OSCE Enhances Students’ Activism through Debates in Armenia

YEREVAN, 20 November 2012 – Seven teams of students from Yerevan and Armenia’s regions will gather today and tomorrow in Yerevan for the final debate.

The students will debate and defend their views on important social issues such as the fight against corruption, domestic violence and Armenia’s integration into the European Union.

Under this project, university debate clubs in the universities of Gyumri, Vanadzor, Ijevan, Gavar, Kapan, Goris and Yerevan were established, each club involving some 40 students. Prior to the finals, the students took part in 21 intra-university debates.

“Exchange of ideas and opinions is the bedrock of democracy, and fostering debate culture among young people is vital in this respect,” said Oliver McCoy, Democratization Programme Officer of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. “The process of researching a topic, becoming versed in a subject, and defending for your points is an invaluable experience. Debating makes you smarter, more flexible and responsive; it is a skill that will help these young people develop into active and aware citizens.”

Ruben Krikian, Civil Society and Education Programme Co-ordinator at the Jinishian Memorial Foundation, added: “We have been successful in organizing high-school debates’ club throughout Armenia for a number of years now. Organizing a similar initiative for university students was a challenge, but it turned out to be a useful exercise for students to help them enhance their presentation skills and clearly shape their viewpoints on social, economic and political issues”.

As part of the project, the OSCE Office also supported three TV debates with the participation of university students. The debates focused on the work of the Human Rights Defender’s Office, women quotas during the elections and the regulation of internet and the new media.

The initiative is implemented by the Jinishian Memorial Foundation with the support of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. It aims to promote civic activism and to bolster the development of a debate club network in Armenia.