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Accepted Paper:

“Our water is our gold!” Local residents’ struggle to participate in decision-making on mining as part of “Save Amulsar” movement in Armenia  
Milena Baghdasaryan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia)

Paper short abstract:

To protect commons from pollution several communities have applied various forms of resistance, e.g. petition approval by municipalities. The government has sued the latter and initiated law changes to undermine civil resistance. The paper examines the processes by focusing on Save Amulsar movement.

Paper long abstract:

As in most countries, Armenian communities have little decision-making power when it comes to mining. Even international conventions dealing with decision-making do not stipulate that residents’ position should be binding (see Walter and Urkidi 2014). One of the promises of the 2018 Velvet Revolution was the promotion of direct democracy mechanisms. However, the government that replaced the semi-authoritarian regime continues to endorse extractive projects, in spite of numerous communities’ opposition and, in some cases, evidence indicating potential large-scale environmental consequences, as in the case of Amulsar gold-mining project. Given that this project threatens to pollute nearby water resources, land, air, habitats in protected areas, and to stifle the spa economy of Jermuk town, the local community has applied various forms of resistance, including blocking roads to the mountain or filing complaints to appeal bodies. An important step to protect the commons was to engage local self-government in the struggle: the residents signed a petition in favor of prohibiting mining in their community and had it approved by the municipality. Several other communities resisting mining did the same. However, the government, unwilling to forfeit its nearly unchallenged ability to permit mining projects, has sued the municipalities requesting the annulment of their decisions, on grounds that the subsoil belongs to the state, and initiated legislation changes to undermine civil resistance. Another form of engaging local self-government bodies are NGOs’ efforts to include social-environmental elements in communities’ policy documents. This paper discusses the resistance strategies and the debates on local communities’ decision making-power.

Panel P059
New forms of responsibility and the reconfiguration of political commons
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -