THE ARMENIAN GENERAL BENEVOLENT UNION HOSTED ITS 88TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN YEREVAN (VIDEO MATERIAL)

THE PROGRAM OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY INCLUDED DISCUSSIONS ABOUT ARMENIA AND THE DIASPORA

ARMENAIN GENERAL BENEVOLENT UNION NEW BUILDING OPENS IN YEREVAN

On April 4, 2015, more than 200 delegates of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) participated in the 88th General Assembly which took place at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran) in Yerevan, Armenia. The event gave the delegates the opportunity to reassert their commitment to strengthening relations between Armenia and the Diaspora, as well as rediscover Armenia’s cultural treasures and its potential for development. “Investment in the new generation remains one of AGBU’s greatest priorities. The growth of the scholarship program for Armenian students worldwide, the expansion of youth programs—internship, mentorship and leadership initiatives—and the evolution of schools to keep pace with technological advancements all contribute to forming Armenian leaders who are prepared to guide the community into the future,” said Berge Setrakian, President of AGBU. At the first session of the General Assembly, the activities and projects, as well as financial and audited statements of the past two years were presented. The AGBU Central Board was supplemented with five new members: Alexis Govciyan (France), Ani Manukian (USA), Arno Adamian (England), Lena Sarkissian (Canada) and Lori Muncherian (USA). AGBU President Berge Setrakian delivered a welcome speech to all the participants of the General Assembly. The assembly was also attended by the RA Diaspora Minister Hranoush Hakobyan. In her welcome speech she referred to the Union’s century of national service both in Armenia and the Diaspora, wishing all the AGBU members’ success, strength and energy in all their endeavours directed towards strengthening the Homeland, as well as in their everyday work carried out to develop Armenia-Diaspora ties. Afterwards, the Minister awarded the AGBU President Berg Setrakian with a Golden medal of the RA Diaspora Ministry. His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians brought his Patriarchal blessings to the General Assembly. Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan read the greetings of His Holiness Karekin II and at the end of his speech granted Anita Anserian, the Director of AGBU Central Board Programs the “Surb Nerses” high order of honor and the on behalf of His Holiness. As part of the General Assembly the AGBU “Garbis Papazian” Award Ceremony also took place. It is presented to non-Armenian scholars and intellectuals for their pro-Armenian activities as a sign of gratitude and appreciation. This year the award was presented to Alexander Bozhko, Armenologist and former Ambassador of Ukraine to Armenia. A number of devoted members of AGBU were also awarded with medals, such as Garbis Papazian, Haig Messerlian, Nerses Nersoyan, Knar Basmajian, Toros Boghossian and Srbouhi Sarkissian. Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Hayk Demoyan was also awarded. At the end of the meeting the resolutions of the 88th General Assembly were presented.

AGBU Delegates Visited Nagorno Karabakh during the 88th General Assembly

On March 28, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) 88th GA Delegates and guests visited the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR). During the three-day visit, Delegates were introduced to NKR’s social-economic situation and AGBU projects. As part of the Karabakh tour, the delegates visited the AUA-AGBU Continuing Education Program to explore NKR’s educational potential and development prospects. The center integrates the educational programs of the American University of Armenia’s Extension Department. On March 29, the AGBU Delegates were received by the Chairman of the NKR Parliament Ashot Ghulyan. Over the years, the organization has implemented many humanitarian, educational and cultural projects in Artsakh including the sponsorship of the Karabakh Chamber Orchestra (KCO), the NUR program (One Laptop Per Child) in partnership with Fruitful Armenia Fund, building and renovation of homes and schools. AGBU Benefactors and Members have participated in all-Armenian projects intended to strengthen Artsakh. Tumo-AGBU NKR center will soon open its doors in Stepanakert, which will offer advanced facilities, design labs, workshops, master classes, and above all, a creative ambience helping students explore the intersection between art and technology and create their own career path. During the three-day stay in Artsakh, the AGBU delegates also visited Gandzasar and Shoushi and attended the concert of AGBU-funded Karabakh Chamber Orchestra.

