Following an initial visit in June to link up with local TB-interested civil society organisations (CSOs), TB Europe Coalition (TBEC) agreed to run a workshop to help local groups build collaboration between themselves, increase individual advocacy skills, and plan a programme of advocacy action for the next couple of years.

This took place over three days, 4-6 December 2013, in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, in the premises of the Scientific Research Institute for Lung Disease, and was locally managed by Elchin Mukhtarli of Saglamlida Xidmat (Support to Health Public Union) TBEC’s primary contact in the country. The workshop brought together 12 participants from 7 different organisations. It was the second national advocacy planning event run by TBEC, the first having been in Romania in 2012.

The lead facilitator was Paul Sommerfeld of TB Alert and member of the TBEC Steering Committee. It had been intended that there would be a second external facilitator but that was blocked by problems around obtaining visas in the time available.

Nonetheless, that problem had a positive outcome as it led Paul and Elchin to seek out local specialists to make inputs on specific advocacy issues.  Naila Karimova, a local trainer, gave a useful presentation on ACSM and the role of advocacy; Soltan Mammadov of the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation gave an overview of the workings of government, parliament and CCM which was especially welcomed by participants; and Seymur Kazimov, a freelance journalist, gave a very nice introduction to the media in Azerbaijan and advice on running press releases and conferences.

Otherwise, the workshop was very interactive, covering a range of advocacy skills, exploring the need for, and barriers to, creating a coalition of TB-interested CSOs in the country, and beginning the planning of a range of advocacy actions.

By the end, there was commitment to building a local coalition and Elchin was tasked with convening a small steering group within the next couple of weeks to make it happen.

Also, five key areas for advocacy action had been identified:

  • Need for revision of legislation to take account of multi-drug resistance.
  • Resource issues around support both of the national programme and of CSOs.
  • The need for enhanced action on MDR/XDR.
  • A variety of organisational matters including drug supply and patient engagement.
  • Social support for patients including psychological, nutritional, and health educational.

During the workshop, small groups did initial planning around each of these and committed to writing up their notes so that Elchin could begin to put them together as a unified strategy.  More work will then still be needed to put practical flesh on the initial ideas; and it is possible that TBEC may be asked to visit again to facilitate that process.

Effectively, the outcome of this workshop is commitment to creating a national coalition which will be the forum through which TB-interested CSOs will collaborate in developing and implementing a set of action plans that now exist in draft form.

Paul Sommerfeld

16th December 2013