In late September 2017, Integrity Action officially launched our first operational partnership with a major donor and government, in Yerevan, Armenia. Together with the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Armenia, as well as support from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction at the Asian Development Bank, we are implementing our Community Integrity Building (CIB) approach in Armenia for the first time.
In 1988 Armenia was devastated by a major earthquake which ravaged public infrastructure and killed tens of thousands of people. In order to protect the public from future earthquakes, the Government of Armenia has taken a loan from the Asian Development Bank to build or rebuild 46 schools across the country, according to seismic safety standards to make them resistant to future earthquakes. This is an important step towards ensuring public infrastructure in Armenia is safe and will protect citizens in the event of another major earthquake. Integrity Action’s role in the partnership is to use CIB to train citizens as monitors to provide oversight for the implementation of 20 of the 46 new schools across Armenia.
On 26th September the Asian Development Bank hosted an event to celebrate the launch as well as to inform a wider audience about the project and our approach. Integrity Action, the Asian Development Bank, Representatives from the Government of Armenia and the Armenian Territorial Development Fund (ATDF) all committed to making this project a success to those in attendance. Present were representatives from the World Bank, European Union and United Nations Development Programme. This is the first time that Government of Armenia has entered into such a partnership or invited this kind of oversight for projects that it is responsible for. Therefore, this is was an exciting opportunity for us to address concerns from those sceptical about the potential of citizens to carry out monitoring activities of such an important project.
From 27th- 29th September, we held a training workshop for Armenian NGOs and CSOs interested in learning about CIB methodology as well as entering into partnership to implement the project at the local level. In addition to teaching participants about CIB, the workshop was a great opportunity for us to introduce ourselves, as well as the other major stakeholders involved in the project, including the Asian Development Bank and the Armenian Territorial Development Fund, to those NGOs and CSOs that will be working with Integrity Action and implementing the project at the local level. The training that we provided to those NGOs and CSOs in attendance will enable them to train citizens in CIB, so that they can monitor the construction of the 20 schools. This included detailed briefings about the project itself, how to identify and engage with key stakeholders, as well as a session hosted by an engineer to explain what to look for during visits to construction sites.
Over the next few months the real work starts! We are drawing on all of our learning about community empowerment and social accountability from the last 14 years, in order to ensure that Armenian citizens are at the forefront of providing oversight of this important project. We will support our local NGO and CSO partners to implement CIB into communities, to engage with citizens so they learn about their rights, visit project sites and identify problems with project implementation. Then in the event problems are identified we will work to bring communities together with key stakeholders to ensure problems are resolved. This will help build resilient communities which demand their rights as well as service providers who are willing to work with citizens in order to resolve problems.