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Nation-states that encompass large Diasporas are faced with the wider responsibility of accounting for two types of members: citizens that live within the territory of the state and members of the broader nation that reside in the Diaspora. In the Armenian case, legally speaking, an Armenian is a citizen of the Republic of Armenia; but, at the same time, a diasporan Armenian is equally qualified as an Armenian, even if they do not live within the legal boundaries of the state. States with Diasporas, then, are required to formulate legal, institutional, and infrastructural mechanisms in accommodating its two types of members: citizens and diasporans. Responsibilities that are incumbent upon the origin-state, or Homeland, stipulate Homeland-Diaspora relations to be defined by state-centrism. Namely, the origin-state serves as the foundation upon which legal and bureaucratic institutions are built in accommodating and advancing the interests of the broader nation. Since a Diaspora is a stateless entity, it must rely on a state in order to be able to develop institutions and structures that strengthen and reinforce Diaspora-Homeland relations. From the lens of institution-building, regardless of a Diaspora’s strength, resources, and organizational efficiency, it simply cannot function as a state, or develop the infrastructure that states do.
Within this context, Diaspora-Homeland relations must be defined through state-centrism; the origin-state must develop, in conjunction with its Diaspora, legal and bureaucratic structure within the state, as well as transnational infrastructures that connect, collaborate, and govern Diaspora-Homeland relations. In the specific case of the Armenian state, this is a serious shortcoming in its relations with its Diaspora: Armenia-Diaspora relations are not so much defined and driven by institutional and state-sponsored infrastructural relations, but rather, through ad-hoc interactions that have placed much of the burden upon either the diasporic communities, or its cultural-philanthropic organizations. The relative absence of the Armenian state with respect to institution and transnational infrastructure-building has curtailed the potential of the Armenian state from tapping into the vast resources of its Diaspora, while, at the same time, complicating the Diaspora’s desire of assisting and advancing the interests of the Armenian state. In more blunt terms, Armenia-Diaspora relations can be better defined as Armenian society-Diaspora relations; the Armenian state has been quite negligible to its Diaspora. The underlying policy recommendation is that the Armenian state needs to be brought back into Armenia-Diaspora relations.
The state-centered development of Diaspora-Homeland relations allows for the resolution of two broad problems common to the functional relationship between Armenia and its Diaspora communities. The first problem is structural, institutional, and state-centric. The second problem is ideational, transnational, and requires the active involvement of the Armenian state. In both contexts, then, the solutions to the problems require the active and constructive involvement of the Armenian state.
The first problem addresses the lack of alignment, or the relative disconnect, in the interests and views of the Diaspora and the Homeland. Specifically, the views and interests of the Armenian state and its Diaspora are not quite aligned, and for this reason, there is an observable disconnect between what the Diaspora wants and what Armenia needs. The second problem addresses the role, or the lack thereof, of the origin-state in guiding, supporting, and providing the structural and ideational support required in enhancing Diaspora-Homeland relations. Specifically, a conceptual disconnect exists between the Diaspora’s immense nationalism and the relative inactivity of the Armenian state. This disconnect has produced two diverging paradigms for the Armenian nation: the nationalism of the Diaspora, and the patriotism of Armenia.
The reigning discrepancy between the Diaspora’s devotion to Armenianness and the Republic of Armenia’s vision for the Armenian world is the differentiation in the worldview of the two realms: Diaspora is nationalistic, while Armenia is patriotic. Untangling this inherent distinction is crucial to developing and building a functional relationship between the two that is conducive to longevity. Nationalism is loyalty and devotion to a nation (the Armenian nation), and more specifically, to the Armenian national identity. Patriotism, unlike nationalism, is not abstract, but rather, it is pragmatic and concrete: devotion to one’s country or state, that is, the Republic of Armenia. These two conceptual frameworks have always been conflated, which has puzzled most observers: how can the Diaspora, with its intense nationalism and a century of perseverance, not be as bound or devoted to the Republic of Armenia as one would expect? The answer is the paradigmatic disconnect: between the two world views, the nationalism of the Diaspora has not been aligned with the precepts of patriotism. Or put differently, the state is excluded from the Diaspora’s notion of nationalism. This exclusion of the state has produced both ideational complications as well as limiting the development of transnational infrastructures. The absence of the Armenian state, then, is no longer tenable if Diaspora-Homeland relations are to grow and strengthen. This is why the relationship between Armenia and its Diaspora must be reconfigured into a state-centric model.
To strengthen the Armenia-Diaspora partnership, and to strengthen the Diaspora itself, Diaspora’s nationalism must be reconfigured into a transnational form of patriotism. This is precisely what Israel has done: the Diasporic Jew is defined just as much by one’s devotion to the State of Israel as they are to the Jewish identity. In the case of the Armenian world, this has not been attained. The diasporan Armenian is not defined to the same extent by one’s devotion to the Republic of Armenia as by its Armenian identity. For many, the Republic of Armenia is either a secondary priority or an externality; the Armenian state is not perceived as being inherent to the diasporan’s Armenian identity. Namely, in broad terms, the diasporan does not conceive the concept of loyalty or devotion to the Armenian state as having anything to do with one’s Armenianness. Thus, whereas transnational Jewishness is state-centric, transnational Armenianness is identity-centric: the Armenian state is not part of the configuration. In this context, it is evident that the importance of state-centrism is not specific to only institution and infrastructure-building; it is just as crucial to guiding, formulating, and reproducing ideational precepts (ideals, values, norms).
