Build A Campaign
The first step to building an advocacy campaign is defining your objective. Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T. as shown on the previous page.
One of the largest advocacy campaigns our organization has launched has been the campaign for Access to Information in Afghanistan.
Our problem was that when community members go to project sites and ask for the project specifications and documents, they would frequently get denied. For example, a village council member who wants to monitor the construction of a school in his district would go to the construction company and ask for the drawing, bill of quantity and contract documents. The construction company would simply refuse and refer him to the Department of Education. When he went to the local Department of Education, the civil servant would also refuse.
Article 50 of the Afghan constitution guarantees the right of Afghan citizens to access information. However, it does not specify how, when and where citizens can get access to information. The constitution justifies the right to information, but a specific law is needed to specify the mechanisms, protocols and limitations for getting access to information.
So, we defined our objective as the following:
2 – Research
The second step to building an advocacy campaign is researching your campaign topic: e.g. the rationale for pursuing this campaign, the international and national contexts, the actors and case studies of similar cases elsewhere.
When we first started our campaign in 2011, we clearly explained why starting this campaign was important.
The rationale statement is very important because it will be used to convince others such as CSOs, the media and politicians to join your campaign.
The next step in the research process for our campaign is to answer the following questions:
° IS THERE AN INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAWS?
° ARE THERE RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAWS IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
IF SO, WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE IT AND WHICH DO NOT?
° WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HOW RIGHT TO INFORMATION IS IMPLEMENTED IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
° WHICH LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN THIS CAMPAIGN?
1 ° IS THERE AN INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAWS?
YES, there are several websites that provide information on right to information, provide tools for civil society groups working on the issue and conduct advocacy campaigns for right to information as well.
2 ° ARE THERE RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAWS IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
YES, David Banisar has compiled a map of all the countries with Right to Informaiton laws, Regulations and Bills (see previous page). Though the most recent map is from 2011 and is a bit outdated, it still shows that countries WITHOUT access to information laws are in the minority. Access to information laws have become a global legal norm.
Pakistan (2002), India (2005), Nepal (2007) and Bangladesh (2009) are examples of regional countries that have passed Right to Information/Freedom of Information laws in the last decade.
More and more developing countries have started to guarantee this right, because the government is sustained by the taxes of citizens or public revenues. The public thus, has a right to know how that power is being used and how their money is being spent.
3 ° WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HOW RIGHT TO INFORMATION IS IMPLEMENTED IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
The implementation of the law varies from country to country. Some countries like India have imposed a geographic restriction. In India, the law applies to the entire country, except for Jammu & Kashmir. Other countries like Bangladesh require an application fee. In India, this application fee is waived if the person is below the poverty line. The time limit for the government agency to produce the document is also different from country to country.
As we launched our campaign, we compared all the different countries and their laws based on different aspects. We tried to take the best parts of all the laws and tried to understand which sections would be appropriate for Afghanistan. This comparative review of existing Right to Information laws helped us revise and comment on the Draft Access to Information law in Afghanistan.
4 ° WHICH LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN THIS CAMPAIGN?
We surveyed national civil society (CSO) and international organizations, and invited the following to participate in this campaign:
National CSOs such as,
AFGHANISTAN INDEPENDENT BAR ASSOCIATION
AFGHAN CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM
AFGHANISTAN RESEARCH & EVALUATION UNIT
are examples of some of these organizations.
3 – Plan
The third step in the advocacy cycle is to MAKE A PLAN for your campaign. A key component of your PLAN is to conduct ACTIVITIES that will help achieve your objectives. There are three types of activities and below you can find examples of each type:
LOW INTENSITY Writing a Press Release, Letter to the Editor of Local Newspaper, Launching a Website, etc.
MEDIUM INTENSITY Press Conferences, Television Interview, Paid Newspaper ADs, Meeting & Briefing Members of Parliament.
HIGH INTENSITY Filming a Documentary, Paid Billboards, Charity Dinner to raise money and awareness for your cause.
4 – Target
The fourth step in the process is to target, begin lobbying members of parliament to do what you want. Once you start to study the parliament and the procedure, you should analyze the MPs and place them in 5 categories:
WHEN LOBBYING, REMEMBER
1) GO INTO THE MEETING WITH YOUR AGENDA AND GOALS READY
2) LISTEN TO THEM
3) PREPARE FOR THE MEETING WITH RESEARCH AND FACTS
4) BUILD A RELATIONSHIP, DON’T FIGHT WITH THEM. “There are no friends or enemies in poitics!”
5) FOLLOW UP WITH THEM (a thank-you note, email, meeting notes with commitments made)
5 – Act
The fifth step in the advocacy process is to act, or the execute your plan. This means conducting the activities that you have written in your plan. This is the implementation phase, where you engage the media, lobby MPs and raise public awareness. Remember it is important to follow the plan and use your indicators to measure your progress along the way. See the section on TOOLS to learn about some of these methods.
