In our post yesterday we noted that, in comparison to previous years, this year’s Wolfheze Conference had a far greater number of civil society organisations participating. It was on this basis, and as a result of civil society organisations really be central in the fight against TB, that the TB Europe Coalition (TBEC) were asked to co-host and coordinate a session dedicated to the ‘Role of Civil Society in TB Control’.

This session proved highly engaging with a wide-range of presentations from civil society organisations across the WHO European Region. Paul Sommerfeld, TB Alert, discussed not only the importance of CSOs but also obstacles that many face in carrying out their work. Carrying on with yesterdays theme, he spoke about the significance of TB partnerships and networks, such as TBEC, EHRN and the newly formed RICC-TB, and how valuable these can be in ensuring we speak in a collective and powerful voice.

 

Along with the introductory speech by Paul Sommerfeld, there were a range of other speakers from across the region. These included: Masha Tvaradze, Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (Lithuania); Darko Iliev, Medical and Ecological Research Centre of (Macedonia); Zahedul Islam, International HIV/AIDS Alliance (Ukraine); Denis Denisenko,Rinat Akhmetov Foundation (Ukraine); and Nela Ivanova, Dose of Love (Bulgaria). All these speakers provided great insight into the valuable work they are doing at a country level with many also mentioning the importance of advocating for TB in a coordinated manner as the best means to achieve results. All of these presentations should be available to access here once the conference has finished.

Country presentations were followed by a lively discussion where participants were asked both what opportunities and barriers existed for civil society in the region. There was a lot to say on the issue with some concerned that many small community oriented organisations simply did not have the capacity to go through the complicated application process for big grants. Others suggested that because of perceived differences, many had a drive to do things on their own rather than find ways of sharing ideas and programmes across the region. WHO Europe did respond to this by highlighting the fact that they are in the process of creating a compendium of best practices on the implementation of MAP. Everyone was encouraged to fill in the survey which can be found here.

Most importantly was that everyone did feel it had been highly useful to have both this particular session on civil society as well as the increased participation of CSOs more generally. We do hope that more time can be given to CSOs at Wolfheze in the future and that organisations can continue to work together with National Tuberculosis Programme Managers and other professionals. By working together, sharing ideas and having these interactive discussions we are moving one step closer to tackling TB more effectively in the WHO European Region.