Origin-states have been developing formal institutions and structures to enhance and advance their relations with their diasporas, utilizing a range of ideological, cultural and institutional mechanisms to formulate transnational infrastructures that enhance Homeland-Diaspora cohesion, collaboration, and resource-utilization. One of the more prominent institutions developed in the origin-state are diaspora institutions, which are broadly defined as formal state offices within the executive or legislative structures of government designed to enhance, collaborate, and formalize diaspora relations. Approximately 40% of all United Nations’ member states have formed some variation of state-centric diaspora institutions, recent examples of which include Ethiopia’s Diaspora Coordinating Desk, Poland’s Diaspora Affairs Unit, Latvia’s Diaspora Program, Indonesia’s Diaspora Desk, Haiti’s Diaspora Affairs Office, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Diaspora Department of Diaspora, Nigeria’s House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Hungary’s Diaspora Council, and Armenia’s Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs. Collectively, a broad scope of institutional and structural models have been developed to assist origin-states in developing and formalizing institutional arrangements that not only allow the Homeland to tap into the resources of its diaspora, but also to align the goals and interests of the Diaspora with the Homeland. Supplementing formal state offices are a broad range of non-governmental, quasi-non-governmental, or transnational philanthropy and religious organizations that coordinate and assist the Homeland in diaspora matters, but do so in ad-hoc, or non-formalized structures. These ad-hoc structures, while intermittently beneficial and having some diasporic effect, do not allow for the same level of systemic efficiency as bureaucratized institutions.
The stipulation that diaspora-relations, or diaspora identity-formation, needs to be state-centric, that is, be qualified in some substantive relationship with the Homeland, is explained by four main factors. First, diaspora institutions transnationalize domestic politics by extending it beyond national borders. This allows the Homeland to project state power extraterritorially, thus conceptualizing its diaspora, which is not physically part of the Homeland, as being part of the Homeland. In the case of Armenia, for example, or other small states that find themselves in difficult geopolitical circumstances, this allows smaller states with robust diasporas to “punch above their weight.” Second, diaspora institutions formulate conceptual and ideational constructs that “spatially reconfigures states” so that these states no longer fit within territorially discrete boundaries. In the case of Armenia, for example, the concept of an Armenian nation is not defined by the discrete territorial boundaries of the Armenian Republic, but rather, the broader Armenian world as a single ideational concept. State-centric diaspora institutions provide institutional and organizational cohesion to further develop and advance such notions of “Armenian oneness;” an endeavor that cannot be cogently actualized by non-state actors. Third, diaspora institutions articulate and qualify the perception of diasporans as belonging and being an extension of the Homeland. The Homeland’s formal and legal recognition of its diasporans, by granting dual citizenship, or voting rights, or some form of representation in the legislature, are examples of integrating the diasporan’s identity and obligations into the Homeland. And fourth, specific diasporas that are either shrinking or unable to self-reproduce, rely on the Homeland for cultural replenishment, a process that is becoming formalized and implemented by diaspora institutions. In the case of Armenia, the sustainability of the Diaspora is becoming continuously reliant on the Homeland, which is requiring the expansion and allocation of resources by the state’s diaspora institutions.
The sphere of strategic relations entails the organized and concerted efforts of the origin-state to utilize the vast resources of its diaspora, in a calculated manner, to enhance and advance the interests of the Homeland. Strategic relations are primarily pragmatic, resource-driven, and hinged on tangible and quantifiable outcomes. Conceptually, this is also known as “tapping” into the diaspora, with the underlying assumption clearly noting the Homeland’s endeavors of using and relying on its diaspora’s vast resources by “tapping” into such resources. General methods of tapping include diasporan investments, financial remittances, or “roots” tourism. In the case of Armenia, traditional tapping mechanisms in its strategic relations with the Diaspora have relied on three main areas: economic resources, human capital, and lobbying/political resources. From the strategic lens of the Armenian state, tapping into its Diaspora’s economic resources has been crucial to the sustenance of Armenia’s economy, relying on direct foreign investment from the Diaspora, but more importantly, remittances and philanthropic donations. Research demonstrates that origin-state diaspora institutions are crucial in organizing and obligating diasporic groups or communities to invest, remit, travel, and donate, especially in times of crises.
Tapping into the Diaspora’s immense human capital is also an important component of the Armenian state’s strategic outlook in its relations with its Diaspora. Considering the high proportion of Diasporan Armenian professionals in the economies of developed countries, tapping into such human capital is crucial for sector growth and knowledge-accumulation for Armenia. The underlying objective is to cultivate professional and scientific networks to transfer expertise, technical knowledge, and scientific research back to the Homeland. More specifically, the cost-efficiency of relying on the Diaspora’s human capital is exponentially greater than developing domestic research-and-development programs from scratch. Another crucial component to the Armenian government’s strategic approach to tapping is to offset the country’s “brain drain,” or rather, to initiate a “reverse brain drain” by inducing the inflow of highly-educated, professionalized experts. An important element of this approach is to map the Diasporan communities, while constructing an extensive registry of professionals and experts, with the broader objective of tapping into such human capital to augment reverse brain drain.