AGBU 88th General Assembly Featured #AGBUtalks with Keynote Speakers

As part of the AGBU General Assembly, three panel discussions took place from April 1 till April 3, entitled “Human Capital in Armenia and the Diaspora”, “Challenges of Building the Armenian State” and “Improving Armenians' International Standing”. #AGBUtalks is one of the landmark events of this year’s 88th General Assembly. It aims to create a common discussion platform to inspire and engage the participants to develop ideas and roadmaps to strengthen the nation. #AGBUtalks features keynote speakers from major educational institutions, synergy hubs, foundations, state and international organizations operating in Armenia and abroad. They shared their experience and points of view with active youth from Armenia and the Diaspora, who are willing to contribute in the development of Motherland. #AGBUtalks panels were open to all AGBU General Assembly delegates and guests, as well as to previously registered and interested members of the public. They aimed to motivate participants to increase youth engagement in tackling the country’s biggest challenges and create a more unified network of active youth and professionals. During the first panel discussion at the “Ayb” school, entitled “Human Capital in Armenia and the Diaspora”, the panelists and participants discussed the existing problems and prospects for developing pan-Armenian potential. Serving as a platform for exchange, it aimed to unveil new opportunities for local and diasporan Armenian participants and allowed for stronger bonds with the homeland. The event highlighted the importance of education and the various educational initiatives taken by AGBU as a crucial to ensuring stronger and more competitive human capital. The panel’s keynote speakers included Father Mesrop Aramyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ayb Educational Foundation; Sam Simonian, AGBU Vice President and Founder of the Simonian Educational Foundation and the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies; Armen Der Kiureghian, AUA President; Aram Salatian, General Director of National Instruments Armenia; and Yeva Hyusyan, Country Director of Microsoft Armenia.

The Second #AGBtalks Panel Inspired Youth to Strengthen the Armenian State

To encourage youth engagement in advancing Armenia’s state-building, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) held the second in a series of exciting and interactive #AGBUtalks on April 2 at the American University of Armenia (AUA). The second panel of #AGBUtalks, entitled “The Challenges of Building the Armenian State,” brought together enthusiastic young participants from Armenia and the Diaspora to share their perspectives on the obstacles on Armenia’s path towards development and possible solutions to overcome them. The panel encouraged proactive youth involvement in various development programs as a means of fostering state-building process. The keynote speakers at the panel included Vigen Sargsyan, chief of staff of the President of Armenia; Daron Acemoglu, Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, head of the Creation of Social Doctrine department of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; Armen Harutyunyan, Regional Representative of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Central Asia; and Arpi Balian, Director of AUA Extension Program. At the end of the panel discussion the panelists answered questions from the audience. In his closing remarks Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan said “I would like to thank the Armenian General Benevolent Union, a very important organization to me and to all of us, for this wonderful initiation and I would especially like to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to AGBU’s President Berge Setrakian. It is not a secret that the Armenian General Benevolent Union has been greatly supporting the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Armenian Church throughout the Diaspora both financially and morally, with human resources and energy, as well as with its ideology and policy. AGBU’s uniqueness, different perspectives and rarity can serve a ground for our overall development.”

#AGBUTalks Conclusive Panel to Focus on Armenians' International Standing

The third in series #AGBUTalks Panel took place on April 3rd at the UWC Dilijan College. Entitled “Improving Armenians' International Standing”, the concluding #AGBUTalks panel brings together more than 250 local and Diasporan Armenian participants to identify the biggest challenges that the nation needs to overcome to advance its prospects of development. The panel invites participants to discuss the milestones accomplished and come up with their own initiatives to build a better future. It focuses also on AGBU’s major undertakings aimed at unlocking Armenians’ potential and boosting the nation’s international image. The keynote speakers at the panel were Ruben Vardanyan, Co-Founder and Chairman of the RVVZ Foundation Board; Vasken Kalayjian, Chief Executive Officer at GK Brand; Timothy Straight, Honorary Consul at Royal Norwegian Consulate and Finnish Honorary Consulate, Founder of the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation; Victoria Aslanian, CEO of Golden Grape ArmAs LLC (ArmAs Wines). “We have to realize one thing, our resources are limited and we should know for sure where to invest them, in what field we can succeed and change something, in what field we can become the best ones. We shouldn’t allow us mediocrity; we can’t do something just for doing something. If we produce wine we should produce the best one, if beer than it should be the best beer. We are a very small nation to allow for the lavishness of mediocrity. Mediocrity kills us.” Ruben Vardanyan, President of RVVZ Foundation. Almost 150 AGBU delegates from all over the world and more than 500 participants from Armenia were present at the three AGBU panel discussions. All three discussions were streamed live by CivilNet, which served as an excellent opportunity for all those who wanted to follow the #AGBUTalks live around the world. The AGBU Talks truly turned into a unique discussion platform touching upon general concerns and issues while trying to find solutions to them together.

