YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The board of trustees of the All-Armenian Fund Hayastan met in Yerevan on Thursday to hear the annual report of its management and give a fresh boost to activities of the pan-Armenian charity after months of a slowdown. The 30-strong board–composed of senior government officials and representatives of major Diaspora organizations–was meeting for the first time since the change of government in Armenia last year.
"These one and a half years haven’t the best ones for the Fund. In my opinion–we haven’t moved forward…and in some respects have even registered a retreat," President Robert Kocharian–who is the board’s chairman–told the trustees.
The fund–which has branches in all major communities of the large Armenian Diaspora–is entering its eighth year of existence with more than $53 million spent on various projects in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. That has largely included construction of highways–water mains–power transmission lines–hospitals–schools and houses.
The most visible of them was the construction of an 80 kilometer highway between Armenia and Karabakh. The project has already cost $8.85 million–with roughly half of the money donated by Armenian-American billionaire Kirk Kirkorian. The fund is currently building the last 10 kilometer stretch of the road.
Fundraising for Hayastan slowed considerably since the resignation in February 1998 of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan–one of its founders. Kocharian acknowledged that the change of the government in Yerevan–subsequent presidential elections and "some policy changes" by his administration have created uncertainty among Diaspora donors.
The report–presented by the fund’s executive board–spans the period between July 1998 and December 1999–during which a total of $8.5 million was spent. According to Hayastan Fund’s executive director–Vahan Ter-Ghevondian–the Armenian community of California has had the biggest share of contributions – about $1.7 million – during the period in question. He said donations from Armenia and Karabakh have exceeded $700,000.
"Armenia’s from the West are the Fund’s main base," Ter-Ghevondian said. He said more efforts should be made to "engage" Armenia’s from the former Soviet Union and Middle East.
The report has been audited by the French firm Amyott Exco–which certified that no violations had been found in the executive board’s conduct of financial affairs.