With respect to political resources, the Armenian Diaspora has been fundamental in advancing, not only the historical cause of the Armenian people, but also, the strategic and policy interests of the Armenian state. The strength of the global Armenian lobby is an important instrument in advancing the interests of the Armenian state, but one that is both risk-averse and cost-efficient. The Armenian state is able to economize its foreign policy resources by leveraging the Diaspora’s political/lobbying resources, thus synthesizing Armenia’s political interests with the community interests of the Diaspora. The strategic success of this endeavor, however, has been quite limited, as the Armenian state’s scope of activism in coordinating, supporting, or providing resources to Diasporan lobbying structures has been less than minimal. The Armenian lobby throughout the world is perhaps the least tapped sphere with respect to diasporan resource extraction. Unlike the Israeli/Jewish lobby, or the Hellenic/Greek lobby, the Armenian lobby has been mostly left to its own devices, and the support of diasporic communities, to advance the interests of both the Armenian Diaspora as well as the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian state’s relative absence from this process, and the tacit assumption that the Diasporic lobbying organizations should carry the burden, has profoundly limited the immense potential of the Armenian lobby. Conceptually, Armenian lobbying organizations are Diaspora-centric; however, they have gone over and beyond their capabilities to also be Armenia-centric. The problem, however, is reminiscent of what has already been addressed: the Armenian state has not cogently supported such endeavors. To put it more succinctly, the Armenia Diaspora has been exceedingly successfully in developing diaporan institutions; but these institutions have not been linked, or bridged, with the institutions of the Armenian state. The Armenian state has not made bona fide efforts to formulate institutional arrangements and transnational infrastructures that could allow for such linkage, or possible synthesis.
The sphere of cultural relations entails the broad and specific civilizational precepts that give coherence to the concept of an Armenian nation. In this context, cultural relations pertain to historical, identity, educational, artistic, intellectual and all other forms of cultural variables that encapsulate Armenianness. Cultural relations between the Armenian state and its Diaspora are the foundational bedrock upon which its strategic relations are based. Cultural relations are defined by ideational precepts, the embracing of history and identity, and the bond of Armenianness that connects the Diaspora with the Homeland. Cultural relations, as such, are not “tapped” into by the origin-state; rather, this relationship is inverse. It is the Diaspora that taps into the Homeland for cultural, linguistic, educational, and artistic replenishment. Considering the Diaspora’s limited ability (and in some cases inability) to self-reproduce culture, the Diaspora taps into the Homeland to sustain and qualify its identity of Armenianness. Cultural relations, in this sense, are extremely important to the Homeland, because this serves as the ideological framework upon which it is able to utilize and rely on the strategic resources of its Diaspora.
While Armenian state institutions have perhaps been more active in the cultural sphere, the scope of engagement could clearly benefit from better-designed structures to accommodate Diaspora-Homeland cultural relations. Collectively, the relationship is not cogently institutionalized; however, and at the same time, Diaspora organizations have had access and support from Armenian educational and cultural institutions. These interactions, however, are primarily ad hoc and contingent upon the requests of Diaspora organizations. A formal, transnational infrastructure does not exist, where the Armenian state designs institutional arrangements that systematically and continuously support and guide Diaspora-Homeland cultural relations.
Research shows that well-developed origin-state diaspora institutions can play a crucial role in enhancing cultural relations, and further re-entrenching diasporan interests in the Homeland. Serbia’s Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora, for example, undertakes policies that seek to preserve and develop the spiritual, national, and cultural identity of the Serbian people in its Diaspora. Institutionally, this includes a Diaspora Parliament that fuses administrative, organizational, and representational functions to enhance cultural relations. As another empirical example, Somalia’s Office of Diaspora Affairs undertakes a range of government programs that encourage and enhance diaspora participation in nation-building activities. The broader objective of such “embracing-the-culture” models is to encourage and accommodate repatriation. By enhancing cultural relations, “embracing” diasporans through cultural affinity, and offering diasporans opportunities to contribute or partake in nation-building, cultural relations models seek to make repatriation more conducive to the diaspora. In more simple terms, the Homeland offers the Diaspora cultural capital.
The sphere of governance structures pertains to the institutional arrangements and formalized infrastructures that facilitate, guide, and govern the economic, cultural and political relations between the Homeland and the Diaspora. Governance structures may be both ad-hoc or fully formalized, but to secure longevity and sustainability, it is recommended that governance structures be developed as formal institutions embedded in the Homeland, serving to advance and align the interests of the origin-state with the Diaspora. The formulation of governance structures may take a multitude of forms, from institutional arrangements that promote economic investments, repatriation, educational programs, coordination of political/lobbying activities, diaspora advisory bodies, to any such formal infrastructures that are legally recognized in the Homeland for the purpose of institutionalizing and strengthening Homeland-Diaspora relations.
