Armenian Red Cross Society (ARCS)
The Armenian Red Cross Society (ARCS) is a non-profit organization, established based on common interests of its’ members, the only National Society on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, which does not pursue any religious, political goals, not affiliated with any political stream, and carries out its activities throughout the country. As an authorized member of the International Red Cross Movement, Armenian Red Cross Society is guided by the fundamental principles of the Red Cross, and is an auxiliary organization to the government. Armenian Red Cross Society's mission is to reduce the vulnerability of the population through mobilization of the power of humanity, to get prepared to cope with situations, which may cause vulnerability among the population, as well as by assisting people made vulnerable by harsh socio-economic conditions. After all the necessary organizational changes, ARCS became the largest and the most competent humanitarian organization, which aims to support the vulnerable social groups, help disaster victims and distribute humanitarian ideas in the society, as well as implement other activities for the benefit of people, provided by law, regardless of nationality, racial, gender, religious and class affiliations and political views.
The UN Armenia Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021-2025 indicates the urgent need to improve school structures, enhance access to education in remote areas and the provision of quality preschool education, enhance educational outcomes and quality of teaching, as well as improve inclusiveness of the education system. Indeed, access to formal education continues to be particularly limited for displaced children from Nagorno-Karabakh who do not attend school due to stress, trauma, language dialect and the uncertainty regarding the duration of their stay in Armenia . While the number of cases of children who do not attend schools due to socio-economic barriers tends to decrease, the need of high school and university students to work in order to support their families, is often at the root of their schooling disruption or drop out. Furthermore, the capacity of the national education system to integrate all displaced children in preschool, secondary and higher education remains limited and additional support is required to ensure educational continuity through the provision of relevant assistance (e.g., electronic devices, school supplies, clothes, etc.) and special education support .
Armenian Red Cross Society (ARCS) has a longstanding experience in education which started in the early 1990s with teaching students in schools how to safely behave during disasters, and later expanded to include values-based learning and activities promoting safety and resilience, risk prevention and reduction. ARCS currently records over a dozen non-formal education projects that seek to raise awareness, trigger behavioural change and strengthen resilience of children and thereby of their families and communities. It counts with a pool of approximately 1,500 well-trained, competent volunteers and experts in pedagogy, children and youth rights, engagement and protection who know how to work with and support learners and teachers. Since 2003, ARCS is also actively engaged in responding to the education needs of children affected by the armed conflicts.
In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, ARCS’ auxiliary role in the humanitarian services of the government got further acknowledged and strengthened. In parallel to its humanitarian response, ARCS actively engaged in the working groups and networks initiated by UNICEF Armenia and the Ministry of Education with a view to sharing its expertise in the provision of educational activities in times of emergencies. At the end of 2020, immediately after the escalation of the NK conflict, ARCS created safe spaces for the internally displaced children through which they provided psychosocial support and facilitated continued access to formal education and learning opportunities. ARCS delivered 300 IT devices for remote classes and organized homework support for children in shelters alongside other educational activities aimed at building children’s resilience. ARCS also implemented mine risk awareness projects targeting students at the international border communities and internally displaced children who would later return to their home communities.
Since 2021, with the converging interests, capacities and ambitions of partner National Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a ‘Movement approach to education’ is being conceptualized and operationalized in a few pilot countries namely Ukraine, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Such a collaborative and complementary approach between the different components of the Movement is required to comprehensively address education-related needs, especially when compounded by situations of armed conflict, disasters and other emergencies. Building on ARCS long-standing experience in education, the establishment of an Education Unit in ARCS is an important piece in this endeavor and a natural next step to further strengthen and consolidate ARCS capacity, role and efforts in education, especially those related to crisis and conflict. The establishment of the Unit also provides an opportunity for Movement partners to improve collaboration and complementarity for better education outcomes in Armenia and gives an example for the global Movement approach in terms of how to structure and implement well-coordinated, complementary education work on the ground.