IFEX Joint Actions
Guide to Initiating an IFEX Joint Action
The IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme assists IFEX members in coordinating “joint actions”, campaigning and advocacy activities involving collaboration between IFEX members. To date, the most common forms of joint actions are collective statements or letters of appeal, which are the focus of this section.
The IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme staff work with members to ensure the joint action is ready for international public release, particularly in cases where support or signatures is being sought beyond the IFEX membership – from other stakeholders, or the public at large.
The IFEX Clearing House will offer further support in raising the profile of joint actions by sending them out to subscribers of the IFEX Action Alert Network, as well as highlighting them on the IFEX website, the IFEX Digest, in IFEX Campaigns communications materials and often in the weekly IFEX Communiqué, which is mailed out to more than 15,000 subscribers in five languages.
Using the IFEX network for joint actions has the following advantages:
• It is a fast and effective way to rally international support among the IFEX membership for your organisation’s local campaigns.
• The response rate of IFEX members to an appeal is typically quite high.
• The wide range of international support can give added force and legitimacy to a campaign.
• There is little or no cost to members, other than the time spent drafting the appeal and distributing the final product, or signing on.
• It builds relationships among IFEX members and can lead to future joint campaigns. (Keep in mind that a joint appeal does not have the same long-term effect as involving other members in a more comprehensive, multi-faceted campaign, so the relationships that develop may not be as strong.)
Be clear about what you want other IFEX members to do
• Think carefully and communicate clearly about the specific action that you would like other IFEX members to take. Is it to sign on to a letter, support the creation of a committee, or take action themselves?
• Should they communicate with you or with the Clearing House?
• Are you accepting signatures from organisations that are not IFEX members? If so, you may want to ask IFEX members to encourage other groups to sign on as well. Bear in mind that some IFEX members may be reluctant to add their names to a list that includes non-members with whom they are not familiar.
Decide whether to emphasise your group’s initiative or the action’s international nature
• In most cases, it is appropriate to highlight the fact that your group initiated the appeal and other members have signed onto it. But in some contexts where security is a concern, local groups may prefer to downplay their involvement to avoid reprisals and, instead, emphasise the international aspect of the action – i.e., a joint action by all the signatories (in which your group would be listed as just another signatory rather than as the lead). It can also be helpful to coordinate with another IFEX member in leading a joint action if they are better positioned to act as the public face of the effort.
Leave enough time for responses and coordination with the IFEX Clearing House
• Give enough lead time for other IFEX members to respond – a week is recommended, though in urgent cases two to three days can be adequate.
• To ensure that your joint action can be released on your preferred deadline, get in touch with IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme in advance to let them know your plans. The Programme avoids sending multiple internal appeals to IFEX members on the same day so your item may need to wait if another member’s campaign is being executed at the same time.
• Often questions arise about an item or edits are made that need to be approved. As a rule of thumb, allow one to two business days for coordination with the IFEX Clearing House before you expect an internal appeal to be sent out.
• Avoid release of an internal appeal on Fridays – earlier in the week is usually a better to reach IFEX members, particularly for urgent campaigns.
*NOTE: The IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme will release an internal appeal if it follows the basic criteria outlined in this guide; if it does not interfere with another IFEX member campaign already slated for release; and if adequate time is given for preparation of the appeal. This is to ensure the effectiveness of IFEX member campaigning efforts.
Make it easy to read and understand
• Begin your appeal with a very brief summary of the issue and an expression of your position with regard to it.
• Use plain language and avoid slang.
• Use short sentences and simple grammar.
• Break up long paragraphs.
• Define your terms, and provide the full names of political organisations, movements, etc. in addition to acronyms.
• Avoid repetition.
• Check spelling, and ensure names are spelled correctly throughout.
• As with issuing alerts, factual accuracy is essential. Do your own original investigation to confirm the facts. Other IFEX members who sign on trust that your group has done the research properly. Inaccuracies reflect badly on everyone who has signed. They also reduce the likelihood that IFEX members will sign on to future appeals from your group.
• Other IFEX members who have received the appeal may point out inaccuracies before it is distributed externally. But getting it right the first time avoids having to correct the appeal and ask IFEX members to re-sign the new version. Also, it is highly unlikely that a second, corrected appeal will elicit the same response rate as the first one.
Avoid making unsubstantiated statements
• Avoid unsubstantiated claims or vague hypotheses. They end up causing more harm than good and undermine the credibility of the rest of the appeal (and that of the signatories).
Communicate effectively to your target audience
• Consider the target audience when selecting key messages and the language and communications style of your letter. Ensure that the demands or requests you are making are clear and concise, as well as achievable.
Explain the context
• Don’t assume that other IFEX members will be familiar with the details of your case or the political situation that you are writing about.
• Provide the necessary background information and key facts in a concise manner.
• Explain the relevance to freedom of expression.
Cite international treaties and national constitutions
• Where appropriate, make reference to relevant points found in international treaties signed or ratified by the state responsible for the violation in question, such as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
• It is also worth referring to free expression provisions in the constitution of a country where a violation has taken place.
Do a thorough job of editing
• You may want to solicit comments from other groups before getting final internal approval within your organisation and sending it out through IFEX.
