NYCA was founded in 1997 with the aim to unite youth organisations’ voices and protect youth rights in Armenia.
In the past few years, it had strong links with the ruling party in the country. It was not acting as a uniting organisation and advocating for youth civil society organisations and not even doing its international representation of the Armenian young people. However, by getting the state’s financial support, it always used to fill the civil space which was supposed to be used by youth organisations. In 2018 the political shift brought expectations that the national youth council would be reformed and start to function implementing its priorities that were set back in 1997 when it was founded. The change did not happen, which day by day leads to the shrinking of even more civic space for the youth organisations.
The incognito National Youth Council
I would like to talk about the most significant issue related to the youth platform and space that all the youth fields, in general, have always faced in Armenia. It is about the National Youth Council of Armenia (NYCA), which is itself a big national-level platform getting support from the state to coordinate the whole field. However, over the last few years, its function has had just an artificial role in getting substantial financial support from the state budget and not representing the united youth voice. At the international youth events, all the neighbouring countries had representatives from the national youth councils, while Armenia had no representatives from NYC at all. Even being active in the field did not help us to know the names of representatives, who were to represent our country there. This was always an issue. At different high-level serious youth events held in Brussels, when Armenia was to be adequately represented through the National youth council, it was openly announced that Armenia was not in any way represented there.
The matters related to NYCA were not taken seriously or weren't beneficial for some people. As a result, the Republic of Armenia on the international level was represented only through the NGOs, which they did very well. But there were mandate issues, where NGOs couldn’t talk on certain problems if the NYCs were silent. So we didn’t have appropriate representation and lost many youth opportunities because of the inactive NYCA.
We tried to raise these issues several times. However, we couldn’t meet first of all with a representative from NYCA. For example, at the youth forum in Lithuania several years ago, where many sectors were represented except NYCA, we discussed the issue on the spot wondering who the representative of the national council was. We got the name from a contact person representing NYCA; however, when we arrived in Armenia, it turned out this person was not the representative anymore. The changes were so rapid; we couldn’t follow at some point. It was like a closed mafia, like a closed club service provider. We couldn’t understand who was in charge of this. We informed this to the ministry representatives before the revolution several times. After the revolution, the youth foundation and several SNCOs were closed. De jure NYCA exists, but de facto it is empty. Even the decision-makers informed us about the same issue, but it turns out that all parties are in the same boat. It became apparent that here it is also a political position.
If YIC or any other NGO has success at the national or local level, it is excellent. But I don’t think Armenian youth’s participation matters should be related to only this or that NGO. If someday an NGO decides to suspend its activities or close the NGO, then it means the field is based solely on NGOs, which is wrong for me. I have another vision on this. There should be a specially developed and sustainable system around which different NGOs will be united contributing to the targeted services, the implementation of the state’s main directions and the solutions of the field. NYCA has all potential to become that organisation.
Another main issue is that we do not need artificial, symbolic, not functioning youth councils but really and systematically working mechanisms. If one city’s mayor understands the importance and does things for youth spaces, the other mayor does not. This is an isolation. The state should ensure the operation of the model. In these structures, all clusters of youth should be involved, and they should themselves suggest their solutions and not just raise problems. Now we have youth that brings solutions to the table as we have more rebellious and demanding youth. Youth is a resource, but if governed wrong, that will bring challenges for the authorities.
Arthur Najaryan – Youth field expert, researcher