3. Approaches to advocacy
To maintain our commitment to the localized participation and leadership of, and accountability to affected people, including women and girls, CARE strives to consistently apply the following general principles to ensure advocacy efforts align with our values:
- Make sure to be guided by the views of our women-led partners and of women leaders we consult on advocacy priority issues and tactics to ensure they reflect their agenda and priorities, with GEEWG.
- Attempt to open and create spaces and opportunities for organizations representing the most marginalized crisis affected people of all genders and in all their diversity so they may directly participate and speak in relevant advocacy fora. To accomplish this, CARE will cede space, implying a decrease of our visibility necessary to strengthen our credibility among local and national actors.
- Strive to be more deliberate about adhering to feminist principles for humanitarian action in our advocacy, as defined by the Feminist Humanitarian Network.
- Use our humanitarian advocacy to stand by our partners, particularly women’s organizations, to help them speak boldly on the abuse of crisis affected people’s rights. In so doing, we will simultaneously weigh our efforts against safety and security risks to staff, partners, and participants, and against humanitarian principles.
Advocacy generally involves a variety of approaches which may be public or private, collaborative or confrontational, collective or individual or a combination of all these. Advocates use a diverse number of tools and methods, including statements and media outreach, closed door Chatham House rules meetings, grassroots mobilisation, lobbying with policy makers, networking, and coalition-building.
Public advocacy might involve public statements and published policy papers. Approaches for private lobbying with decision-makers include sharing specific information confidentially and supporting local coalitions, particularly in contexts where public activities may carry some form of risk (see section 8.2).
Communication strategies are an important element of advocacy approaches. As advocacy aims to specifically influence policy, it is important to distinguish advocacy activities and statements from other types of public statements that CARE may make, such as those aimed merely at taking a public stance on a crisis to profile CARE, or for fundraising purposes. It is critical, however, that CARE’s different types of communications are coordinated so that they reinforce each other and avoid any potential undermining of each other’s messages and goals. (See Media). There may be instances where a document that is not inherently an advocacy document is still used for the purpose of advocacy, in which case it would need to align with the appropriate public or private advocacy messaging.
Advocacy can take place at different levels, from local to global, depending on where the greatest capacity to effect change is. Humanitarian advocacy may involve direct, immediate interaction with officials at local, provincial and national levels. Advocacy concerns can also be shared internationally in government capital cities and multilateral institutions at a global level to reinforce messages delivered locally or to unlock issues at that level (e.g. asking a specific donor government to issue a humanitarian exemption on a sanctions regime, etc)
Advocacy can be carried out by the people and groups directly affected by injustice, by local NGOs and international organisations such as CARE on their behalf, or by a combination of both. Our first choice is always to cede space to partners, especially women’s organizations, and let them speak for themselves.
The key question for determining the appropriate advocacy role and approach for CARE include:
- What are the wishes / capacities of partners?
- What role is likely to be most effective? What is the political environment and what are CARE’s best strengths for exerting influence – for example, public statements, private lobbying, technical advice to policymakers and providing support to third parties. This question needs to be revisited regularly (at times, daily or weekly) to adapt the strategy to the evolving situation on the ground.
- The current Humanitarian Advocacy Strategy (HAS) will help in determining this.