WASHINGTON, DC – In response to a direct written question from Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s focus of “significant assistance resources toward programs that benefit the Samstke-Javakheti region of Georgia,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The Secretary’s written statement came in response to a formal “Questions for the Record” submitted by Representative Sherman during her February 29, 2012 appearance before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. In her answer, Secretary Clinton noted that the U.S. government, through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, had “rehabilitated approximately 222 kilometers of a main road linking Tbilisi with Samtskhe-Javakheti to foster economic development in the region through increasing exports of agricultural products.” She also listed priority areas for continued U.S. assistance, including cattle farming, trout farming, potato production, dairy processing, feed production and beekeeping, as well as support for private sector development via the promotion of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the tourism sector.
“We appreciate Congressman Sherman’s principled leadership in supporting the economic welfare of Javakhk and welcome the Secretary’s reassurance that the Obama Administration places a priority on aid programs to this historically Armenian-populated region,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to support the targeting of 10% of U.S. assistance to Georgia to the Javakhk.”
During a March 23rd House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Sherman questioned US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah about the need for targeted U.S. assistance to the population in Javakhk. USAID Director Shah noted that “On Georgia, and specifically the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, that you were referring to, we have been working with specific programs that deal with agricultural modernization, social development, maternal health and certain health and infrastructure efforts as well as support for civil society groups. We have increasingly tried to do that work in consultation with Armenian American communities and with an eye toward launching specific public-private partnerships with those communities.”
Click here to watch the Rep. Sherman-Director Shah exchange.
Economic Development of Javakhk and ANCA Priority:
The ANCA places a high priority on the economic development of Javakhk, as reflected in the testimony submitted by Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian for the March 30, 2012 hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. In remarks to the panel, Nahapetian called for 10% of U.S. assistance to Georgia to be targeted to the Samtskhe-Javakheti region:
“Over the past decade, USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation have expanded their presence in Samtskhe-Javakheti (SJ), a historically Armenian populated region in the Republic of Georgia, in an effort to address core humanitarian and economic difficulties that face the population. However, with unemployment and under-employment in the region over 20% according to official sources, and over 40% based upon our on-the-ground assessment of the living conditions of the population, much more needs to be done to bring about a measurable reduction in poverty and to create a strong foundation for economic development in the region.”
“Over the past several months, Armenian Americans have reached out to USAID to identify ways to leverage existing U.S. aid programs in the region and explore public-private partnership opportunities in an effort to incentivize private investment and minimize political and economic risk for investors in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region.”
“These efforts have been welcomed by the Georgian Ambassador to the U.S., His Excellency Temuri Yakobashvili, who has stated that “The Embassy of Georgia, in support of our government’s material commitment to economic development for our citizens in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and throughout all of our Republic, looks forward to working with our friends in the U.S. Congress and the Administration and with all American civil society stakeholders – including, of course, with the Armenian American community – in encouraging the targeting of U.S. assistance to meet Samtskhe-Javakheti’s urgent job-creation, infrastructure, technical, and humanitarian needs.”
“In anticipation of future expanded cooperation, the ANCA urges that at least 10% of a robust U.S. assistance package to the Republic of Georgia be targeted to the Samtskhe-Javakheti region to support much needed job-creation and poverty reduction programs in the area.”
In September of 2011, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian travelled to Javakhk and Tbilisi, Georgia, and held a series of meetings with local non-government organization leaders as well as high-level meetings with Georgian government officials, to identify ways to address the concerns of the Armenian population in the Javakhk.
That dialogue continued in Washington, DC, in January of this year, when Hachikian met with Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. Temuri Yakobashvili to explore ways to expand the Georgian-Armenian partnership to include broader direct Georgian and Armenian investments and also increased U.S. assistance to promote job-creation in the region. Following the meeting, Ambassador Yakobashvili had noted that “The Embassy of Georgia – in support of our government’s material commitment to economic development for our citizens in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and throughout all of our Republic – looks forward to working with our friends in the U.S. Congress and the Administration and with all American civil society stakeholders – including, of course, with the Armenian American community – in encouraging the targeting of U.S. assistance to meet Samtskhe-Javakheti’s urgent job-creation, infrastructure, technical, and humanitarian needs.”
The ANCA has worked closely with Rep. Sherman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), and other House members as well as USAID representatives to raise awareness about the challenges facing the population of Javakhk and identify avenues for the U.S. government to partner with the Armenian Diaspora.
Last month, Rep. Sherman was among over 30 House members who cosigned a Congressional letter spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and addressed to House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY) urging 10% of U.S. assistance to Georgia in FY2013 to be targeted toward job creation efforts in Javakhk.
The full text of the Sherman-Clinton exchange on Javakhk is provided below.
PHOTO CAPTION: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Question (Congressman Brad Sherman): I request that our aid programs in Georgia, while supporting development throughout the entire country, focus on the relatively impoverished and under-developed Javakh region in the south of Georgia. We should provide a robust U.S. aid package for Georgia that includes targeted assistance to the Javakh region. Do you support U.S. aid to the Javakh region of Georgia?
Answer (Secretary Hillary Clinton): The United States has, and continues to focus significant assistance resources toward programs that benefit the Samstke-Javakheti region of Georgia. By far, the largest U.S. Government investment has been the over $200 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) effort that rehabilitated approximately 222 kilometers of a main road linking Tbilisi with Samtskhe-Javakheti to foster economic development in the region through increasing exports of agricultural products.
Other efforts in the bilateral budget are leveraging the MCC investment, including agriculture development efforts, which have supported various activities including cattle farming, trout farming, potato production, dairy processing, feed production and beekeeping. We are supporting private sector development by promoting development of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the tourism sector, increasing the access to long-term finance, and broadening business training opportunities.
Our programs also target social sector and democratic development. U.S. assistance rehabilitated three public hospitals in the region, and a new primary education project includes teaching Georgian language in schools in Samtskhe-Javakheti to improve the children’s ability to participate in the Georgian economy and political life. U.S. democracy programs are focused on empowering people and organizations to debate and resolve issues and increasing active citizen participation in the electoral process, both of which are integral to building a cohesive multi-ethnic nation.