At the end of the third and final AGBUtalks at UWC Dilijan International School, AGBU President Berge Setrakian made closing remarks to sum up the discussion series and outline future goals. “We have, first of all, to use the Genocide centennial to start a new chapter in the life of our organization and thus, hopefully, of the Diaspora. We talked a lot during these three days, many things have been said and you know what, everybody was right. In this kind of topics there is no right, there is no wrong. There is a good will, there is pragmatism and there is a vision. We wanted to get together as an experience also by inviting our friends and colleagues in Armenia, because we cannot build a nation with the Diaspora alone, or with Armenia alone, the problems are common. But at this stage we cannot do two things at the same time. All efforts have to be concentrated on Armenia, of course without forgetting about our Diasporan communities. Why Armenia? Because we believe that the third generation in the Diaspora, which is practically drifting away, will come back to us, if we bring to this generation the pride of being Armenian and the pride can come from the country. If Armenia does not become a source of pride, whether we have Armenia or not is not going to make any difference for the new generation, if we really do not succeed in having a strong country, economically, politically and socially, and, you know what - we can do it. We have to get out of our enclave. We have to be successful. In 1984, in the United States, we had the Governor of the 7th largest economy in the world – California, we had one and a half congressmen, one full and one half, we had the speaker of the house of Massachusetts, a very strong, powerful position, we had the senate majority leader of New Jersey, we had the majority leader of the assembly of California, we had three out of seven judges of the supreme court of California. Today, the highest elected official in America is one of the 24 members of the City Council of Los Angeles. What happened to us? These are the issues that we have to think. AGBU is in a soul searching mould. Our cooperation with Ruben, Noubar, some of our Board Members, Sam Simonian, Joseph Oughourlian, we started a joint thinking, because by the end of the day, neither Ruben, nor we nor anybody has any self-interest. We all can do something else. But we believe that the result of this soul searching and your input is extremely important. That is why we organize this gathering. I would like to conclude by thanking you all for being here, it’s really very impressive, I never thought that we would have such an attendance, I would like to thank all our delegates, We have many problems, but I am very optimistic about the future of Armenia, because if I am not, than there is no reason for me to continue what I am doing. I believe in it, I am happy that my wife believes in it, my children believe in it. I would love to thank Ruben and this international school for hosting us here today, as well as the American University of Armenia and Ayb school, all our panelists, our master of ceremony, Artak, the organizing committee chaired by our colleague and friend Vasken Yacoubian, special thanks to Talar Kazanjian, to our local staff, our New York based staff, and above all to all of you. I would also like you to know that our relationship and cooperation with IDeA, we are highly appreciative of all the initiatives that Ruben did, is doing and will do, I think he’s a giant and he by himself one day will be bigger than AGBU, I hope. We are thankful that he accepted to partner. And on this occasion I would like to announce just a token commitment by AGBU to provide for the next five years, 100,000 USD a year, for the development of cultural, arts, music activities of the school.”

