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 Meeting - Coalition Meeting at World Vision (WVI)

 Meeting date: 28.04.2003

Coalition Meeting at World Vision
April 28, 2003

I. General welcome.
II. Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Tourism.
III. Ufug presentation.
IV. Discussion of government plans for children: National Plan of Action.
V. Our collective mission statement.

Since the representative of the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Tourism was absent due to illness, after general welcome the presentation of Ufug has taken place. The presentation was accompanied by the video movie about the organization's activities.

I. Presentation on Ufug organization by Mr. Akif Akhmedov:
Ufug is an open society that was founded in 1999 with the purpose of improvement of children's well being and has been leading its activities in several directions:

  • Research in the child institutions
  • Medical treatment for the children
  • Protection of children's rights

Ufug started its activity from the research of the child institutions in the process of which it was elucidated that there was a shortage of published materials about child institutions. This is how it was decided to develop a data book - published data directory for philanthropists in both languages (the second edition of this data book was distributed to the participating organizations of the coalition). This is the only available published material about the child institutions.

Statistical data about Ufug:

  • Have completed 6 projects
  • Implementing the 7th project
  • Assisted in medical support to more than 1200 children
  • About 120 children were able to undergo a surgical intervention
  • About 83 children were able to undergo examination and out-patient treatment
  • More than 1000 children received dental treatment

More detailed information about one of the projects that is supported by World Vision and ISAR with the purpose of identification and assistance to foundlings and addresses issues like:

  • Protection of children's rights
  • Creation of the center on rescue and support for foundlings - this center was established in Baku in a short space of time

During the initial 4 months of the center's work the following has been done:

  • About 11 infants were rescued
  • The shortcomings of children's entry procedures into orphanages were uncovered
  • Round table discussions with participation of the authorized governmental officials such as representatives of the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Health, Youth and Sports, Local Executive Committee, Baku Public Health Department (BakZdrav), chief doctors of maternity houses and female consultation clinics.

These activities provoked different reactions. There were difficulties from the side of BakZdrav and Ministry of Health.

In Baku a foundling after being discovered is usually delivered to Psycho-Neurological Baby House No 1 in Ganjlik district. There was a suggestion (Ms. Elnara UMCOR) that even though there are 2 baby houses in Baku (the second one being for healthy children), all foundlings are delivered to Psycho-Neurological Baby House No 1 by default. There they undergo the process of medical examination. In case physicians of this institution find children healthy they are sent to the orphanage for the healthy children. Mr. Akif Akhmedov also mentioned that the problem of child placement in the child institutions is especially acute in the regions because there are only 2 child institutions (except for Baku) - in Ganja and Nakhichevan.

Ms. Bella (Ufug) added that the large proportion of the foundlings is abandoned due to the social problems, in particular due to the problem of raising teenage pregnancy. Families of teenage girls often times lay down a condition according to which young women who give birth to a child out of wedlock have to abandon their children. Otherwise they will be driven out of the family on which they are completely dependent.

The current project of Ufug - mobile child dental clinic. The organization has already covered 4 child institutions in Mardakan settlement. It is difficult to solve the problem of all institutionalized children within the framework of the organization - this is the reason Ufug is looking forward for collaboration with other organizations of Coalition.

Mr. McIntyre raised an issue of the number of children placed into child institutions annually. Mr. Akif Akhmedov (Ufug) noted that about 100 abandoned children per year are delivered into baby houses. The number of abandoned children might be much higher if to consider missing and dead children who were not registered anywhere. Further, he added that in Psycho-Neurological baby House No 1 the number of abandoned children has increased two fold since the beginning of this year. Ms. Hayat (Goncha) noticed that about 15 children per year are abandoned due to mental disability.

Ms. Gwen Burchell (UAFA) raised a concern about the coincidence between children abandoned into baby houses and foreign adoption. It is not possible to prove the link, but organizations working with child institutions should keep their eyes and ears open to the issue of the increasing number of abandoned children. At the beginning of UAFA work in Psycho-Neurological Baby House No 1 there were few children. Now there are many of new babies regularly abandoned. This might be an issue of high illegal profits for the administrations of child institutions. There were lots of scandalous stories related to the issue of foreign adoption in countries such as Romania and Columbia as well.

