available languages: english 10, 2019

Participants discussing the report on labour rights in the Syunik’s mining sector. Photo: EPF.

Armenian civil society organisations report on labour rights, housing conditions, access to health, and the rights of children belonging to minority groups.

October 2019 concluded with the launch of new reports in Armenia by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) and their local partners, covering human and labour rights violations that affect communities in different parts of the country. In Syunik, the issue addressed was working conditions in the mining sector; in Shirak, housing conditions for survivors of the 1998 earthquake; in Gegharkunik, access to health services and in Armavir, the rights of children of the Yezidi minority.

These documents are the culmination of more than a year’s worth of close cooperation among the NGOs involved. During this time, regional NGOs and advocates were trained and supported by EPF to work with local communities to collect information on the issues from those directly affected and present their voices and the related data in the reports.

On 6 September 2019, representatives from civil society, media and government attended a press conference in Yerevan, where EPF first presented the results of their data collection and analysis. Throughout October 2019, follow-up discussions on the research findings and recommendations were held in each of the regions addressed by the reports.

Panellists in the press conference held in Yerevan. Photo: EPF.

In Syunik, workers in the mining sector face a lack of appropriate protection against accidents, as well as of assistance to workers with work-related diseases developed over time. Additionally, miners often refrain from talking about their working conditions for fear of reprisals. These are some of the findings of the report authored by EPF, Human Rights Research Center and Goris Press Club.

Among other recommendations, the report called on Armenia’s Government to conduct a comprehensive study on the issue, with active involvement of workers; increase oversight on companies; adopt a national Action Plan to ensure safe and healthy conditions for workers; and provide trade unions with the necessary mechanisms to operate effectively and independently.

In the follow-up discussion held in Syunik, the importance of workers knowing and standing up for their own rights was one of the main topics of discussion.

Participants discussing the report on the right to health in the Gegharkunik region. Photo: EPF.

In Gegharkunik, communities are challenged with a lack of safe water and sanitation, health facilities that are not fully accessible for people of age or with disabilities, shortage of specialist doctors, and recurrent breaches of patients’ confidentiality.

To tackle these issues, needed measures include the adoption of a rights-based National Policy for Public Health in Armenia; the enforcement of existing legislation; and the creation of new regulations to ensure the accessibility, affordability, and quality of health services offered in Gegharkunik. These recommendations are presented in the report authored by EPF and the NGOs Human Rights Research Center, Martuni Women’s Community Council, and “Astghavard” Disabled Children’s Parents.

As pointed out by the director of a local medical centre during the follow-up regional discussion, opportunities to debate local health issues are usually non-existent, which adds to the importance of EPF’s work in the Gegharkunik region.

Participants discussing the report on the rights of Yezidi children in the Armavir region. Photo: EPF.

In Armavir, some of the main challenges facing children of the Yezidi minority are widespread discrimination, high rates of school drop-out, early and forced marriage, and child labour. During the field work conducted by EPF, Armavir Development Center, Human Rights Research Center and “Sinjar” Yezidi National Union, a Yezidi mother told the research team that “most people living in these villages live in poverty. They don’t like making their children work but they have to, otherwise they won’t survive”.

EPF and its partners called on the Armenian authorities to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation; include minority communities in national, regional and local decision-making processes; revise school curricula to provide quality Yezidi language classes and observe students’ freedom of religion; and promote parental education to prevent early and forced marriages.

During the follow-up session in Armavir, these and other recommendations presented by the report were discussed by members of the Yezidi community, representatives of civil society organisations, and the regional government.

 

Participants discussing the report on housing rights in the Shirak region. Photo: EPF.

In Shirak, communities are still dealing with the consequences of the Spitak earthquake, which caused 25,000 deaths and left hundreds of thousands homeless in Armenia in 1988. Inadequate housing (e.g., cabins made to be temporary solutions after the earthquake, or damaged buildings) and homelessness are urgent problems in the region, as shown by the report produced by EPF and the NGOs Human Rights Research Center, A.D Sakharov Armenian Human Rights Protection Center, Effective Governance and Community Development, and the All Rights Foundation.

As extreme poverty faces the most vulnerable groups, the issue of inadequate housing is related to and aggravated by a range of problems in other areas, such as health care. Necessary steps to improve housing conditions in Shirak include restructuring the state’s system of assistance and compensation to victims of the earthquake; integrating individuals and families so far excluded from this system; and holistically addressing social and economic needs deriving from their situation. These are some of the recommendations proposed by the report. In the follow-up discussion held in Shirak, participants also stressed the need for substantial participation of local communities, including homeless people, in all decision-making processes.

In calling the attention of the responsible authorities and the international community to all of these issues, DRI and EPF are sharing the four reports with the Armenian government, the European Union, and the United Nations Committees on the Rights of the Child and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  1. Right to Health in Armenia (Gegharkunik region)
  2. Right to Adequate Housing in Armenia (Shirak region)
  3. Right to Safe Working Conditions in Armenia (Syunik region)
  4. Rights of Minority (Yezidi) Children in Armenia (Armavir region)

The reports and regional discussions in Armenia are part of the EU-funded programme “Promoting Human and Labour Rights through GSP+”, implemented in nine countries by DRI and our local partners since 2017.