Reference Sheet F
Auxiliary role and advocacy
Their status as an auxiliary of government gives National Societies an important opportunity to act as a bridge between government and communities. National Societies can leverage their relationship with and proximity to government to help community members become more informed, involved and influential. In some cases, this may mean communicating official decisions and regulations to communities to ensure they are informed of their rights and responsibilities. In other cases, it may mean facilitating access by communities to local government and other decision‑making forums, and ensuring they are adequately represented in national and local disaster risk management structures. For example, a National Society might lobby for community members to be represented on local government committees, or arrange meetings at which communities can raise and discuss their concerns with local government officials.
Target audiences of advocacy
Advocacy in support of resilience may take a variety of forms. Communities should determine what form their advocacy takes and how they take it forward. “Advocacy needs to be carried out both to and for communities. Crucially, though, it must also be carried out alongside them. It is not for the National Society to decide what priority issues a community needs to advocate” (IFRC. 2012. Disaster risk reduction: A global advocacy guide, p. 18). National Societies may also need to coach and provide advocacy support, sharing tools and skills to equip communities to dialogue with government and other actors. The advocacy approaches listed below can promote resilience:
Advocacy in communities. National Societies may need to encourage selected community members to advocate behaviour change in their community, for example, to promote healthier, safer lifestyles.
Advocacy to government. National Societies may need to leverage their auxiliary role, as set out above, to advocate in favour of certain decisions, projects or changes in law or policy, for example, to foster safer, risk‑informed and healthier conditions or more connected and enabled communities. Advocacy may also be necessary to ensure that community representatives have opportunities to contribute their views on decisions or plans that affect them.
Advocacy to private actors and others. Consultation with the community may reveal that advocacy is needed to address or change behaviour or activities, by private companies or other actors, that negatively impact community resilience.
Forms of advocacy
“The art of advocacy lies in persuasion, not confrontation. There are many alternatives to ‘lecturing’ that can be used to persuade people, whether communication is private or public, direct and indirect. Advocacy may take the form of major public campaigns, cornering the media, espousing key messages on prime‑time television or popular radio programmes. It is also much broader and includes complementary activities at many levels. A private conversation or meeting with authorities is often the most effective way of persuading somebody to change their mind, their behaviour, or a policy. Wherever possible, it is always worth trying a direct, private approach before going public. For example, your local mayor will be far more likely to listen to concerns about slums creeping into a flood plain if you first express them in private. A calm, open discussion can then take place, and action assessed without the mayor feeling threatened. If your private efforts get you nowhere, you can always take your case to the media or through other channels later. Your method will then be indirect – attempting to influence public opinion that, in turn, may influence the mayor. Public advocacy can also be used alongside private approaches. For example, you can hold seminars, public meetings, interviews or media briefings, publish opinion pieces or letters to the editors of newspapers or journals. Or you can invest time, money and people in an advocacy campaign.” (IFRC. 2012. Disaster risk reduction: A global advocacy guide, p. 12)