Mr. Akif Akhmedov (Ufug) added that information about the number of foreign adoption is secret information and it is difficult to obtain the information of this kind from the state organs responsible for adoption in Azerbaijan.
Mr. McIntyre underlined that there is a need for the participating organizations to clearly state which problem they are focusing on and which children these organizations are working with. It is important for the coalition to accomplish this task since lots of organizations help many children. World Vision's role is to pull these organizations together and attract funding for more effective services. Another issue is the difficulty of getting people in authorities to become interested which leads to another role of World Vision - advocacy, that is impossible to promote unless organizations work as a group.

II. Discussion of government plans for children: National Plan of Action.

Ms. Gwen Burchell noted that each organization of the coalition should find time for advocacy and send the letter about being admitted into Child Commission's autumn agenda. Since very few organizations have sent the letter there is no point in complaining about government's lack of cooperation with NGOs. The government will have a great pool of money in future and if NGOs do not actively participate in advocacy, the money will go where it has always gone. As a result, in 5-7 years everybody will have the same complaints and frustration in addition to it.

There were different reasons for failing to send a letter to the governmental organizations, including:

  • Lotos:
    1. The letter should be sent on a head paper of the coalition and not on a head paper of each participating NGO.
    2. Lotos has already sent an open letter devoted to May 5 (Europe Disability Day) to the Ministry of Social Protection, City Hall, and the President, and there is a limited number for the letters of this kind to be sent.
  • Ufug: technical problems related to the opening of the file containing the letter.

Many participants underlined that it is important for participating organizations to send the letters to the governmental organizations. Ms. Laura Peer (World Vision) noticed that the quantity of the letters is very important factor for the problem to be noticed at the governmental level. Mr. Chris Andersen (Save the Children Fund) mentioned that when officials receive many letters on the same topic they understand that many people are concerned about the same issue. When next time the coalition knocks the door, group organizations are recognized and it is difficult for the governmental officials to push them away. Mr. McIntyre added that governmental officials expect foreign organizations to send the letters, however, the real power will be when the local organizations become more active. He urged the organizations that have not sent the letter to do so.

It was also agreed that the participating organizations would read the National Plan of Action to be ready to discuss it and pick the issues they would like to present to the Child Commission at its autumn meeting.

III. Our collective mission statement.
Mr. McIntyre noted that that the coalition has a problem - different groups of people appear at each meeting, and there is a need to think about it while working on the mission of the coalition. The following key words were suggested on who we are and what we do:

Who we are: What we do:
-serve children-serve families-coalition -consultancy to government-partners (with who?)-common view -protect-support-care-reform-advocacy-teach-research-monitor-varied approach-coordinate-get attention

There were different answers for the question of Mr. McIntyre about why there is a need for coalition including:

  • are stronger together than when they are alone
  • together find the ways to solve problems
  • attract attention of the government and international donors

Natasha will coordinate the efforts of several volunteers from the coalition in incorporating the key words into mission and put the draft version together before the group meets next time.

In conclusion, Mr. McIntyre shared his observation about the mood of the participants. Namely, he was concerned the participants looked bored, mad, or wanting to be somewhere else. He underlined that the activity of coalition is different from what the organizations usually do and sometimes even boring. The exciting part of the activity of coalition is when the coalition gets the results.

The lack of government participation can be discouraging factor. However, the government will not take us seriously unless we take ourselves seriously. It is not a job of international NGOs to partner with local organizations (which would be actually easier to do). What World Vision anticipates is interest from all the participants. In addition, Mr. McIntyre noted that at the next meeting the National Plan of Action would be discussed, and the participating organizations will try their best in sending the letters out.

It was decided by the group that at the next meeting (May 12, 2003, World Vision) Buta organization would have a presentation, minutes will be taken by Ms. Bella (Ufug), and responsibility for translating and chairing will be carried by SCF.

Minutes were taken by
Gula Aliyeva
Research Specialist, UAFA

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