1. Beyond reviewing the example provided below, visit the IFEX website for other examples of IFEX Joint Actions to assist you in writing the letter or declaration. If the letter will be addressed to a specific individual (recommended), be sure to include the appropriate salutation and an email address or fax number where the final appeal will be sent. See: http://www.ifex.org/campaigns/member_campaigns/
2. Let the IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme know about your plans. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Draft your appeal to the IFEX membership according to the suggested guidelines above.
4. Send your internal appeal to the IFEX Campaigns Programme (email@example.com) indicating:
• a deadline (day/time) for signatures
• relevant contact information (including fax/e-mail) of the addressee
• IFEX members or other organisations leading the campaign
• if necessary, who from your organisation(s) would like to be copied on the signatures sent by IFEX members or who should be contacted if members have questions about the appeal
• a personalised note to IFEX members if there is any additional information you would like to give them about the campaign or to outline your request.
5. The IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme will collect IFEX member signatures up to the specified deadline. If your organisation is also collecting signatures, please send all the emails containing those signatures to firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: If collecting signatures from outside IFEX, send them to the IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme at deadline to ensure they appear on the final item for release. Remember that IFEX members sign by organisation not by individual.
6. At the deadline, the IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme will prepare the joint action for release via the Action Alert Network. If necessary, the programme will work with the IFEX member to ensure all signatures have been collected.
**Important, please use the final IFEX version of the joint action to build your organisation’s own version of the letter, which can be circulated after the IFEX release. This ensures that all signatures are accounted for; that all members are represented accurately; and that all final edits to the letter have been incorporated.**
7. Upon release via IFEX, promote and use the joint action in various campaigning activities. Be sure to send it to the campaign’s target audience and key stakeholders, including the media.
8. Follow-up with the IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme. We’re always interested to learn about the impact of a given campaign so let us know if you receive a response, media coverage, or if other actions are taken up as a result of your campaign.
Follow up with other IFEX members
• Once an appeal is sent out to the IFEX membership, follow up with other members by phone or personal emails to get a better response rate, especially those working in/on your country or region
• If you are wondering why certain members have not signed on to your appeal, contact them to find out. This can also help your group learn how to write more effective appeals in the future and lead to stronger communications and relationships between IFEX members.
Make revisions to gain wider support
• Sometimes members want to sign on to an appeal, but don't, because they object to a particular point within the text. You might want to make revisions if it allows more members to sign on. On the other hand, you may not want to alter your message significantly if it will reduce the impact on the target audience or make it necessary to issue a correction, which can take additional time.
• To help avoid having to revise your appeal once it has already been sent to the full list of members, ask for feedback from a couple of other IFEX members beforehand.
• Ultimately, it is up to your organisation to decide how much you are willing to revise the content of the appeal in response to others’ feedback, and to gain additional signatures.
Communicate after the appeal
• After all the signatures are gathered and the joint statement is released it is important to thank the signatories. Following up encourages members to sign other appeals down the road.
• IFEX will send a copy of the final joint action to members so they can see who signed on and circulate it to their networks.
• Inform the IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme of what your group did with the appeal and any results that came from it. These stories will be shared with other IFEX members and highlighted in IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy communications materials. They also provide important information regarding the impact of our work to our members, donors and the general public.
Your organisation needs to think about how it will present the joint appeal and make use of it once all the signatures are gathered. Options that members have used in the past include:
• issuing a press release
• holding a press conference
• presenting the appeal to the authorities during meetings with them
• sending a joint letter to authorities by e-mail, fax, etc.
• conducting an independent inquiry after gaining the support of fellow IFEX members for the initiative
• developing national, regional and international contact lists to reach key stakeholders, such as diplomatic and government officials and media
• presenting the joint action as part of a mission, or communications to regional or international human rights mechanisms
• posting on your organisation’s website or sending out via social networking and e-advocacy tools
• The fact that a certain number of IFEX members have signed on to your appeal does not mean that the entire IFEX community has endorsed it. You should keep this in mind when communicating about the joint appeal.
While the most common form of joint actions are collective statements or letters of appeal, they can take many creative forms and offer new opportunities for IFEX members to take up action. The IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme can support you in whichever action you choose. Some examples include:
• Writing a similar letter to officials based on an example you provide
• Publishing advertising campaigns in print, broadcast and online media
• Joining a Facebook group or signing a petition
• Distributing videos, web banners, podcasts through email, social networking sites, and website postings
• Organising a day of action or a specific event under a global campaign
• Sharing contacts and engaging in lobbying where they may have access
• Helping to organise a speaking tour in their country or region
• Sharing information or advice about best practices for legal reforms or handling other free expression issues
• Engaging in media outreach to journalists and editors about the situation
• Hosting an artistic exhibit such as a photography show, film or play
• Nominating a candidate for a human rights or free expression award
The advantage of having IFEX members take up direct action is that such initiatives will in some circumstances carry more weight. The disadvantage is that the response rate is often lower since it requires more time and effort from other members. You will also likely need to follow up the internal notice with phone calls to encourage members to take action or report back on the outcomes of their initiative.
It is up to your organisation to decide which option is likely to be most effective in your particular case.