9.7 Identifying allies and opponents

Advocacy is generally most successful when carried out in partnership with other groups or influential individuals that are concerned with the same policy goal. Benefits of advocating through alliances and coalitions include:

  • increased resources, experience, credibility and visibility
  • enhanced local advocacy capacity by working in coalition with local groups
  • a degree of protection or ‘safety in numbers’ (more protection with larger numbers of individuals).

Allies may be identified at the policy analysis stage, or they may be local and international actors-including governments-with whom the CO has worked previously. NGO and UN coordination groups and forums often exist in emergency situations, and can be the ideal place to seek allies, form coalitions or contribute to ongoing advocacy initiatives. The considerations in section 8 can help the CO to determine whether it should play a leading or supporting role in the coalition or partnership.

When establishing coalitions, it is crucial to:

  • be clear about the issue for which people are coming together to advocate
  • identify specifically what the coalition will and will not aim to do
  • be clear about the roles and responsibilities of all the organisations, and what participation other partners expect from CARE
  • select a small steering committee to plan and coordinate different activities if the group is large
  • develop a brief ‘code of conduct’ to ensure mutual commitments and respect, as well as protocols for interaction  with the media as a coalition
  • assess progress periodically and make changes if needed.

It is also important to identify who may oppose the policy goal. These opponents should either become targets for advocacy themselves, if possible, or consider other ways to reduce or neutralise their influence (see Annex 28.12 Allies and Opponents Tool).

Collaboration allows for flexibility of roles. One organisation may choose publicly to report and denounce violations, while another may pass on information confidentially. Some may choose to engage in active advocacy while others work ‘behind the scenes’ to protect and promote rights, often by maintaining a presence with people at risk.

Source: Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) 2002. Growing the sheltering tree: Protecting rights through humanitarian action.