Diaspora governance is an exceptionally important concept because diasporas are no longer qualified as “fixed social groups” that reside in other states. Rather, diasporas are now specifically recognized as “constituency-building” processes designed to mobilize political, economic, social, and cultural activism, with the primary objective of integrating with the Homeland. The diasporan, in the eyes of the Homeland, is either a constituent, or a latent constituent that needs to be recruited. In this context, Diaspora outreach by the origin-state is an exercise in constituency-building. Complimenting constituency-building is the notion of “state-led transnationalism,” where domestic policies are developed and have resonance beyond the borders of the origin-state, thus affecting populations that reside both abroad and at home.
In the case of Armenia, two observations stand out. First, constituency-building within the Diaspora was done half-heartedly by pre-Velvet Revolution governments, since the fundamental objective was “tapping,” as opposed to “embracing” or “state-led transnationalism.” The post-Velvet Revolution government, however, has sought to reverse this process, actively attempting to engage in constituency-building in the Diaspora. While constituency-building policies are not fully developed at this stage, the broader vision is quite apparent: the government considers all willing Diasporic Armenians to be its constituency. This vision, however, is in its nascent stages of implementation. Second, while constituency-building is gaining traction, state-led transnationalism has not been cogently developed by the Armenian government. As such, one part of the puzzle is in its beginning stages, while the second part of the puzzle does not yet exist. This is where the development of diaspora governance structures would allow for the puzzle to be resolved. Between constituency-building and the formation of state-centric diaspora governance structures, Armenia-Diaspora relations will methodically become more aligned. This has not been the case since 1991 because while the Armenian Diaspora has been a transnational phenomenon, it was not incorporated into state-led transnationalism; the Armenian state was simply absent. Further, whereas the Diasporan Armenian was a member of the Armenian nation, the same individual was not a constituent of the Armenian state. Thus, by constituency-building in the Diaspora, and by developing state-centric diaspora institutions, Armenia can both give agency to its Diasporan constituents, as well as provide the mechanism for state-led transnationalism.
Perhaps the most difficult question pertaining to the very concept of governance, and more specifically, institutional effectiveness, is the one concerning enforcement: how can the Armenian state, without legal jurisdiction or enforcement powers in the diaspora, effectively govern and implement the policies of its diaspora governing structures? This is inherently a complex question, since the issue of governance and enforcement lies at the heart of the debate in the Diaspora regarding both unity within the Diaspora as well as transnational unity. A great deal of discourse on this topic has been presented by both pundits and Diaspora leaders, expressing frustration with the inability to formulate governing structures. And quite obviously, governing structures simply lack potency and substance if such institutions lack enforcement powers. In more simple terms, the Armenian government can neither make nor demand anyone or any organization in the Diaspora to do what such entity refuses to do. How can this collective action problem be solved, and what conceptual framework can the Armenian government develop that can, if not fully resolve, at least mitigate such matters? The recommended solution is the concept of governmentality, and more specifically, in the case of Armenia-Diaspora relations, “transnational governmentality.”
The application of governmentality to Diaspora-Homeland relations is specifically modeled to allow governance without the requirement for enforcement. This theory contends that state-led policies and structures become dominant not through coercion but rather through the consent and self-discipline of those governed. The underlying assumption is that the Armenian state promotes and stimulates policy-development that advances the interests of its Diaspora constituents; by making the Diaspora constituent a stakeholder, the state empowers stakeholders by incentivizing policies that incorporate “self-management.” By providing the broad contours, and framing policy expectations, the Armenian state formulates governance and operationalizes such through transnational structures. On the receiving end, Diaspora constituents, as stakeholders, “self-manage” the diffusion and implementation of said policies. The critical component of governmentality, then, is not coercion, but rather, incentivizing the stakeholder: the Diaspora constituent becomes incentivized to being governed by the policies of the origin-state.
Recognizing the origin-state’s inability to rely on coercive powers beyond its legal jurisdictions, governmentality stipulates that the effectiveness of transnational policy diffusion remains contingent on the ability to construct a diasporan constituency that self-identifies as loyal, self-disciplined subjects of the Homeland. Governmentality, fundamentally, reveals and formulates the nature of dominant ideas that shape and govern diaspora identities, and in this process of state-centric identity construction, the utilization of diaspora structures and institutions reinforce the origin-state’s capacity for transnational governance. Transnational governance, then, is the “management of distance,” and more specifically, it encompasses the “home government’s efforts to create and control diasporas, to mobilize national identities and to institutionalize the links” between diaspora communities and their Homeland. Findings demonstrate that the “political-economy framework” and the process of transnationalizing “state policies” is best understood and implemented through the “governmentality framework” Research notes the transitional powers exercised by origin-states as vital to some form of diaspora governance, entailing specific economic and political management. Such transnational governmentality, however, stipulates two important expectations: 1) de-territorialized practices of inclusion; and 2) the relatively liberal, democratizing nature of the origin-state. This notion of governmentality is also referred to as “disciplinary governmentality,” which revolves around population growth, policies of promotion of repatriation, and construction of cultural policies in the diaspora that seek to “awaken national consciousness and facilitate return.” The underlying evidence indicates that origin-states that qualify constituency through de-territorialization (that is, not by the strict boundaries of the origin-state), and are thus inclusive, are more conducive to exercising some form of transnational governance. Further, the liberal or liberalizing course of the Homeland is also crucial; diaspora-constituents are less likely to agree to being transnationally governed by non-liberal regimes than they would be by liberal-democratic regimes. Collectively, considering Armenia’s recent headways in democratization, domestic liberalization, as well as de-territorial inclusiveness, the capacity of the post-Velvet Revolution regime to undertake transnational governance is exponentially robust. That is, the necessary indicators are present for the Armenian government to develop transnational structures, diffuse state policies transnationally, undertake diaspora constituency-building, and thus proceed to govern the diaspora through disciplinary governmentality.
