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. CARE particularly prioritizes collaboration with crisis affected people-led, refugee/IDP-led, and women-led partners. 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 or partners have 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 and partners 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, ensuring that affected people and women are among the decision makers,
  • develop a brief ‘code of conduct’ to ensure mutual commitments and respect, as well as protocols for interaction (e.g., with the media, with the HCT, etc.) as a coalition,
  • assess progress periodically and make changes if needed, in collaboration with partners.

The Feminist Humanitarian Network (FHN) is another forum with opportunities for coordination. At the local level, where FHN has members, COs could effectively partner with other FHN members. At the international level, the FHN is a strong ally on localization, GEEWGiHA, and other areas closely relevant to CARE’s advocacy priorities.

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 11.9 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. Collaboration should, above all, reflect CARE’s commitment to localization, participation, leadership, and accountability to affected people, especially women and girls. (See CARE’s Humanitarian Advocacy Strategy.)

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