Armenia is in a period of transition, with the government promising to tackle issues ranging from a lack of transparency in policy making, corruption, and weak rule of law. Armenia is also coming off a short and bloody conflict with Azerbaijan in 2020. IRI is helping support Armenia build its reform agenda through workshops, schools for civil servants, public opinion surveys, and strategic communications consultations. IRI partners with government and civil society (CSOs), to integrate civil society into the government’s disinformation response plan.
IRI supports the government and the parliament in improving its strategic communication and institutional governance practices. IRI assists the government to address the capacity building needs of government employees via a series of executive staff schools, staff exchanges, consultations on how to improve public communications, using citizen consultations, and listening tours. Further, IRI provides expert advice to the prime minister’s office as it modernizes government communications across various agencies at both the central and regional levels.
IRI is working with the Armenian parliament’s standing committees and structural subdivisions to develop legislation that is responsive to public and CSO demands. IRI is helping equip parliament with knowledge of legislative procedure, as well as tools, techniques, and mechanisms for citizen-centered policy development and implementation.
IRI is collecting public opinion data via surveys. This data allows government and parliament leaders to analyze issues that are important to Armenian voters, and better address the needs of citizens affected by specific policy initiatives. The results of surveys are used to inform civil society stakeholders about opinion trends. This is useful in combatting disinformation about citizens’ priorities and expectations. The surveys cover general public perceptions and preferences, and they delve into specific policy areas such as human rights, electoral legislation, public health and social issues.
In its data collection work, IRI collaborates with respective government and parliament leaders. This allows for the direct translation of IRI’s survey data into respective policies and reform agendas. For example, IRI latest thematic survey on electoral legislation directly informed the changes in the Armenia’s electoral code. The electoral code now provides additional guarantees supporting transparency and accessibility. IRI data also informed policy changes in Armenia’s the political party law, providing stronger accountability mechanisms for political party financing.
The past year has revealed additional vulnerabilities to disinformation within Armenian cyberspace that bad actors have been able to exploit. Through a joint working group, IRI facilitates government and civil society cooperation in developing and implementing a counter-disinformation response plan. For the government, IRI aids in creating a government-wide health crisis communication policy. For CSO media organizations, IRI partners with the leading counter-disinformation organization in the southern Caucasus, the Digital Forensics Research Lab in Georgia, to train activists and journalists on the latest methods in detecting, exposing, and neutralizing false and damaging information.
IRI also works with five Armenian NGOs to launch counter-disinformation initiatives, such as media monitoring, open-source investigations, and fact checking. The work culminated with the launch of a revamped COVID-19 information website hosted by the Ministry of Health that features pandemic updates, public health guidance, and an expansive disinformation section, all created jointly by government and non-government actors. Using its relationships with state broadcasters and its in-house targeted social media campaign capabilities, IRI brings the website to the screens of 1.5 million Armenians through a nationwide public service announcement campaign.
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