In the development and formation of transnational diaspora structures and institutions, two important factors must be addressed. First, these structures can neither be formed too rigidly nor can they be heavily enforceable, hence the recommendation of transnational governmentality. Second, transnational diaspora institutions cannot be all-encompassing, single-umbrella structures. Since the formation of such structures is contingent on successful constituency-building in the Diaspora, it is crucial to realize that the interests of the constituents are just as important as those of the Homeland. Further, whereas the interests of the Homeland are singularly defined by the government, the interests of the Diaspora cannot be gauged in a singular fashion. The wide-range of diaspora constituents hold diverse range of values, goals, and interests. In this context, transnational structures must be designed in a fashion where which they are conducive to the needs and demand of its constituency. Assuming that the diaspora constituency is a single body, with broad, singular interests is simply inconsistent with reality. Diaspora engagement, then, must prioritize three important variables: 1) the alignment of the interests of the diaspora constituents with that of the Homeland; 2) recognizing and accommodating the diverse inter-Diaspora interests; and 3) formulating transnational structures that are conducive to both achieving such alignment as well as giving the diaspora-constituent agency.
The recommendations for Armenia-Diaspora relations remain consistent with the analytical framework presented above. As is evident to policy-makers, pundits, Diaspora organizations, and all stakeholders, the phenomenon of Pan-Armenianism is primarily an abstract, ideational umbrella. One that encapsulates the goals and visions of the broader Armenian nation. The actualization of Pan-Armenianism, however, into a singular, wide-ranging transnational structure has simply been untenable. The discussion of a Pan-Armenian organization that represents and encompasses all Diaspora organizations and constituents has primarily been that, a discussion. A single, Pan-Armenian body that is representative of the entire Diaspora is not a tenable policy option, nor can it be structurally coherent. Namely, one may be constructed for the sake of constructing it; but the operational effectiveness, the presumed efficacy, and the overall objectives of such a structure will very likely fail. To put it more bluntly, there simply is no empirical evidence to support the proposition of a single, Pan-Armenian structure. The policy recommendation here is a paradigm shift, an alteration of how Diaspora governance is perceived, and the infusion of distinct, research-based propositions that are grounded in empirical findings. In this context, the most effective and efficient transnational diaspora institutions that may be structured for Armenia-Diaspora relations are quasi-governmental institutions. Research demonstrates that origin-states that have to coordinate and serve a large and diverse diaspora constituency are better off developing and utilizing quasi-governmental institutions.
Quasi-governmental institutions are state-centric structures that incorporate into its decision-making and policy formulation nongovernmental bodies, which can range from diaspora councils, to professional associations, to traditional diasporan organizations. Quasi-governmental institutions are designed to be compatible with transnational governmentality, offering the Homeland flexibility in addressing and accommodating the diverse needs and interests of its diaspora, while, at the same time, utilizing such quasi-governmental institutions to “tap” into its diaspora’s resources, as well as employ the diaspora to diffuse the policies, goals, and interests of the Homeland extraterritorially. Successful quasi-governmental institutions include South Korea’s Overseas Koreans Foundation, Peru’s Advisory Council, Mexico’s Consultative Council of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, and more prominently, Israel’s Jewish Agency. These quasi-governmental organizations serve diasporas that range from 1 to 11 million constituents, a configuration consistent with the Armenian Diaspora. Further, the diaspora communities of these nations are dispersed throughout the world, with diverse interests, sub-cultures, and demands; reminiscent of the complexities within the Armenian Diaspora itself.
The specific policy recommendation for the structuration of quasi-governmental diaspora institutions for Armenia are advisory councils, and in specific instances, emergency councils. The objectives of advisory councils are four-fold:
1) to give Diaspora constituents agency by offering a mechanism through which the Diaspora can have policy input and effect change;
2) allow for transnational governance by the Homeland by establishing the terms and conditions of advisory councils;
3) increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Diaspora’s resources by including the Diaspora in the decision-making process; and
4) align the goals and interests of the Homeland with the Diaspora by collaborating and synchronizing the policies, goals, and objectives of the Homeland.
