Community Consolidation and Local Democracy: Reform in Armenia and the European Experience

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YEREVAN, Armenia –On February 18th, Dr. Arthur Drampian arranged a public lecture hosted by the Political Science and International Affairs program that featured two renowned scholars who visited Armenia this week. They kindly provided their insights and advice on the course of reform and ways of actively engaging citizens in the process of change. Pawel Swianiewicz and Tony Levitas were in Armenia upon invitation by Civic Participation in Local Governance Project.

Professor Pawel Swianiewicz is the Head of Department of Local Development and Policy, Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies, University of Warsaw and Adviser to the President of Poland on local government issues. Tony Levitas, ABD is an expert on intergovernmental fiscal relations with 20 years of experience providing advice to national and local governments in post-communist Europe and beyond. His work focuses on various aspects of revenue and expenditure assignments to local governments. Mr. Levitas is currently a  Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, where he is teaching about urban governance and decentralization.

The two speakers led a discussion that was relative to recent events in Armenia, and how this country is in the midst of ambitious and far-going local government reform. In 2015 Government of Armenia started territorial administrative reform (TARA), assuming consolidation of small and financially weak communities into larger units. During local referenda in May 2015, population of 22 communities in three consolidating clusters expressed willingness to merge their municipalities.

On February 14th, voters in three consolidated communities have elected their mayors and councils. The reform will roll over to about 11 new consolidation clusters around the country. After this pilot phase of the reform is has been fully accomplished with the consolidation of communities, it is planned to expand the local government powers, delegating them with new competencies. Having in mind the scope of the reform and possible impact on many other sectors of public administration and economy, it is extremely important to consider the experience of other countries, which already passed this path.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides US-style education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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