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Advocacy Challenges in Weak States

  • Advocacy

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Traditional democracy promotion programs focus on community or civil society advocates that define their agenda and ask for change from the government.  This model works if the government has strong institutions with funding, staff, and budget capacity. But many transitional countries have weaker government institutions with few resources and multiple priorities.  In these places, advocacy campaigns make for a lopsided effort that usually frustrates advocates and government leaders.

In weak states, democracy works best when government and advocates communicate, create understanding, build trust, and problem-solve to make changes. 

Advocates Should Consider

  • Articulate policies, practices, or legal changes to government bodies or leaders. When possible, provide the language for the policy and law.
  • Evidence of positive outcomes from similar programs, academic research, or other countries provides the justification for action, and should be incorporated into advocacy communications.
  • Outline small steps on a longer road map that the government can take to make progress over time.
  • Appreciate that decision-making and implementation are challenging in all governments and aim to progress steadily over time.
  • Understand government budget opportunities and constraints. Consider realistic requests, and suggest ways of cost saving.
  • When possible, eliminate barriers or suggest ways to limit barriers to implementation.

 Work with Government

  • The government must understand the importance of actively informing citizens, engaging them in dialogue, and responding to their needs.
  • Work cooperatively with advocates on how to overcome challenges or barriers.
  • Create plans, budgets, and timelines to provide direction to implementing staff.
  • Leverage existing public information opportunities such as explanatory materials and websites, citizen information centers, and social media.
  • Increase target communications to key public audiences on information they want to know.
  • Evaluate gaps in citizen compliance or behaviors to identify messages and avenues to increase acceptance.