What Does It Take To Build A Nation
By: Sanan Shirinian
There are several important elements necessary in the continuous process of state development. Among these are fair and transparent elections, an active and engaged civil society and a functioning judicial system. Today, Armenia seems to be at a turning point and its subsequent steps will be critical for her to develop into a stable democratic nation. Any meaningful attempt to challenge inequity or injustice will require a meaningful alternative to the status quo. These alternatives can be represented through another important element in state development: public policy.
The Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation (HMF) was created in the Republic of Armenia in 2009 by the Supreme Council of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun. HMF is a social democratic think-tank that produces academic research papers, linking them to political decision-making and policy. The foundation is committed to the development and advancement of public policy issues and works to strengthen democratic institutions through social and economic policy research.
To date, HMF has produced three policy papers, recommending improvements to the healthcare, housing and employment sectors of Armenia. Through a designated working group of experts focusing on each specific policy area, these studies aim to implement the populations’ right to quality housing, employment and accessible and affordable health care.
Currently, new working groups are undertaking three other sectors in need of reforms: agriculture, mining and education. They will be examining the current state of these areas and recommending alternative, original and applicable solutions from a social democratic perspective. Working at HMF, I am privileged to be taking a part in the cultivation of our nation on a daily basis, and am proud of the work we produce. There is a difference when conservative parties in Armenia preach socially favorable rhetoric and when true leftist parties create policies in the interest of the public. The policies produced by this foundation reflect social democratic principles and therefore work to defend the general welfare of the population.
However, during my fifteen minute walk to work every morning, I think about the endless problems of our nation, from population decline and extreme poverty, to hostile neighbors and exploitive leaders. I cannot help but ask myself, “Is what we’re doing enough?”
Policy interventions are done in a complex system where many other factors must be considered. They are surely an important part of the entire process of nation-building, but their potential is compromised when entrusted to the hands of corrupt officials. In a hierarchical environment, such as the one in Armenia, there is bound to be resistance to progress and difficulty rallying the public to enforce necessary change. Therefore, along with policy analysis there needs to be political will and public pressure to implement solutions.
There also needs to be a collective effort of society, participating in different ways. HMF is working to implement change through policy alternatives, but we need more to do the same. We need more people joining the environmentalists protesting in the streets day and night. We need more scholars receiving their doctorate in political science and international development. We need more women raising their voices in the name of equality. In order to reach the level of stability and even prosperity our nation deserves, we need this intricate network of participants working alongside each other.
To say that the current government of Armenia is solely dedicated to the special interests of the elite is no major revelation. It is fairly obvious that the personal gain of the privileged upper class and the preservation of business interests is reinforced at the expense of the nation’s prosperity. This is a direct infringement on people’s freedoms. We have failed to even create a façade of formal institutions to give the illusion of democracy. And the question on everyone’s mind is the same: How do we fix it?
Some may think that Armenian society should push for idealist notions of revolutionary uprisings. Others believe we need to work towards democratic manifestations of social and political progress. I suppose the former sees genuine victory being born from an abrupt spark that will ignite a revolution and uproot our entire system of operation. Conversely, the latter trusts a process of gradual democratic accomplishments. All I can be sure of is this: whether a transformation comes from uprisings like we have seen across the Middle East or through more steady means, it can only come from the force and the will of the people. That is the only clearly definable victory. A government established on the basis of the general will is a victory. And to what extent the government responds to the will of the people will determine the amount of force used by the people.
Therefore, whether you are working at a policy institute, campaigning for the elections or organizing a rebellion, stay active. Your participation is a necessity in establishing a politically stable, socially just and economically prosperous nation.