It was time to get everyone together and to take some decisions.
Despite our best efforts, we could not substantially raise more funds for the projects of Operation Mercy.
When we met at the beginning of October to evaluate the situation it was crystal clear that Operation Mercy had to close their doors and withdraw from Azerbaijan.
This was a difficult decision and it put the full-time expatriate staff and some volunteers in the country at risk because their residence and work permits will not be renewed when it expired. This was true for us too. Our residence and work permits were valid until December 2013, and we had no indication of any other opportunity that will allow us to stay in Azerbaijan beyond the end of 2013.
The decision to close the office of Operation Mercy in Azerbaijan was accepted by the Board of Directors in Sweden and we managed to end all operations with no loss of property or equipment to the government.
Within nine months in Azerbaijan, we were left with an all too familiar challenge: How do we fulfil our role in Operation Mobilization as Field Leaders for the Caucasus region without a residence and work permit for Azerbaijan?
To move the office of the OM Field Leader to Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia seemed to be the obvious solution, but not all the OM team members was convinced. Those who were able to stay in Azerbaijan despite the closure of the Operation Mercy office were quite supportive of the idea. There were some team members who would not be able to stay in Azerbaijan with a work permit linked to Operation Mercy. They were also not keen to relocate to the Republic of Georgia. Some of them had been in Azerbaijan for a long time and had vested interests that they were reluctant to leave. To them it was a very difficult situation, and I was not popular in their eyes for recommending the closure of Operation Mercy and the relocation of the office of the Field Leader.
The regional leadership of Operation Mobilization accepted my recommendation to move the office of the Field Leader to Tbilisi. We were relieved and it felt that we got another chance to start over and develop a new vision, mission, and strategy for the Caucasus region.