Visits and meetings

As part of the AGBU 88th General Assembly the delegates, headed by Berge Setrakian visited the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial on April 2, to honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide and lay a wreath at the eternal fire. Visit to the Ministry of Defense was impressive and a memorable where the members of the Union were received by The RA Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan. After meeting with the Minister and other member of the high command, the AGBU delegates were also present at a military exercises organized at the Ministry. At the end of the meeting the RA Defense Minister Seyran Onahyan presented the Armenian General Benevolent Union with the Medal of the Armed Forces in appreciation of its patriotic activities and for preserving the Armenian identity. AGBU President Berge Setrakian awarded a golden medal to RA Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan. One of the aims of the General Assembly was introducing the members of the Union to successful individuals and companies in Armenia. To this end, the AGBU members visited the “Ayb” high school, the American University of Armenia (AUA), “National Instruments” and “Synopsis” offices in Armenia, TUMO Center for Creative Technologies and UWC Dilijan International College. General Director of National Instruments in Armenia Aram Salatian, received the AGBU delegates and introduced their activities. NI began with a staff of 5, today it has become a hub for more than 16 start-up companies where young specialists from Armenia and the Diaspora work, exporting goods to the world market while meeting international standards. AGBU delegates walked through the offices and were introduced to the activities that the company carries out in Armenia with expectations for future cooperation and new possibilities. Synopsys has been operating in Armenia since 2004. Today it already has approximately 650 workers, of which 600 are young engineers. AGBU Central Board Member and Chief Architect of Synopsis Armenia Dr. Yervant Zorian presented the projects and activities of the organization to the guests. AGBU delegates accompanied by Dr. Zorian and Hovik Musayelian, Executive Director of Synopsys Armenia, toured the Synopsys offices and were introduced to the organization’s activities. The next stop was the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies with its impressive and exceptional atmosphere. Founded by the President of the “Simonyan Educational Foundation” and AGBU Vice-President Sam Simonyan the TUMO Center opened its doors to the young people of Armenia in 2011. As of today it offers free education to 12-18 years-old boys and girls in four different fields, gathering some 6000 students under one roof. At the TUMO center the AGBU delegates were introduced to the “Teach for Armenia” program. Larissa Ryann, Founder and President of the organization presented their goals and upcoming activities. “Teach for Armenia” aims at making high quality education available to all children. The delegates also visited one of the most successful companies in Armenia, PicsArt. It entered the international market in 2011. The application allow the user to take photos, using various effects, frames, masks, borders, adding comments, configuring colors, etc. It also offers painting tools, as different brushes, pencils, etc. Finished works can be shared via the PicsArt social network or Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, Dropbox, Fouresquare, Tumblr networks, send via sms or email. The company started operating with five people. Today it has over 120 employees. PicsArt offers its services in 13 languages. The number of daily engaged users in social media is 8-9 million people. The number of monthly PicsArt users reached 60 million. The company plans to expand this number to 100 million in 2015. The total number of downloads has already reached 220 million. The Armenian version of PicsArt was number 5 among the 100 best free apps at the Apple App Store in 2014. On April 1, as part of the long standing cooperation between the Yerevan Municipality and the AGBU Virtual College, a presentation of “Exploring Yerevan” Multimedia e-book took place at the grand hall of the Yerevan Municipality. “Exploring Yerevan” Multimedia e-book enriched with valuable information and beautiful design aims to help tourists to enjoy their time in and around Yerevan. Striking videos, 3D images and photo collections, interesting stories about the city and interactive maps complete the content of the book, which was presented by AGBU Central Board Member Yervant Zorian. The presentation was attended by the Mayor of Yerevan, Taron Margaryan, AGBU President Berge Setrakian and the participants of AGBU 88th General Assembly. During the presentation, AGBU President Berge Setrakian awarded Taron Margaryan, the Mayor of Yerevan an AGBU Golden Medal for playing an important role in establishing and preserving close ties with the international organizations, as well as for his vast contribution and the productive work he carries out in the area of urban development. Taron Margaryan, in turn, awarded Berge Setrakian with a “Yerevan Coat of Arms” symbolic present. The delegates also visited the newly-opened Komitas Museum, where they enjoyed a special performance by Armen Babakhanyan with the RA Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan, as well as toured through the museum. On April 2-5, days dedicated to Henri Verneuil took place in Yerevan. Children of the renowned cinematographer, Patrick and Sophie Malakian, other family members arrived in Yerevan to participate in the event. Patrick Malakian is also the Chairman of AGBU Marseilles Chapter. On April 4, AGBU delegates also participated in the opening ceremony of the Henri Verneil street in Yerevan, a well-known French-Armenian cinematographer.

