Working with UNFPA during the past year, I recall that we have had many discussions about how youth organizations can effectively and economically do advocacy at international conferences. The big question was how youth organizations can move from “classic advocacy” to new and smarter ways of doing advocacy. Of course, the options of how civil society can do advocacy varies from conference to conference, with some conferences giving civil society more opportunities to influence the debate than others. Still, I feel that with enhanced creativity, new and more effective ways of doing advocacy can be found for all kinds of conferences.
I would like to highlight an example of “smart advocacy” that I witnessed a couple of weeks ago through my work here at UNFPA. The conference at stake was the 64th UN Department of Public Information (DPI) Conference, which took place from 3-5 September 2011 in Bonn, Germany. The outcome document of this NGO conference constitutes an important input for the RIO+20 summit, which will take place in 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As the drafting process of the DPI conference’s outcome document started before the actual meeting in Bonn, youth organizations had the chance to do advocacy prior to the meeting by submitting inputs to the outcome document. A coalition of youth organizations working mostly on ICPD issues took this opportunity by collectively debating about meaningful inputs and submitting joint inputs to the drafting committee of the conference.
As a next step, three youth rapporteurs were appointed to attend the Bonn conference on behalf of the coalition of youth organizations. The organizations jointly outlined priorities in advance of the conference and mandated the three rapporteurs to advocate for these messages at the meeting.
Shortly before the actual conference, the three youth rapporteurs developed an advocacy strategy for the DPI conference and shared the strategy with the coalition of organizations. The strategy elaborated on which strategic meetings to attend at the conference, how to present the agreed messages at strategic opportunities, how to reach out to new potential partner organizations, and how the labor will be divided among the rapporteurs.
During the conference, the three rapporteurs gave great importance to transparently communicating their advocacy efforts to the coalition of organizations. For this purpose, the rapporteurs shared daily updates via a Google group and vice versa, they received further inputs from the coalition through this channel. Further, through a public Facebook group the rapporteurs informed an even broader group of youth organizations about their efforts at the conference.
Upon conclusion of the conference, the three rapporteurs compiled a report about their participation at the conference. In the report they explained their efforts at the conference, but more importantly they emphasized concrete outputs of their participation and outlined future advocacy opportunities.
Analyzing the advocacy work done by the coalition of youth organizations around the DPI conference, it seems like advocacy was done in an effective and economic way. Through tight collaboration, timely preparation, and the nomination of rapporteurs, the coalition was able to successfully highlight their messages at the DPI conference, include their priorities in the final outcome document of the meeting, and reach out to new potential partners.
All my creative thinkers out there: any other innovative and smart approaches to advocacy?
Having always been passionate about youth issues, Mischa has worked in various youth institutions in Switzerland, Nepal and Mexico. During the previous two years Mischa acted as Project Manager in Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum where he created and established the organization’s youth section. In this endeavor, Mischa has organized various events, roundtables and activities focusing on intergenerational dialogue. Currently, Mischa works for UNFPA as advocacy and communications specialist.