These recommended diaspora advisory councils will not simply be formed through the traditional community leaders, organizations, or religious-philanthropic structures prevalent in the Diaspora. Such structures will be fundamental to the proposed emergency councils, but advisory councils are much more nuanced and expert-oriented. The proposition, then, is the formation of set of advisory councils designed thematically and according to diverse range of sectors. Some examples include: advisory council of engineers; advisory council of health care professionals; advisory council of legal experts; advisory council of scientists; advisory council of economists; advisory council of cyber-security experts; so on and so forth. These transnational advisory councils, comprised of qualified diasporan experts, will not only serve as consultants, but will have agency in developing policy for the Homeland, providing input, and playing a crucial role in aligning Diaspora-Homeland interests in wide range of sectors. From a conceptual perspective, diaspora advisory councils will function as epistemic communities in voluntary, yet formalized, service to the Armenian state.
Epistemic communities are “association of professional experts in a particular field, who, because of the knowledge they have, have an unusual influence on politicians and bureaucrats, are therefore able to penetrate government” and therefore “make their ideas part of policy.” Epistemic communities share the following characteristics:
1) common normative principles;
2) shared beliefs derived from professional expertise related to a specific policy area;
3) shared notions of how to validate knowledge; and
4) shared policy objectives in improving the world.
Epistemic communities de-emphasize their own status as actors and “invoke the authority of expert knowledge” in shaping the strategies of state actors. As such, when configuring diaspora advisory councils as epistemic communities, we are proposing the formation of quasi-governmental institutions, comprised of Armenian Diaspora experts, that work with the Armenian government to advance and improve the various spheres of Armenian society. This, in turn, gives the Diaspora agency, allowing professionals and experts a formal and state-centric process of effecting change in the Homeland.
As an example, one may consider the dire state of Armenia’s health care system, and the need for not only reforms, but a complete restructuring of the entire health care system. Instead of relying on ad-hoc advice from its European partners, or selective advice from international health organizations, or any non-formal solicitation of knowledge, a formal Diaspora Advisory Council of Health Care Professionals can concretely effect change in the country’s health care system by consulting and developing reform policies with the Armenian government. This example, when applied to various other sectors, from the country’s dwindling infrastructure to rural underdevelopment to environmental policy to national security to governance to institution-building to any sector that needs reform and improvement, the extraordinary importance of the Diaspora’s epistemic communities, formalized into advisory councils, will pay immense dividends in improving and advancing the country.
Research demonstrates that “shocks, crises, and uncertainties” play a crucial “role in mobilizing epistemic communities,” with this mobilization producing important output in the resolution of the given emergency situation. Considering Armenia’s geopolitical, economic, and regional complexities, crisis-induced developments are the norm, as opposed to the exception. The formation of a transnational quasi-governmental infrastructure that can both offer the Diaspora formal agency in helping the Homeland and also allow the Homeland to “tap” into the Diaspora’s resources during crises is just as crucial as the development of wide-ranging Diaspora advisory councils. The recommendation of a Diaspora Emergency Council (DEC) is a hybrid proposition that fuses elements of an advisory council with that of an operational council. The necessity of this is quite straight forward: the Republic of Armenia, and specifically its government, can no longer be reactive; rather, it must develop policies, with its Diaspora, that are primarily proactive. As empirical case studies demonstrate, “Decision-makers do not always recognize that their understanding of complex issues and linkages is limited, and it often takes a crisis” in order to incentivize political leaders “to seek help from epistemic communities.” In such instances of crises or uncertainty, political leaders will “seek information and defer to actors who are able to provide credible technical advice,” which can then be operationalized in solving the crisis. In the case of Armenia, there is no stronger community to rely on during shocks and crises than its Diaspora.
Traditional Armenian Diaspora organizations are not specifically designed for quick mobilization, resource accumulation, or for possessing an infrastructure that can rapidly transfer resources from the Diaspora to the Republic of Armenia. In order for the Diaspora to be able to rapidly assist Armenia in instances of emergency, a comprehensive transnational-structural model must be developed. This policy recommendation proposes DECs as transnational institutions that are formed in every large Armenian Diaspora community (specifically, the United States, Canada, Latin America, France, Russia, the Middle East, and Australia). From an organizational perspective, it is recommended that the DECs be based in regional focal points. Focal point recommendations are as follows: Argentina for Latin America, France for Europe, Russia for the entire Post-Soviet Space, Beirut for the Middle East, and Australia for Oceana. The United States and Canada will serve as their own focal points.
In order for the Republic of Armenia to be able to maximize the resources of the Diaspora during times of crises and emergencies, extensive, highly-organized, and well-developed coordination is required. The composition of DECs will incorporate, on voluntary and qualifying basis, all pertinent Diasporan organizations, prominent Diaspora Armenians, and members of epistemic communities; further, the DECs will be led and guided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs (High Commissioner) for coordination and informational efficiency. This will allow for transnational governmentality and policy diffusion that originates from official Yerevan.
Operationally, the DEC will have direct access to the High Commissioner; as such, the DEC will have immediate line of communication with the Office of the Prime Minister during emergencies or crises. During emergencies, the High Commissioner’s responsibility will be three-fold: 1) briefing and informing each DEC the nature of the emergency and the specific resources required; 2) guiding and advising the DEC on the best course of action in mobilizing the Diaspora’s resources; and 3) providing instructions to the DEC on the specific mechanisms of transferring the emergency resources to the Republic of Armenia.
