U.S. Direct Assistance to Nagorno Karabakh
Position Paper June 2002
Azerbaijan's aggression against Nagorno Karabakh, which culminated in an outright war between 1991 and 1994, killed several thousand citizens of the Republic, injured tens of thousands more, and destroyed 80% of Nagorno Karabakh's economic capacity. The heaviest casualties and most widespread destruction of property resulted from indiscriminate Azerbaijani shelling and GRAD rocket attacks on population centers, including the capital city of Stepanakert.
With the cease-fire agreement of 1994, Nagorno Karabakh affirmed its sovereignty but found itself in a catastrophic humanitarian and economic situation. Under pressure from Azerbaijan, which seeks to isolate and weaken Nagorno Karabakh, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) have been reluctant to provide any of the assistance that they normally extend to former war zones. Aggravating this situation, Azerbaijan blocked the United Nations from assisting or operating in Nagorno Karabakh.
Prior to Fiscal Year 1998, the people of Nagorno Karabakh had been the only population in the Caucasus to be entirely excluded from direct U.S. humanitarian assistance programs.
In the FY 1998 foreign aid bill, the U.S. Congress allocated $12.5 million in direct humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Congress charged the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with dispersing that aid, but only $5.5 million was expended that year. The FY 1999 and FY 2000 House Report language increased the amount of the assistance to $20 million "to the victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict residing in Nagorno Karabakh" and instructed USAID to expend the assistance "forthwith." Non-governmental groups such as Doctors Without Borders, the American Red Cross, Family Care, Catholic Relief Society, the United Methodist Church, and the Armenian Technology Group have used these funds to implement humanitarian assistance programs for the people of Nagorno Karabakh.
As a result of these appropriations, hundreds of homes have been rebuilt, water distribution systems repaired, and medical care provided to families: for many of them, the first such aid in close to a decade. First-aid centers are being built, and hundreds of families have received loans for small income generating projects. Nagorno Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukasian expressed his deep appreciation to the United States government for being the sole international source of
assistance to Nagorno Karabakh. The President has
also underscored the need for continued U.S. support to help overcome
Azerbaijan's ongoing aggression, economic blockade and exclusion of
Karabakh from traditional multi-national assistance programs.
There also exists a pressing need for social and economic developmental projects, such as new transportation infrastructure and assistance for democracy building. Continued U.S. aid to Nagorno Karabakh is critical to ensure that all subsets of the Caucasus develop generally at the same time and in the same direction.
The Nagorno Karabakh Republic is grateful to the people and the government of the United States for their leadership in providing humanitarian assistance to Nagorno Karabakh.
Nagorno Karabakh's humanitarian needs such as housing, water-sanitation, and health-care needs must be addressed. We urge U.S. Congress and USAID to expedite the remainder of the $20 million promptly and consider additional funding for humanitarian, democracy-building and economic development assistance.