Lobbying is often associated with quiet words behind closed doors, but this is just one technique. It is usually necessary to use many other campaigning methods to persuade a government to listen seriously to those quiet words and to take the desired action.
Lobbying can include:
- Visits or meetings with officials in the capital city, at the embassy or in local/district offices.
- Discussions with officials at inter-governmental meetings (eg. United Nations conferences, African Union summits, Commonwealth gatherings).
- Trips or excursions organised for officials.
- Letters, petitions and other forms of contact with decision makers.
Why lobbying governments is important:
Who to Lobby
Research and analysis
- Governments have power.
- Politicians lead as well as follow public opinion.
- Governments can influence other governments.
- Governments compose and decide the actions of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs).
- Governments can strengthen international standards and mechanisms to protect human rights.
- Governments can change legislation and practice.
The starting point for developing strategies is research and analysis of the situation you are in, the problems you are trying to overcome, the opportunities you may be able to take advantage of, and the resources you have available.
How to Lobby
Practicalities of lobbying
- Has the government you are lobbying signed and ratified any international human rights treaties?
- Has the government made explicit policy statements and commitments in relation to international human rights issues?
- Is there parliamentary scrutiny or other official monitoring mechanisms on government policy?
- Are there any mechanisms for independent scrutiny of the links between human rights and foreign/trade/defence policy? Who is responsible for these mechanisms? Do they take submissions?
- Are there any formal mechanisms for human rights organisations to input into policy generally and in relation to specific countries or issues?
- Does the government have particular military, economic or cultural links with other countries that may give it influence? Which are these countries? What are the sources of influence within these countries?In which IGO bodies is your government represented? Is it represented on the UN Commission on Human Rights, UN Security Council, the World Bank, regional IGOs?
- Which ministers, departments and interest groups are involved in the formulation of foreign (or other relevant) policy generally and in relation to specific countries or issues? Do you have good access to these people?
- Who is responsible for foreign policy within political parties?
- Is the media influential on foreign or trade policy? Is the media more influential in relation to some countries or issues than others? Are some media or journalists more influential on policy than others?
- Are particular individuals, such as judges, academics, writers or television personalities, likely to have greater influence on policy than other people?
- How is the ministry of foreign affairs organised? Are there specialists on particular countries and themes? Are you in direct contact with them?
- Is there an institutional policymaking body on human rights in international relations, such as a human rights unit? Are you in direct contact with them?
- Is there specific legislation on the human rights considerations of military or economic links?
- Is there a wider constituency of support for integrating human rights into foreign policy, such as other NGOs?
- Do staff members of the foreign affairs ministry and other relevant government departments receive human rights training?
- Does the government have a commitment to developing human rights strategies on particular countries?
The process of informing and persuading those with power or influence to act to protect and promote human rights involves a number of techniques. You may decide you need to use membership action, the influence of third parties and media publicity, or you might simply have a chat with the foreign minister over a cup of coffee. In the long-term, success also depends on the following:
The overall objective of a lobbying programme is to ensure that the protection and promotion of human rights becomes a key component of the government’s international relations (and relevant domestic policy). Depending on how far this objective is from being achieved, other shorter term objectives need to be set based on your analysis of the current situation. These objectives could be:
- Developing public debate about foreign policy and human rights;
- Developing contact with elected representatives and political parties on international human rights issues;
- Establishment of an annual independent review of government action on human rights;
- Access to, and good working relationships with, key officials in the human rights unit of the foreign affairs ministry;
- Access to and influence with the minister of foreign affairs, president and/or prime minister;
- Agreement of the foreign affairs ministry to take up and act on each case that you bring to its attention;
- Taking the lead role on a particular country/human rights issue in international organisations.
Whatever your objectives, you should seek to make your progress towards achieving them measurable so that you can evaluate your strategy and work.
Governments are generally responsive to pressure from the community. You must therefore develop a strategy to involve your members or supporters effectively and provide them with the resources to act.
- Organise letter-writing by members and other organisations to targeted members of the government or elected representatives on selected issues.
- Make sure your members seek meetings with their elected representatives to convey concern as constituents. Target particular influential representatives and members of the government.
- Hold campaigning events such as public meetings and protests in the constituency/home area of elected representatives.
- Ask members to write to the media.
- Involve the membership in public protests inside or outside important government meetings.
A visit to the office of a decision-maker is often a good way to establish contact and put across your message. Contact the office by sending a formal letter requesting an appointment. The people who will make up the delegation should sign the letter. Be sure to confirm the appointment by phone, check the address, time and directions to the venue. If you do not receive a reply to the letter, telephone or visit the office to request an appointment once more, or use contacts who may help you gain access to the official.
Things to Consider:
A Sample Strategy Objective:
- Plan your delegation carefully – the more constituencies your delegation represents, the better you will be able to put across all the facts and opinions necessary to influence the decision maker.
- Delegate different tasks to each member of the team and appoint one leader who will introduce everyone and guide the meeting.
- Plan the arguments you want to put across, practise saying them, think of questions or counter-arguments you will be given and plan how you will respond.
- Say specifically what you would like the decision-maker to do (e.g. adopt new legislation, ask a question in parliament, change a policy, speak to the Cabinet, etc.).
- Leave a statement and a pack of material behind which summarises your arguments and include your contact details.
- Use the time well – often half the meeting can be used for introductions and other issues, and the delegation gets distracted from making its point.
: Who do you need to convince to take action?
: Parliament (a majority of members).
: Who or what is likely to convince them?
: Party policy, the issue being defined as one of individual conscience and personal responsibility, community attitudes, respected organisations, religious leaders, individual judges, lawyers’ organisations, international concern/pressure.
: What is the timing?
: Parliament is scheduled to vote on a bill concerning freedom of expression in six weeks’ time.
Either seek commitment of political parties to freedom of expression or for a vote based on individual conscience. Identify those members of parliament for and against and those most likely to change their mind. Focus action on those most likely to change their position. Get individual groups to write to and meet with targeted individual members of parliament.
Where to Lobby
Diplomats at conferences like Commonwealth and United Nations summits usually expect to be lobbied by campaigners from their own country and by other campaigners on any number of issues.
Work as a team
To begin with, meet with other campaigners from your country or region to establish what your main lobbying points are and to decide on strategies to convince a diplomat to accept your position. Divide amongst the group diplomats and delegations to lobby.
When you first meet with diplomats and delegations, it is important to let them tell you what their positions are on the various issues of concern. Then, in the give and take of the discussion, if their position does not support your campaign, that is when you lobby. Campaigners should report the results of the meetings to the campaign group to ensure you are not duplicating efforts and can plan for further lobbying.
Monitoring and Evaluation
When preparing strategies, include ways that you can monitor your progress and evaluate the outcome of the strategy. This means making sure that the objectives set are specific and measurable.
Tips for Successful Lobbyists
- Establish yourself as a resource for policy makers by supplying them with information - newsletters, research papers, publications and the outcome of research.
- Express your willingness to help them find additional material or data.
- Maintain your relationship with the policy maker by sending them information, thanking them when they voted appropriately on the issue you are concerned about and inviting them to events.
- Encourage people to write personal letters to the policy maker and send copies of these letters to the press.
- Organise a briefing for the policy makers at which an expert on the issue can talk about its importance.
© Amnesty International Publications. Amnesty International Campaigning Manual
, 2001. 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, United Kingdom.