Operational protocol, as well as contingency plans, will entail a three-tiered process: 1) each DECs organizational and operational structure will be customized, reflecting the characteristics of the Diaspora communities that the DEC will operate within; 2) the High Commissioner will develop contingency plans with every DEC, with each contingency plan designed to maximize the resources of the given communities attached to the focal point; and 3) decision-making protocols will be determined by Yerevan, implemented by the High Commissioner in coordination with the DECs. The platform of each DEC, then, will entail its own internal organizational and operational protocols, as well as contingency plans developed in conjunction with the High Commissioner. When emergencies do arise, the contingency plans of the Armenian government, where applicable, will be shared by the High Commissioner with the pertinent DEC to guarantee maximum performance.
Three data points demonstrate the necessity of quasi-governmental DECs: 1988 Spitak earthquake, the Karabakh/Artsakh war (specifically 1991-1994, when the conflict escalated), and the 2016 Four Day War. In all three cases, the mobilization of the Diaspora was extremely impressive. In the case of the Spitak Earthquake and the Karabakh/Artsakh War, immense amounts of money were raised by various Diaspora organizations, as we all as individual donors, in their efforts to assist the homeland in times of crises. Extensive political pressure was exerted against the political structures of the various countries that hosted Armenian Diasporas, notably in the US, Canada, France, and Argentina. In the case of the Four Day War, youth mobilization was especially intense in the Diaspora (specifically in the United States and Russia), while substantial funds where collected by ad hoc organizations, or individuals sending funds personally to the front lines. Thus, collectively, there are evidentiary patterns to conclude that should emergency situations arise, including war, the utmost mobilization, activism, and support of the Diaspora may be relied upon.
These case studies, however, also demonstrate certain flaws and shortcomings which serve as the basis for recommending the formation of DECs. 1) Lack of cogent coordination mechanisms between Armenia and the Diaspora when emergencies arise. Considering that the Armenian government has no structural or organizationally formal relations with the Diaspora, both in the case of the Spitak Earthquake and the Four Day War, Diaspora communities, and individually devoted Diasporans, found themselves leaderless and in a state of organizational chaos, doing everything they can to help Armenia, but doing so in an uncoordinated, disjointed fashion. 2) The Diaspora’s assets are neither efficiently utilized nor are they sufficiently maximized, leading to wasted time, resources and a great deal of effort. For example, when wealthy Armenians lack a coordination structure, they take matters into their own hands, renting plans to send medical supplies (Spitak Earthquake); when activists are not led by a coordination structure that gives guidance and clarity on how to proceed, they take individual initiatives with respect to sending funds, goods, or whatever they can to Armenia (Karabakh/Artsakh war and Four Day war). Diaspora organizations do not have the resources, levels of trust, or developed mechanisms to coordinate broad-scale activities during emergencies. 3) In cases of emergency, the political might of the Armenian Diaspora is not efficiently utilized; each Diasporan lobbying organization goes into overdrive and does its utmost to advance the interests of Armenia; however, they do this without coordinating with one another, and they clearly do this without coordinating with the Armenian state. The result is overlapping arguments, disconnected demands, and in general, a process of temporary chaos. This limits the Diaspora’s ability to maximize its political capital.
Collectively, the most effective and maximally efficient method of utilizing the Diaspora's vast resources during emergencies would be the development of Diaspora Security Councils in the various focal points of the Armenian Diaspora. Further, broad contingency plans must be developed that are customized to maximize the potential of each focal point. And finally, both the operational coherence of the DECs, as well as the contingency plans, will be coordinated and implemented under the auspices of the High Commissioner, which serves as the Armenian Government’s, and more specifically, the Prime Minister’s representative to the Diaspora.
The crises of engagement between the Homeland and Diaspora is not a secret; as much as one loves the other, there still remain important and unresolved issues. That the blame, overall, may be placed on the former is perhaps an oversimplification; but not entirely untrue. The more important issue at hand, however, is not to engage in the discourse of the past, but rather, to undertake a paradigm shift in Homeland-Diaspora relations. The Diaspora’s perception of the Armenian state must not only be altered, but should further be aligned with Armenia’s perception of the Diaspora itself. These discursive assessments, however, must also be concretely addressed by developing institutions and infrastructures that alleviate the problems faced by the Armenian world. In this context, the formation of transnational diaspora structures, and the utilization of these structures to exercise transnational governance must be the next stage in the evolution of Armenia-Diaspora relations. It has become an accepted axiom that the old models of engagement simply don’t work; hence the need for a paradigm change. By adapting a state-centered approach to diaspora institutions building, identity-building, constituency-building, and transnational governmentality, Pan-Armenianism, as both concept and reality, will find efficacy in advancing the interests of the broader Armenian nation.
