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MMI Annual Report 2008: Redefining our role in Global Health

MMI Annual Report 2008: Redefining our role in Global Health

2008 has been a moving year for the Medicus Mundi International Network. For the second time in its history, the executive secretariat had to be relocated, on this occasion from Brussels, where it was housed at the premises of Medicus Mundi Belgium for over 20 years until the end of 2007, to Basel, where the secretariat found a new and hopefully stable basis within the offices of Medicus Mundi Switzerland. The start at least was a good one.

The Annual Assembly and the meetings of the Executive Board (EB) were used not only to deal with day-to-day business and for policy development, planning and reporting. They have also provided opportunities to exchange views and opinions, and for members to get to know better each other – and the organizations they represent. It is therefore very useful for the MMI Board to visit MMI members “at home.”

In 2008, the February EB meeting was held in the newly established secretariat office in Basel, while the October meeting took place in Rome at the General Secretariat of MMI’s “oldest” member, the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God (Fatebenefratelli). Here the Board members were welcomed with great cordiality and warm words of friendship by Fra Donatus Forkan, the present superior general of the congregation, who gave us insight into the history and activities of the order: “By the grace of God and hard work and good management, everything works well.”

The former president of MMI, Sake Rypkema, joined us in Rome for a farewell dinner. The other invited former president, Miguel Argal, was not able to be with us in Rome due to illness.

The November EB meeting was held in the offices of Misereor in Aachen, where the Board had an opportunity to meet with senior staff of the organization and where, as a side event to our meeting, a workshop co-organized by Misereor and MMI was held under the title “Redefining Our Role in Global Health.”

The workshop was attended by some 25 participants, among them a number of representatives of German organizations active in the field of international health and interested to know more about the work of the Medicus Mundi International Network.

Working groups

Slow but steady. After a long and rather difficult start-up period, the execution of the MMI Strategic Plan 2010, approved by the General Assembly in 2007, is gradually taking shape. Implementation of the plan, which defines four key issues of the MMI Network and related midterm objectives and activities, is based on the commitment and the leadership of Network members. The plan says: “For specific activities working groups of member organizations provide and/or coordinate the expertise required and ensure that the activities are implemented as planned.” 

In 2008, two working groups established around the issues of human resources for health and strategic positioning of private not-for-profit health care institutions started their activities. Leadership (coordinators changed in both groups during 2008) and differing approaches to the group’s theme or regarding the role of MMI in this field proved to be the main obstacles to a smooth start. But both groups finally succeeded to define a set of objectives for their work within the next two years and to develop related work plans and budgets for the year 2009, submitting them to the EB for approval.

In 2008, MMI’s activities in the field of human resources for health and strategic positioning were supported financially by Cordaid, Misereor and Medicus Mundi Switzerland. We appreciate these commitments.

MMI Secretariat

Our new executive secretary, Thomas Schwarz, former codirector of MMS, took office on 2 January 2008. As a first step, secretariat regulations and a work plan were drafted by the secretary and discussed and adopted by the Board. After some initial problems, the Network management was soon on track. The working plan turned out to be feasible, but by the end of the year, the secretary’s workload was significantly higher than the 120 days a year agreed with and reimbursed to Medicus Mundi Switzerland. 

MMI ePlatform: During 2008 the secretariat considerably improved the possibilities for communication and networking between Medicus Mundi International Network members and partners. An electronic platform (website) has been developed and full documentation of meetings and events can now be accessed easily. Many documents and publications relevant to the work of MMI can be found on the website, as can all kinds of contributions by Network members as well as external resources. This is a great step forward. In 2009 the MMI Executive Secretariat will further develop the MMI ePlatform and animate members to contribute to it.
 
Network News: Since January 2008, a monthly electronic Newsletter containing updates on Network events, news of the secretariat, Network members and resources, and reports related to the Network’s key issues has been published by the secretariat and distributed to the Network members and partners. The feedback has been good: the “clients” appreciate this new networking tool. 

Network support: In addition to these rather technical services and to the Network administration, the secretary has been actively involved in the two thematic working groups and has supported the EB in the organizational development of the MMI Network.

At its October meeting, the EB reviewed the work of the secretariat, concluding that the members are pleased with its increased professionalism and output and with what has been done so far. The inputs by the secretary to the organizational development of MMI were appreciated. “But Network members have to learn now how to make use of the new services and offers. Increased professionalism and efficacy of the secretariat has to correspond with increased professionalism and efficacy of the Board and the working groups.” This is still valid…

Providing input, sensitization and advocacy

Contracting experiences: In the context of the strategic positioning issue, MMI commissioned the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp to conduct a study with the intention to update our knowledge on the results of contracting between faith-based health institutions and public health authorities in Africa. The results of this study which took place throughout 2008 will be reported in May 2009 under the title “Contracting between faith-based and public health sector in sub-Saharan Africa: An ongoing crisis?”

Provisional results of the study were the subject of a technical meeting organized by MMI during the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva in May 2008. After a similar side-event organized by MMI at the WHA 1999, it was the second gathering on the subject of “contracting.” The event was attended by a considerable number of WHA delegates from African states and by representatives of the MMI Network, other NGOs and the WHO.

Strategic Positioning: In July 2008, Thomas Vogel represented the Medicus Mundi International Network at the 8th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of the Central African Region (ACERAC) in Bangui. During this conference he had the privilege to present our Network, its members and activities to the plenary and to discuss with a number of bishops the importance of the contribution of faith-based organizations in African health systems and the related challenges and need for support.

Networking: In May, MMI participated with a market stand shared with Medicus Mundi Switzerland at the Geneva Health Forum, and in September, the MMI president participated in a WHO planning consultation on "Renewing and Enhancing Collaboration with Non-Governmental Organizations: Towards a Shared Agenda”. Both events provided us with input for the development of a more coherent advocacy and network promotion approach. 

Construction sites

In addition to the work plans of the MMI Secretariat and the two existing working groups, in fall 2008, the EB developed for the first time a work plan for its own activities, listing and addressing those “construction sites” in the organizational development of the MMI Network which need specific attention:

  • Reviewing and developing basic MMI documents
  • Network promotion, attracting new members
  • Developing an MMI research strategy
  • Redefining MMI’s relations with WHO and NGO networks and developing an MMI advocacy policy
  • Preparing Board elections in 2010

The main challenge for 2009 will be to redefine the identity and role of the MMI Network. For that purpose, the MMI secretariat has been initiating and coordinating a systematic dialog with Network members to develop an actualized Network policy.
In 2009 we will also evaluate the impact of the several Bishops conferences on health co-organized or supported by MMI in several African countries over the last couple of years. The Board decided that the discussion and decision regarding our future policy and methodology of supporting regional and national Bishops conferences should not be influenced by already existing new plans, so plans to support the Bishops Conference of the DR Congo had to be postponed.

In addition, the two existing working groups will continue working on the main strategic issues of MMI’s strategic plan 2010, and eventually a third working group on appropriate technology will take off.

Towards the end of the year, the agreement between MMI and Medicus Mundi Switzerland for the hosting of the MMI Executive Secretariat will be reviewed.
The year 2009, the 45th year of the existence of the Medicus Mundi International Network, looks promising, but challenging. The Executive Board looks forward to an inspiring, enthusiastic and active participation of our members in all steps we will have to take to renew the essentials of our Network and realize our mission.

Report of MMI President Guus Eskens, in: MMI Annual Report 2008

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