from traffic. So preserving the house is preserving Yerevan in which local community is center of planing and not user or given urban area (if it can afford it additionally)

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Local artists squat in Yerevan

Next to this, strong emotional color to our visit is provided by preparations for 24th April 2015, when Armenia and whole (or most of the) world will mark 100 years anniversary of tragic events known as Armenian genocide, that decimated Armenian nation in 1915. These events are very heart of Armenian – Turkey unstable relations and are posing a big question to normalization of relations of these two neighboring countries. They formated very strongly Armenian past and present and are inseparable part of its future too.

However, its emotional scent makes it very hard to discuss it in practical matters and 24th April will for sure be a day taken out of reality. On the other hand this is exactly the day when new reality, better reality can start. We are glad to have opportunity to be present, share this day and its meaning with our Armenian friends. However most of all we are happy to support our friends in there desire to work for common future and peace.

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Yerevan cascades and Open exhibition from Cafesjian Center for the Arts

 

 

For the end of this article

Commons as such an universal topic (not to say challenge) brings us together for the table to learn, discuss, volunteer and contribute to each other understanding, mind opening and cooperation. We invite all of you interested in South Caucasus, in Green idea, in Commons to stay tuned and join us. Because this seminar will not yet another trip to Armenia, but important station in our Green Caucasus journey.

Open your minds to open your eyes!