Nerses Kopalyan presents an interesting take on Armenia-Diaspora relations. It has the potential to start a debate on important matters in the field. As the paper emphasizes paradigmatic change, I think it is necessary to touch upon some conceptual matters. In this particular case, I would like to raise some questions regarding governmentality. To put it bluntly, I am not sure it can be used in such a context. Even if it is, proper justifications should be provided. Here is why…
The term governmentality was coined by Michelle Foucault, and it is quintessentially about power relations, which is not reflected in the paper. Specifically, governmentality is a form of power projection, where states (or other subjects) socialize people to act in a certain way by making them think that it is the natural thing to do. In its own way, the paper touches upon this aspect when stating: “This theory contends that state-led policies and structures become dominant not through coercion but rather through the consent and self-discipline of those governed.” However, there is a crucial normative point that it misses. Foucault introduced governmentality to state his concerns about power relations in modern times. It is a form of power projection, where subjects are deprived of the ability to resist a certain state of affairs as they consider it natural. Accordingly, consent (as mentioned in the paper) is not an expression of free will but a product of domination of a certain power-knowledge. In short, governmentality limits alterity, and that is problematic from a Foucauldian point of view. Therefore, governmentality is mostly used to provide a critical understanding of such naturalized phenomena as liberalism.
Taking these factors into account, I am not sure the white paper has a compatible ontological stance for applying the concept. There is a limit to every theory. I am not saying that there can be only one correct definition of the term. However, if a certain interpretation drastically deviates from an intersubjectively shared understanding (as is the case with the white paper and, I guess, some of the sources it cites), there should be a proper explanation why.
Dear Alen, thank you very much for your constructive comments. I would like to make several points to address the conceptual concerns that you expressed. First, you note that governmentally cannot be used in the context that it is used in the paper, and as such, it needs to be justified. Note that there's a difference between the Foucaultian notion of governmentality and the notion of transnational governmentality as used and applied in diaspora studies. I apply it and source it as used in the latter. In this context, the concept is justified by the scholarly literature and deemed as a tenable conceptual model in the application of diaspora studies. That is, it is no longer strictly applied in a "purist" Foucaultian format; it is refined to be applicable to transnationalism. More specifically, transitional governmentality does not negate the "ontological compatibility" of the concept, as you indicate. Rather, it presupposes epistemological consistency, which I will explain in a bit. Second, I neither deny, negate, nor conceal the "power" dynamic of the concept. I spend a paragraph explaining the lack of "coercive" powers a state has outside of its territorial jurisdiction; as such, this lack of power may be mitigated by transnational governmentality. In this context, the "power projection" is presupposed as being inherent. Note my elaboration from the paper, "Governmentality, fundamentally, reveals and formulates the nature of dominant ideas that shape and govern diaspora identities, and in this process of state-centric identity construction, the utilization of diaspora structures and institutions reinforce the origin-state’s capacity for transnational governance. Transnational governance, then, is the 'management of distance,' and more specifically, it encompasses the 'home government’s efforts to create and control diasporas, to mobilize national identities and to institutionalize the links' between diaspora communities and their Homeland." The very discussion of "control" is clearly indicative and consistent with "forms of power projection." To this end, the application of transnational governmentality remains quite consistent with the general precepts you've argued. Thirdly, the underlying concern of incompatibility in your argument is the paper's utilization of "consent," and your assessment that governmentality, as assessed through the Foucaultian framework, negates the very notion of consent/free will. Hence your claim of ontological compatibility. As I noted in my first point, with respect to “epistemological consistency,” the actions of the state domestically (governmentality) are inherently different from the actions of the state transnationally (transnational governmentality). You do an excellent job of arguing that Foucaultian governmentality “is a form of power projection, where subjects are deprived of the ability to resist a certain state of affairs as they consider it natural. Accordingly, consent (as mentioned in the paper) is not an expression of free will but a product of domination of a certain power-knowledge. In short, governmentality limits alterity…” This argument would work, both ontologically and epistemically, if the Armenian state shaped, developed, and made “natural” the concept of Armenianness/Armenian nationalism/etc., and as such, negated the “fee will” of those who would seek otherwise, that is, alterity. This, clearly, is not the case. Framed axiomatically, epistemological consistency is clearly inherent in the following: Armenianness and Armenian nationalism is a given for any diasporan Armenian that self-identifies as such. Namely, this is what the Armenian state presupposes before implementing tenets of transnational governmentality. In this context, it appears you are inadvertently making two claims: Diaspora Armenians that are nationalistic are so not due to their consent/free will, or they have been denied/limited alterity by virtue of being raised in Diaspora communities and coerced into deeming love of Armenianness as “natural.” Even if this is the case, this is not applicable to transnational governmentality. Namely, the Diasporan Armenian that views one’s self as a constituent/stakeholder has already consented to being a lover of Armenianness; and it is this consent that the Armenian government takes as a given. Thus, one must cho0se/consent to be a “stakeholder”, as the paper argues. As such, transnational govermentality is only applicable to those who choose/consent to be governed transnationally. Thus, I do not argue that governmentality comes before or produces consent (which appears what you are presuming); rather, I argue that transnational governmentality can only be applicable to those who have already consented. This is why I speak of epistemological consistency and disagree with your claims of ontological incompatibility. However, if the Armenian state eventually becomes responsible for shaping, constructing, and making “natural” nationalism/love of Armenianness/etc. in the Diaspora, then your assessment would be correct. But, as it stands, that is not the case and that is not how transnational governmentality is conceptualized in the paper.
Again, your criticism and comments are much appreciated.
This project is funded by the UK Government's Conflict, Stability and Security Fund.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors' and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the UK Government.