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 Report - Activity Report (Oxfam)

 Report date: 30.09.2000

Published in Azeri and English

This is the second newsletter to be published by Oxfam GB in Azerbaijan under its DfID funded Linking and Capacity Building Project. Since the first publication we have received articles from partners and staff members. The main issues concerning us include links with government, establishment of advice and information centres in the regions, capacity building of communities and NGO partners and creation of their networks.

A key focus of the project is the linking which actually means those connections between CBOs, NGOs, government, INGOs

The newsletter is a voice for the networks and communities and the editor welcomes contributions and suggestions from our readers. People’s ideas serve to enhance and enrich the service and offered to the benefit of all.

In this newsletter readers will find articles highlighting the work of Oxfam in Azerbaijan and its beneficiaries. The article entitled ‘The Social Development Network and Government’ indicates representative interest in promoting a stronger relationship between NGOs and legislature.

CONTENTS

The editorial board wishes to apologise to ECHO for misconceptions created by an article in our first English language edition. ECHO has been funding Oxfam operational activities in the Barda Region since 1998.

THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT NETWORK AND GOVERNMENT

Rana Jumaqizi

The Social Development Network was set up by the NGO partners of Oxfam GB in Azerbaijan. Its purpose is to work towards development of civil society. One of the objectives of the Network, created through the DfID funded Linking and Capacity Building Project, is to achieve strong links between partner NGOs and government. To that end partners emphasise the need to invite representatives of government to regular meetings of the network.

Hadi Rajabov, chairman of the parliamentary permanent commission on social policy, and Hamid Valiyev, chief of the public relations department in the Ministry of Health, attended the sixth meeting of the network held in August. Partners present were Centre for Legal and Economic Education (CLEE), Himayadar, Potential (Sumgayit), Symmetry Gender Association and The Blind Association. As this was the first such meeting it had an ‘introductory’ flavour. The visitors spoke of their work in relation to NGOs.

Hadir Rajabov began his speech about the third sector by discussing the most recent legislation concerning NGOs. Referring to NGO development in the west he said that national NGOs had experienced a difficult period of transition. He stated that in spite of the role of NGOs in promoting civil society some government officials inhibit their work in Azerbaijan. He said that immediately following independence some officials had blocked the development of the NGO sector. Interventions included commissions of inquiry into the structure of NGOs and also absence of legislation on NGOs. He acknowledged the support that NGOs provide in strengthening the democratic state of Azerbaijan. He expressed the hope that NGOs would work in the southern region of the country implementing projects on gender, demographic regulation, labour migration, marketing culture through supporting the creation of small business enterprise. He would continue to support the work of the network of NGOs and attend further meetings as well as encouraging other officials to attend.

Hamid Valiev said that he supports the work of NGOs but regrets that many people do not even know the meaning of the acronym. He thought it would be useful if the media would highlight the work of NGOs and reminded his audience that television is a useful channel for such important education work. He is the editor of a newsletter ‘Shafgat’ which talks of health activities and those NGOs working in the health field. He therefore suggested that partners should use this paper to promote their work. He looks forward to seeing a strong relationship growing between the Health Ministry and the NGO community, particularly as the ministry has limited resources and a relationship would be beneficial to both parties.

  COMMUNITY BASED ORGANISATIONS 

Rauf Aliyev

Through its activities in Azerbaijan Oxfam has implemented a number of projects contributing to community development. A community development programme implies the acquisition of capacity by communities to identify their problems; community mobilisation; establishing useful links and identifying and using internal and external resources.

This process started by creating various interest groups eg men’s, women’s, children’s in IDP camps. With continued support they became focused on issues and gained useful knowledge such as understanding the group process and how to encourage internal initiatives. Community centres, provided by Oxfam, have been the locations for discussions and meetings. Later it was realised that these groups needed to form linking bodies to co-ordinate their various activities. From 1998/1999 within the programme funded by ECHO, Oxfam supported communities to create action groups and then steering committees, which are elected groups, with males and females, representing and acting on behalf of the community. In that year thirty-two such bodies were created. Subsequently they received training and made their own constitutions.

Today steering committees are able to assess their own communities’ needs, maintain services such as electricity and water, secure funds, sustain relations with government and non-government organisations and take responsibility for the co-ordination of any assistance from different sources to their community.

Nine of these steering committees (SCs) are involved with the DfID funded Linking and Capacity Building Project. This project intends to strengthen the SCs through training programmes and anticipates their becoming NGOs, in their own rights, in the future. Through this project these nine were provided with organisational strengthening as a result of which they have attained CBO status and have created their own network. Official registration of the network is being sought.

Linking meetings between partner NGOs and CBOs further enhance the development of CBOs at the same time as creating awareness in NGOs of the work of their CBO ‘cousins’. CBOs have recently received training in proposal writing and grant implementation as a result of which they have received small grants (from Oxfam) which are being used for community development initiatives.

  TRAINING 

Sanubar Nazarli

Members of the Social Development Network – Oxfam partners’ national NGO network – have implemented several projects for improving the lives of vulnerable people of Azerbaijan. Within their projects Network members collaborate with various government, INGO and NGOs. They submit proposals to various sources of funding. In order to be more effective the partners need to develop skills and capacity in a number of areas such as identifying beneficiaries’ problems, managing projects, negotiation and collaboration. In order to meet these needs representatives from partners have been trained at a number of courses organised through the Linking and Capacity Building Project (DfID) at Oxfam. Through a system of cascade training these skills are passed on to their staff and beneficiaries.

Training of Trainers

As skills must be passed on, NGO members need to be able to train others. This course enabled participants to acquire skills at a training of trainers course which introduced participants to various training methodologies through experiential learning. During the course, held at the Human Rights Resources Centre in Baku, participants received relevant materials and practice through role-plays and case studies.

