Strategies used by international NGOs to influence public policy
Véronique de Geoffroy and Alain Robyns
In recent years the number of awareness-raising campaigns has grown, as has the number of organisations involved in advocacy activities. Every association runs their own campaigns, but the multiplication of messages creates the risk that they become diluted and lost in the mass of information and also that the public and intermediaries such as journalists lose interest. It would be impossible for authorities to deal with all the subtle differences which would inevitably appear between uncoordinated advocacy activities. Coordination is therefore necessary between NGOs so that they speak with one voice to public authorities and political decision-makers. It is when organisations create alliances and lead joint campaigns that advocacy is the most effective. Together, the different members of an alliance increase their weight and legitimacy as they represent collective interests which can be more easily assimilated to the common good. They also improve the possibility of success in situations where the majority vote is needed. Three different types of alliance exist:
- Networks - groups of individuals and/or organisations who work together and help each other on a very flexible basis to achieve their respective objectives and run joint projects;
- Coalitions – circumstantial agreement to defend a shared interest or to oppose a shared adversary;
- Pressure / Lobby group – an established group of individuals or organisations with shared strategic and self-serving interests.
But although alliances give organisations’ demands more legitimacy, they also involve making compromises in the definition of objectives and means. By creating an alliance, individual organisations become less visible and their demands become more minimal and consensual.