6 – Evaluate
The sixth step in the advocacy process is to evaluate your actions. This means reflecting on your work so far by using your indicators, seeing whether you were able to achieve your objectives through your activities and whether you achieved your overall goal.
Just because you may not achieve your goal, it does not mean that your campaign has failed. We cannot always achieve everything we want to, but during the course of the campaign, you must have changed a lot of peoples minds and raised awareness about your issues. So, if you start another campaign, it will be easier the second time around. Change happens over a long period of time, and changing policies can require several cycles of campaigns over many years.
The evaluation period is thus a LEARNING PERIOD, where you can evaluate what you did well, and what you can improve. It is very important to evaluate yourself so that you do not repeat the same mistakes in the future for your next campaign.
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A CAMPAIGN STRATEGY DOCUMENT FROM THE EARLY DAYS OF OUR CAMPAIGN IN 2011:
THE RIGHT OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION IS A FUNDAMENTAL, UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHT.
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
Each Individual is responsible for local information that is being requested based on article number 10 RTI should check each citizen’s request and attempt to get it done.
Moreover, any requesters who ask for the information are not obligated to give reasons about the request.
The government may include some necessary limitations regarding the disclosure of some information, for instance, regarding the security of the ANCOP (Afghan National Civil Order Police), preventing violence, and general public safety.
The government will also ensure the availability of and access to information while implementing governance reforms. This will be achieved through raising awareness and the establishment of communication channels that can be used to share information with the public.
Access to information, increased effectiveness of public functions and increasing the speed of
work will all contribute to ensuring transparency, better performance and better monitoring.
Citizens often have inadequate access to public information from the government.
Citizens, therefore, barely have any opportunity to challenge decisions and monitor government administration. Those who obstruct the public’s right to information should be given heavy fines and sanctions, such as removal from office for officials who withhold public information.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is in the process of establish an independent commission of access to information in order to decrease levels of corruption.
The right of access to information is vested by the Constitution’s Article 50. It may however classify certain information as proprietary and confidential based on pre-defined criteria known to the public. Responsibility should however be exercised by both partners, recognizing that public participation is both a right and an obligation.
Access to public information held by the government is an important concept for various reasons. First, the true owner of this information is actually the citizen. It is the people who elect a government and entrust it with the power to take decisions on public matters. The government collects information and takes decisions that are subsequently recorded in different documents. But, all of this is done on behalf of the people. Therefore, the people are entitled to know and access all the information that the government has generated.
Second, access to information is one of the foundations on which accountability is based, and accountability is an essential component of an effective democracy. Accountability means that public servants are required to inform the public about government actions. Many regulations on access to information oblige governmental agencies to publish various types of information, which are actually another instrument for accountability.
And third, access to information is an effective mechanism for evaluating and controlling those in power. This type of legislation entitles individuals and organizations to request information that enables them to study the actions of their leaders in different matters. Public servants are aware that they are accountable for their actions, and this creates an incentive for them to act in accordance with their mandate and the legislation applicable to their sphere of responsibility.
The right to information can help to ensure that poorer communities can take advantage of opportunities for raising themselves and their communities out of poverty. The enactment of a right to information law should not be an isolated action, but rather part of an ongoing movement toward a more open, transparent and accountable public policy environment. Such an environment has the potential to make a country more attractive to both domestic and foreign investment. In order to make investors feel secure about the funds they are investing in a country’s economy, they require access to timely information, such as industrial and investment policies; the operation of regulatory authorities and financial institutions; the criteria used to choose successful bidders in procurement processes, provide licenses and give credit; expatriation policies; and dispute redress mechanisms. In this way, the encouragement of a culture of transparent governance can be a significant step towards achieving a more open dialogue between a country’s government, its people, and domestic and foreign investors.
Economic growth is thus, more likely to be sustainable and equitably distributed in a transparent environment.
• The government of Afghanistan should ensure the highest possible level of transparency in its conduct of public affairs, including granting access to information upon request.
• The right of Access to Information is a way to foster good governance in the performance of public administration since it involves continuous public scrutiny and presumes that authorities are held responsible for possibly poor examples of administration and human rights abuses.
• The government should be open about its financial management and the services it provides to the citizens.
• The government should also be open about how policies and procedures regulate the development of these activities. As a minimum, this obligation should apply to the following areas:
• Development and realization of the Afghan policies, strategies, initiatives and physical planning.
• Financial decisions, including budgets and accounts.
• Decisions in administrative cases.
• Evaluation of government sector performance.
• Information about services.
• Meetings of the administration.