Financial Training

During a course in financial management participants learned about financial structures and reporting mechanisms of INGOs as well as Oxfam. They learned about banking systems, the principles of working with donors, proposal writing, the difference between financial management and accounting, principles of auditing, budget monitoring, and procedures for purchasing. This has been a useful programme for NGOs as well as for CBO partners.

Advocacy and lobbying

This course was designed to equip partners with knowledge and skills to achieve social change in Azerbaijan. They acquired skills in the basic principles of advocacy and lobbying, how to develop strategies before beginning advocacy activities and that proper preparation of aims, objectives and activities lead to positive outcomes. This course created an awareness that inappropriate methods of approaching government cannot produce useful results and has provided the initial groundwork for increasing NGOs capacity to advocate successfully for themselves and their beneficiaries. It is intended that this course will have made a useful initial contribution to improved advocacy work for these NGOs concerned with such sectors as education and health as well as legal matters.

Gender and Disability Awareness

The purpose of this course was to discuss with participants the relative availability of opportunity for females and males in society and encourage greater participation by women within it. The partner community based organisations (CBOs) and NGOs received training in gender awareness from the deputy chairperson of the Symmetry Gender Association, Gulnara Rzayeva. This course was held in the community centres of all the CBO partners and included ‘what is gender?’, equality of males and females and cultural and national concerns relating to gender issues. Disability awareness training was provided by Davud Rahimov, chairman of the organisation of the International Partnership of the Disabled,. Participants became more aware of the meaning of disability, its causes and the daily problems the disabled face. They also learned of government attitudes towards the disabled in Azerbaijan and the international experience. Matters discussed included: negative attitudes towards the disabled, respecting their opinion, consideration of their interests and increasing opportunities for their physical and intellectual advancement.

Information and Advice Service training

Information and Advice Centres have been established in Barda and five surrounding regions (see relevant article in this publication). Potential workers were identified at each centre and received initial training from Oxfam and the Centre for Legal and Economic Education (CLEE). Participants learned the basic principles and practices of providing an advice service, the various levels of ‘advice’ one can provide, and the reasons why advice is needed. Participatory and interactive methodology was used to demonstrate what kind of advice needs people have and the problems they face. Role-plays showed volunteers the reality of the practice of providing a service while they are working in the field directly with people in IDP communities.

INFORMATION AND ADVICE SERVICES AS A TOOL FOR PROMOTING CIVIL SOCIETY

Elshad Farzaliyev

A process during the transitional phase of Azerbaijan is its constantly evolving legislation. Some ambiguity and changes in the law leave citizens without up to date information so that they may be unaware of their rights. With the initiative and financial support of Oxfam Information and Advice Centres (IACs) have been established to meet such needs.

One such project had already been started by Potential in Sumqayit, in November 1999. They offer advice and legal training to members of the public. Recipients of their service include families of martyrs, disabled people, IDPs and refugees. Before the end of its first year the centre had received enquiries from more than a thousand people covering a range of issues. Analysis of the nature of enquirers reveals that 24% were related to unemployed people, 23% for IDPs, 19% disabled and 43% women.

Through the DfID Linking and Capacity Building Project Oxfam has established six similar projects during 2000 at five communities and in Barda Town. These centres provide free legal and information services to all - local people and IDPs and refugees. Through this service they can find information and advice on laws, their rights and responsibilities, assistance in preparation of legal documents and use the self service literature available.

The five sub centres are in the Sheki, Agdam, Goranboy, Terter and Barda regions.

Information and Advice Centre workers, who are volunteers, were selected from applicants in the town and the communities and received relevant training for the work. They continue to benefit from ongoing training and exchange visits. Advice workers also advocate for and on behalf of their beneficiaries negotiating with local government officials. It is worth noting that during official opening ceremonies representative government officials have been very welcoming of the development of the services.

A further service is the series of information campaigns, which result from surveys in the communities, and highlight major concerns felt by them such as pensions and regulations concerning receipt of lands from local authorities. The pilot information campaign distributed several hundred pamphlets directly to families in communities.

Future plans include education and training seminars to adults and school children highlighting their basic rights and responsibilities in the law.

For further information please contact Elshad Farzaliev on 110 25496 in Barda town IAC.

  NGO FORMATION IN AZERBAIJAN 

Rana Jumaqizi

The development of a non government sector as a feature of civil society emerged in Azerbaijan in the early nineties. This was stimulated and supported by assistance from various funds and international assistance. As a result of NGO growth there has been an active contribution by them to the development of civil society. By September 1999 there were 1230 NGOs registered with the Ministry of Justice.

Currently national NGOs in Azerbaijan working with government to improve social and economic conditions include twenty concerned with women’s issues, forty seven with youth, twelve with human rights, twenty seven with disability, thirty with scientific matters, eight with children, thirty nine with culture and ten with environment. The five hundred concerned humanitarian issues have mixed agendas.

NGOs group themselves in numerous fora and linking groups in order to achieve mutual co-operation and solution of problems. For example forty-seven youth organisations have formed the National Council of Youth Organisations. Women’s groups meet together on a monthly basis. There are groups concerned with migration issues that created the Migration Organisations’ Forum, which united twenty-three NGOs. There is an umbrella NGO Forum that unites at least 250 NGOs. The purpose of this forum is to contribute to the development of the NGO sector, strengthen NGOs in the regions, increase their sphere of activities, and generally overcome the common problems faced.

According to research carried out in relation to NGOs in Azerbaijan those in the remoter regions of the country are further advanced in their activities than others. Approximately 250 of the twelve hundred NGOs in the country are very active.



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