The New AGBU building Inauguration in Yerevan

The new AGBU building in Yerevan is a blend of modern and historic architecture. To preserve the city ambience it contains stones of the Erivan Municipality Duma (City Council) building, constructed in 1906 and dismantled in 2000. The interior is upgraded with contemporary design and advanced facilities. Construction of the five-story complex started in 2011 and was completed in 2015. The ground breaking ceremony of the building took place during the AGBU 87th General Assembly in 2012. The inauguration was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony on the occasion of the AGBU 88th General Assembly on April 4. The grand opening ceremony was attended by the RA President Serzh Sargsyan, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan, RA Diaspora Minister Hranoush Hakobyan, RA Minister of Urban Development Narek Sargsyan, other officials, a number of guests and members of the Union. The red ribbon was cut by AGBU President Berge Setrakian with Levon and Seda Nazarian the son and daughter of Nazar and Artemis Nazarians, who are the benefactors of the building. His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians brought his blessings to the new building, and gave a heartfelt speech. Speeches were also made by AGBU President Berge Setrakian and Seda Nazarian, daughter of Nazar and Artemis Nazarian. The benefactors of the new building are AGBU Trustee and distinguished philanthropist Nazar Nazarian and his wife Artemis. The architects are AGBU Central Board Member Aris Atamian and Narek Sargsyan. AGBU Central Board Member Vasken Yacoubian is the Chairman of the Construction Committee. The interior was designed by “Storaket” architectural studio in Yerevan. The construction was done by “Horizon-95” Construction Company. The façade is an exuberant expression of design incorporating an ingenious combination of glass and architecture elements of old Yerevan. The glass provides abundant natural light to create comfortable and inspiring work space and ambiance. The building houses office spaces, conference rooms, exhibition halls and two underground levels of parking. The interior has been renovated with contemporary design and advanced facilities. This state-of-the-art building meets advanced construction standards and offers environmentally-friendly features with cutting-edge technologies such as thermally insulated facades and solar panels making it an energy efficient and sustainable structure. The new building will enable the AGBU Yerevan office to broaden the scope of its educational, cultural and youth programs. It will also function as a hub to inspire further strengthening of cooperation between Armenia and Diaspora. The AGBU 88thGeneral Assembly concluded with a gala concert at the National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet after A. Spendiarian, which was attended by the RA President Serzh Sargsyan, Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan, RA Diaspora Minister Hranoush Hakobyan, RA Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghoyan, other guests and hundreds of spectators. Official opening speeches were delivered by AGBU President Berge Setrakian and RA President Serzh Sargsyan, the message of His Holiness Karekin II was delivered by Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan. “As the President of the Republic of Armenia I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you for all your efforts in carrying out patriotic activities throughout Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora. Thank you ever so much”, said RA President Serzh Sargsyan. Well-known artistic groups and singers performed during the concert, as Armenian symphonic orchestra headed by Maestro Karen Durgaryan, Armenian State Song and Dance Ensemble of Tatul Altunyan, “Barekamutyun” ensemble, pianist Armen Babakhanyan, Inga and Asush Arshakyans, Aramo and Emma Petrosyans, students of AGBU and Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin’s Children’s Centers. The Director of the concert was Deputy-mayor of Yerevan Aram Sukiasyan.

Since Armenia’s independence, the AGBU has been carrying out various educational, cultural, health, humanitarian, religious and youth programs aimed at strengthening Armenia’s statehood. AGBU projects have employed more than 2000 people. During its 100-years of activity the AGBU has provided more than 1 billion USD to meet the needs of the Armenian people, of which 130 million USD has been provided to programs implemented in Armenia. The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) (www.agbu.org) is the oldest pan-Armenian organization. AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs, annually touching the lives of almost 500.000 Armenians.

 

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