The Lobbying Strategy: Influencing decision-makers
Purpose: Convincing key policy-makers in your country to vote or take a stand against military expenditures.
Advocacy is about promoting social change related to a specific issue – GCOMS as a whole is an advocacy campaign – but lobbying is one specific form of advocacy. According to Hilary Jeune and Marte Hellema from UNOI: «It means encouraging the adoption, defeat, or modification of laws or policies – at the local, national, or even international level. Lobbying involves giving views and information to decision-makers in order to influence them toward the action you want, which means contacting officials who make the laws and policies, communicating desires and opinions, challenging the arguments of opponents, and demonstrating wide support for an issue». There are two main kinds of lobbying: direct lobbying (that refers to the contact you have with decision-makers and officials to influence them and win their support – it includes meetings, calls, email, letters, action alerts) and grass roots / indirect lobbying (that refers to attempts to influence legislation through the mass mobilization of the public around a particular legislative issue).
Always keep in mind that lobbying is about both convincing & building partnerships with policymakers. Indeed, good relationships are the foundation of lobbying and negotiating. Effective advocacy requires a clear sense of who these audiences are and what access or pressure points are available to move them. Knowing who can make it happen involves analysing stakeholders and corridors of power, identifying key targets, and understanding how they can make it happen.
WHO TO LOBBY?
These are some questions, according to the ICBL campaign: Who are the people making decisions on military spending and defence policy objectives? Are they working in a government ministry or department? Are they embassy officials or representatives in national delegations participating in international forums? Are they parliamentarians or leading political figure in your country?.
Identify who has the ability to take political decision, and which departments deal with military-related spending – there is likely to be a lead department, usually the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other departments may be consulted, for instance the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice as well as the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment. In fact, you must find a way to call on these departments and get them interested in reducing the military budget. Many among the political class in western countries appear to be aware of the oversized military bill, yet are unwilling to challenge it for fear of appearing politically incorrect – and this is particularly true with the terrorist threat.
Based on a persuasive and quantified argumentation, you must demonstrate how the reallocation of a portion of military resources can support multiple agendas (including health, education and employment, peace and international development, or the environmental agenda). In short, and according to the CMC campaign, you have to make popular an unpopular decision, in order to encourage government members to take position on that issue.
They are bureaucrats employed by a government department or agency responsible, inter alia, for drafting policy papers and laws. Civil servants are acting in the shadow but they have considerable influence. Generally little affected by political change, they are likely to be in position for a long time and to have a great expertise on their topics. Following CMC, try to identify those working on military, defense and foreign policy areas, and try to build connections with them.
Parliamentarians & local policymakers
To some extent, it may be easier to create relationships with elected officials to promote your cause. On one hand, parliamentarians have more independence vis-à-vis the Government’s policy – especially among the official opposition – and on the other hand, they have been given the citizen’s mandate to represent them. Indeed, one of the core components of parliamentarians’ mandate is to hold the government to account in respect of how the taxpayers’ money is used, and to improve the transparency of government operations and enhance public trust in the government. Therefore, they are required to be attentive to citizens’ requests (however, that does not mean that they will take a stand). In fact, having supportive parliamentarians is one of the most effective way to influence government, according to CAAT. First of all, it is a major asset for the visibility of GCOSM. Second, that could result in a controversy or major policy debate between parliamentarians, which might draw public and media attention and thus, push the government to react. In addition, parliamentarians are often more available than government officials, and more likely to participate in meetings and events you may organise, which would give a greater visibility to these events. Start by canvassing the elected officials of your region/locality – or parliamentarians that you may already know, from as many political parties as possible – and try to spread gradually your “political network” at the national level. Here again, you need to pull the right heartstrings with the right arguments to convince them to take a stand against military spending (see CAAT’s guide on how to lobby).
