LOBBYING AND ADOPTION OF LAWS AND POLICIES
In order to ensure that a draft law or policy is actually enacted, the working group should analyze the decision- making framework and develop an advocacy plan concurrent with the actual drafting of the legislation itself. That way, working group members will be apprised of the political situation, aware of the steps that must be taken to achieve enactment of their law or policy, and prepared to introduce the draft at the most opportune moment. Among the issues that should be considered in creating a lobbying plan are:
Legislative or Administrative Process. In order to advocate effectively it is necessary to understand the decision-maker’s “rules of the road.” What is the process and where are potential obstacles? It is necessary for advocates to understand the legislative or administrative process that must be followed. For example, in many countries laws must be approved by a ministry, reviewed by the council of ministers, approved by a parliamentary committee, and finally reviewed, amended, and ultimately approved by the full parliament. A clear understanding of each step and the priorities of the different committees and individuals who contribute to the process is essential. Champions. Which individuals or organizations will be the “champions” – that is, the leaders of the advocacy process – in the government? In civil society? The coalition or working group seeking enactment of a volunteerism law or policy should consider the most effective champions among different constituencies – for example, an influential legislator with credibility among his or her peers. Coalition-Building. Working group members must work together to develop a plan to create a broad coalition in favor of legislative change. Organizations and individuals who share an interest in volunteerism should be brought into the coalition, and efforts should be made to reach out to other stakeholders who may benefit from a law or policy, even if these additional stakeholders are not normally allies on other political, social, or economic issues. Advocacy Techniques. In building and communicating support to policymakers, advocates should consider a number of techniques, including “grassroots lobbying” such as petitions and letters to members of parliament, as well as direct lobbying through meetings with members of parliament and other government officials. Communication with Media. Advocates will need to consider a media strategy. They should understand who their allies and critics are in the media and work to obtain favorable media coverage that will support efforts to enact a new law or policy. Working groups should consider radio, TV, print, internet, and other media sources, keep their materials relevant, current, and interesting, and time the release of their materials to coincide with media deadlines. Advocates can issue press releases, organize press conferences, write editorials, and appear in a variety of media. Careful use of the media can influence government and bring the agenda of volunteer advocates into the national consciousness. According to several government officials and domestic CSOs, Nicaragua’s 2005 Law on Social Volunteerism came about in large part because of lobbying efforts made by domestic actors as well as the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations. Without the intervention of a strong lobbying campaign, Nicaraguan legislators would not have been likely to pass the law during that year’s legislative session.