8.2 Assessing risks of advocacy

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.