Freedom of Information Center of Armenia.

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The FOIC Could Break the Ice


Since passing the RA law about "Freedom of Information" (2003) the FOICA has been holding trainings with various social groups. Due to the trainings organized by the FOICA during the past 7 years, over 6 thousand people have received knowledge and skills about the use and implementation of the law. Due to the trainings organized only in the period from April, 2008 to 1st of January, 2010, which are implemented in the frames of the “Access to Information for Community Involvement” USAID funded project, over 1993 officials and representatives from the civil society in the RA have acquired knowledge and skills regarding the use and implementation of the RA law about "Freedom of Information". In this period over 1200 representatives of state and local authorities (self-government institutions) have participated in the trainings organized by the FOICA. The trainings are held all around Armenia in order to teach the statutory provisions of the RA law about "Freedom of Information" and to contribute to the transparency and accountability of the local authorities.

"First it was very difficult to organize trainings for mayors since the word 'training' suppressed them for a moment – they thought that we were to teach them something. We, in our turn, use the term 'discussion' instead of 'training' which is more acceptable for mayors. Over 50% of the mayors have participated in our trainings, as a result of which today it is much easier to receive information from them. The most important thing is that everyone, without exception, agrees with the statutory provisions of freedom of information, and they also admit that they should work openly and publicly, and be of account to the public", - notes Anahit Qocharyan the training coordinator of the organization.

Also, by means of evaluation sheets, FOICA evaluates the effectiveness of the trainings. 98% of the participants have evaluated the trainings organized by the FOICA regarding the RA law about "Freedom of Information" as positive and useful.

"During the trainings the mayors are asked a couple of fundamental questions: first, every state body must give information. Second, why is the freedom of information important? What will the mayor gain as a result of giving information? Also mechanisms and practical tools are presented which they can and have to use. These 3 principles make the officials change their attitude and develop their working manners", - explained the FOICA and National Assembly expert Marine Hakobyan. - "At first they don't take the topic serious. They are even surprised that the freedom of information is talked about, since they think that there are more important issues. And, as a rule, their presence is just a duty to be done. However, when you show them all the actual reasons that create obstacles and difficulties, and all the solutions that are possible as a result of being informed the attitude changes, and the participants become active. When officials realize that being informed is first of all a precondition for their power, then during the discussions they seek for ways that will make them less vulnerable, and more flexible and skillful, that will make them fair in their decisions and will increase their reputation."

The staffs of the regional administrations are also content with these trainings. "The discussions organized by the FOICA were of great use in the region of Shirak – in the process of assuring transparency and publicity by the mayors. Since January, 2010 there was a turning-point in assuring publicity in the decisions of mayors and councilors. In the past the mayors of our region paid little attention to the publicity and availability of the documents adopted by themselves. However, due to the discussions organized by FOICA it is already 9 months that we have had no problem with the mayors regarding the publicity of their decisions. After the sittings of mayors or councilors all the adopted documents are fixed in that community. Also, they make it available for us so that we can have them in the official website of our regional administration. Due to the FOICA the mayors of our region finally realized that the decisions adopted by them are not their personal properties, but they belong to the community. The FOICA could break the ice", noticed Samvel Grigoryan - head of the Department of Information and Public Affairs of the regional administration of Shirak.

It is worth mentioning that the FOICA has planned to hold 48 trainings in all the regions of Armenia from April, 2008 to April, 2010. 1700 officials from state and local authorities, as well as civil society representatives from all the RA regions are to take part in them. It is to say, that by April, 2010 400 more people will have learnt the statutory provisions of the RA law about "Freedom of Information".

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