US congratulates Armenia as the second most active civil society in the Former Soviet Union.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Heffern, released a video blog last week congratulating Armenian civil society on their effective and non-violent activity; noting that Armenian civil society is getting “stronger and … more effective every day.”

According to a recent USAID assessment, the ambassador informed us that Armenia has the second strongest civil society among the republics of the former Soviet Union. Noting the “vital” role civil society plays in a healthy democracy, Heffern pointed to the increased activity of civil society groups in Armenia in promoting positive change.

Highlighting some of civil society’s more recent successes, he congratulated activists and citizens for their use of non-violent means, such as public service campaigns using social media and demanding accountability. He emphasised the successful work of environmental groups, specifically their role in protecting the Trchkan waterfall and Mastots park. Heffern also congratulated civil society groups in their overwhelming response to the Hasnagar Restaurant incident, demanding accountability for the brutal beating and subsequent death of a military doctor.

Despite these recent successes, Heffern cautioned that there is still more to be done in Armenia. He urged the authorities to foster an environment favourable to civic action by getting rid of the barriers to self-sufficiency for civil society currently in place. The ambassador suggested NGOs should be allowed to charge fees for their services on a non-profit basis, which will enable them to sustain their activities.

Ambassador Heffern concluded his video blog by applauding “those courageous Armenians who are working hard to bring about positive change here,” and reiterating the eagerness of the United States “to partner with them to make Armenia a stronger, more prosperous and more democratic country.”

The Ambassador’s video is available to watch on http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=MVmm2dw-qDQ.

Report prepared by Karina Gould for CEW.