8. Criteria for deciding to engage in advocacy

When key issues are identified, the decision to engage in advocacy must be considered by reviewing CARE’s criteria for engaging in advocacy in an emergency (see section 8.1).

The decision whether to engage in advocacy as part of a humanitarian response should be made by the Country Director, together with the CO Advocacy Advisor/RAA and senior management team. For issues requiring global advocacy, the decision should be made in consultation with the Lead Member and CEG through the Crisis Coordination Group.

A rapid SWOT analysis can help the CO to assess its internal strengths and weaknesses against the external opportunities and threats.

See CARE’s paper and decision-making table on Speaking Out in Advocacy to help inform the decision to undertake public advocacy or speak out against challenges such as shrinking humanitarian space.

  • Humanitarian imperative and severity: What are the key humanitarian problems? Are they violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international refugee law, etc? What is their severity-for example, the number of civilians affected, levels of mortality and suffering?
  • Capacity of the CO: Does the Country Office have, or can it mobilise, sufficient staff resources to analyse the issue, collect and transmit evidence and information, and develop compelling positions and messages? (See the Advocacy Capacity Assessment Tool).
  • Desires and capacity of partners: Is the issue under consideration for advocacy something that partner(s) are requesting advocacy support on? What is the capacity of the partner(s) to mobilize resources and personnel? How can CARE support partners? When CARE does not have operational presence in a country, action through partners may be the primary consideration.
  • What are others doing: Are other humanitarian actors (INGOs, NNGOs, UN agencies, donors etc) already doing advocacy on the issue? What would be the value of adding CARE’s efforts to theirs?
  • Capacity elsewhere in CI: What is the potential support from RMU and lead member, CARE International Members and the CI Secretariat to engage in / support the CO’s advocacy?
  • Credibility: Does the CO and / or our partners have a strong field or programme presence, a reliable evidence base, and specific expertise or experience with the advocacy issue? Is the issue consistent with CARE’s vision, values, humanitarian mandate, humanitarian program strategy and companion advocacy strategy?
  • Impact: What is the potential for CARE’s advocacy to influence, at a minimum, remedies for the humanitarian problems? Can it lend CARE’s voice and solidarity to others’ advocacy? Is the projected cost of deploying resources to advocacy instead of to other response activities worthwhile in terms of potential benefit to the humanitarian operation?
  • Risk: What potential security risks exist for CARE staff, partners and beneficiaries? What risks exist for CARE’s reputation, relationships or raised expectations of the civilians?

There will often be risks involved in advocacy for humanitarian issues that need to be avoided or managed. Undertaking a benefit-harm analysis (Annex 28.7 CARE’s Benefit-Harms Analysis Tool) and working in coalitions can help to reduce risk. The CO and stakeholders must ensure that the benefits of advocacy outweigh the potential risks.

In difficult operating environments, the potential risks to staff, partners, beneficiaries and programmes can be minimised by following these steps:

  • Security risks-Advocacy should be balanced against the need to safeguard the security of beneficiaries and staff on the ground-particularly local staff-and the continuation of CARE’s relief operation. Managing such risk requires CARE to be sensitive to the political context, to consider private advocacy approaches over public statements and to emphasise negotiation rather than confrontation.
  • Reputational risks-Advocacy is often a high-profile activity, so any decision to speak on an issue must be based on knowledge and expertise from the field, to avoid potential damage to the organisation’s image and reputation.
  • Relationship risks-Decisions to engage in high-profile advocacy must take into account any risk of straining or damaging existing relationships both in-country and internationally, especially when CARE’s informed and principled position differs from that of allies, supporters or ‘on-side’ (supporting CARE) decision-makers.
  • Expectation risks-Decisions to adopt a high-profile advocacy campaign must avoid creating unrealistic expectations among beneficiaries, partners or supporters about the likelihood of rapid change. Most change in these complex settings comes incrementally, and expectations need to be carefully managed to avoid disillusionment or anger.

Risk to charitable status-Legal requirements prohibit CARE, as a non-profit organisation, from engaging in activities that may be seen as political campaigning.