Delegations and Diplomats (from CMC)
You may also build relationships with your representatives at the United-Nations and other diplomats and embassy officials. You can connect with officials working on international treaties/conventions related to human rights, the control and ban of a number of weapons, or national officials working in the field of international cooperation for development and environmental protection etc. For instance, you can contact members of your country’s delegation at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. In doing so, you may obtain strategic information and benefit from valuable support.
Political parties & leading political figures
It also may be useful to build relationships with political parties – both governing and opposition parties – which are essential institutions of democracy with great power of influence on policy choices. In addition, political parties are well positioned to foster a public debate. You may contact former Ministers of Defence, of Foreign Affairs, of Environment, Health and Employment to ask for their opinion, as well as political personalities involved in civil society issues and committed to peace, development and human rights.
How to lobby
There are many ways to gain the attention of decision makers:
- Advocacy meetings: One of the most persuasive forms of lobbying is a face-to-face advocacy meeting with policy makers (it is also the most difficult!). Read more…
- Informal lobbying: Lobbying is traditionally done in the lobbies of government buildings and elsewhere where you can meet officials outside an official meeting space. When it is too complicated to have a formal advocacy meeting, you might try to meet with an official outside of traditional policy arena. It allows to talk more freely and to establish more “friendly” relationships. In practice, you may approach officials during lunch and coffee breaks or various public events (i.e. conferences).
- Round tables and workshops: Inviting policy makers (parliamentarians, government’s officials, diplomats or members of political parties) to participate in public or private round table discussions on military spending, peace, disarmament, development and other related issues is a way to positively engage with supportive officials. It is a clear signal of seriousness, and it gives them the possibility to learn and share their views about that issue. Consider inviting NGOs, activists, experts and researchers and optionally media – knowing that media presence could hinder open dialogue.
- Letters & petitions: Writing letters to policy makers is another avenue to convince them to support your issue. It may also give to representatives an opportunity to discuss the issue with superiors. It is also a way to pressure them; you may eventually invoke their accountability to the public in order to push them to answer. Carefully identify who to write to and when. It tends to be more effective to write about something specific rather than tackle military spending as a whole. Read more…
- Working with international partners: Working with international partners such as UN bodies or international and pacifist NGOs may help you influence national decision-makers. For instance, some of them may already have some relations with your government and can help you gain access to key officials.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ADVOCACY MEETING
(Sources: CAAT website; CMC; ICBL)
PREPARING THE MEETING
- Know the facts about your issue, (legislation and country’s position);
- Make researches about policymakers’ position on military spending issue;
- Consider appealing both to their sense of what is right and their self-interest;
- You may plan to go in a group or alone: In a group (2-4 persons): assign roles, including a note-taker – Alone: consider who among your group and campaign allies may be most likely to secure an in- person lobby meeting and who might have the most influence
- Prepare your verbal case (with striking data and clear arguments) and decide on 3 key points you want to communicate and focus on these (you can bring supporting document);
- Have 1 or 2 clear requests for action you would like your MP to take.
- Bring a concise and easy-to-read written brief which summarizes your arguments, include your request(s) and your contact details.
CONDUCTING A MEETING
- Be punctual: they have packed schedules so if you are late, the less time you will have (and besides, you will give the wrong impression)
- Be polite and respectful: the best way to advocate for your messages is not to adopt an aggressive and challenging posture with them, but to first establish a connection with them. However, you can speak with confidence!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions (“What is your position on military spending?”), to test their knowledge (“Do you have an idea of the total amount of the country’s military expenditures? / What proportion of GDP is devoted to military? / Make some comparisons between military and health or education budgets…);
- However, don’t dominate the conversation and listen actively: it may reveal key insights and facts you may have not known;
- Take good notes;
- Try to establish yourself as a resource for policymakers by supplying them with information and express your willingness to cooperate with them.
AFTER THE MEETING
- Follow-up can be almost as important as the meeting itself as it further develops the relationship
- Be sure to send a thank you note, include what was discussed and remind them of what action they have agreed to take.
- Maintain contact with policymakers by sending them information, thanking them if they vote appropriately on your issue, inviting them to events.