From social investment to regional development
In 1995, the Armenian Social Investment Fund (ASIF) was established with a focus on community-driven rehabilitation of social infrastructure, at a time when Armenia was still recovering from the devastating earthquake in Spitak in 1988. Over the past 20 years, it has helped hundreds of communities all over the country to rehabilitate or re-build schools, kindergartens, water and irrigation pipes and other key assets of public infrastructure. ASIF came to reunite many different actors, government, nongovernmental organizations, the Armenian diaspora, bilateral and multilateral donors in a bit to improve public service delivery outside of Armenia’s capital.
In order to increase the economic impact of its work, ASIF started a thorough transformation process in 2014 with the help of the World Bank and Switzerland. This will allow the Fund to implement more complex projects in the future, involving groups of communities and combining public infrastructure investments with economic development opportunities. In 2015, ASIF was therefore renamed to Armenian Territorial Development Fund (ATDF). In recent months, the Fund was able to attract new donors, including USAID and the Asian Development Bank, and to considerably increase its volume of funding.
Joint efforts increase efficiency
To mark this important institutional shift and to celebrate 20 years of support to Armenia’s regions, a conference on regional development was organized in Yerevan jointly by the World Bank, Switzerland, the EU and ATDF, with participation of international experts from Europe, the CIS countries and Asia.
„We are very much convinced that joining forces in policy development and in the implementation of different support programs for Armenia, be that in regional development, in local governance or in any other sector, makes a lot of sense from the efficiency and effectiveness points of view“ - said the Swiss Ambassador to Armenia, Lukas Gasser in his opening speech. He also stressed that „many Armenian municipalities are small, and therefore, inter-municipal cooperation opens up new potentials for regional development, for example in the field of agriculture and tourism“.
„A strategy of asset transfers can be successful, but will not bring success on its own. It needs lots of supporting activities“- said Jacqueline Pomeroy, Development Policy Advisor from Indonesia, at the conference. Sharing her rich experience in community driven development, Jacqueline Pomeroy also emphasized that the most successful and sustainable programs all start with a focus on women, who are “the key to families and communities, and to resource mobilization”.
Since 2014, Switzerland has been supporting the development of local self-governance in Armenia through various partners in such fields as municipal planning and budgeting, e-governance, the introduction of one-stop shops or the empowerment of women in politics. Starting from 2016, Switzerland will also provide funding to selected inter-municipal public investment projects in Syunik and Vayots Dzor regions of Armenia. The projects will be implemented by ATDF.