January 01, 2024

AGBU President Berge Setrakian Reflects on 2023

“Yes, we can be global citizens and benefit from our relationships with well-meaning foreign friends and allies, but ultimately we must take the wheel as the drivers of our national destiny.”

This year has been a watershed moment in modern Armenian history. Many lessons have been learned about our impressive capacity as an organization to act on behalf of Armenians in times of crisis and the failure of the international community to do the same. 

Over the first ten months of 2023, there was a persistent drumbeat, heard around the Armenian world, that a human catastrophe in Artsakh was imminent. Sadly, despite our repeated efforts to sound the alarm that there was a clear and present danger to the Armenians of Artsakh, the global response was rhetorical at best, cynical at worst, and typically, too little too late. This again reminds us that Armenians must be there for Armenians. Yes, we can be global citizens and benefit from our relationships with well-meaning foreign friends and allies, but ultimately we must take the wheel as the drivers of our national destiny. 

Within a week of the Azeri attack on Artsakh, over 100,000 indigenous Armenians were left with no choice but to flee to Armenia earlier this year. This began a humanitarian disaster of unprecedented scope. And, as the crisis intensified, so did AGBU’s capacity to intervene with equal momentum, initially with a focus on food security. 

Within days, the AGBU partnership with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) was up and running nationwide. For six weeks straight, AGBU volunteers and staff worked with WCK to prepare and distribute over 400,000 warm meals and set up food hubs and delivery routes across seven regions of Armenia. To date, we have also distributed as many as 31,000 food boxes for at-home meal preparation. As winter sets in, we will have distributed 10,000 space heaters to those living in temporary shelters or dwellings with inadequate heating. 

Last fall, we hired and trained a select group of Artsakh evacuees to serve their community members in roles critical to the warm meal distribution. It was the first step in AGBU’s broader action plan to provide Artsakh Armenians with training for job placements. It is also fortuitous that our existing programs such as AGBU Learn to Earn Artsakh Program (LEAP), AGBU Women