Public policy is a function of the dominant politics. Politics is a dominant set of power relationships, so there is a need to understand the link between public policies and political process on the one hand; and political process and power relationship within the society on the other hand.
An issue needs to be framed the way people feel and perceive it. An issue is a social, economic or political concern or phenomenon, which affects a large number of people over a long period of time. It needs to be understood in terms of power relationships within the society, politics of the state and the policy priorities.
One of the key problems in most of the countries in the Global south is the increasing gap between policy rhetoric and real implementation. Radical sounding language is increasingly used to gloss over deprivation, injustice and inequality. Through the co-option of language, symbols and institutions that claim to represent civil society and the marginalised, decision makers tend to create more and more policy mirage. Policy mirage is a public policy statement, which articulates a lofty vision and principles for change, without any clear programme to move toward that vision and without any budgetary allocation to implement the policy. Such policy mirages create illusions of change while perpetuating the status quo. Hence, there is a need to understand and change a public policy in terms of policy direction, relevant legislation, accompanying programme, implementing mechanisms and most importantly financial allocation.
Advocacy means amplifying the voice for a positive change. But the fundamental question facing activists is whose voice and for what purpose. Across the world large numbers of people are marginalized and unheard in the corridors of power and advocacy is the process of using information strategically to change policies that affect the lives of these disadvantaged people. It often involves lobbying northern development and political institutions. Increasingly southern NGOs are developing advocacy skills to challenge local, national and international policies.
This involves strengthening the structures through which poor people can participate in the formulation of the policies that control their lives, for example developing strong local networks and representation on local and national civic institutions. Projects, which involve the people affected by policy change in developing, implementing and monitoring advocacy work are more likely to achieve concrete change on the ground.
Characteristics of People-centered Advocacy
People-centered advocacy is a set of organized actions aimed at influencing public policies, societal attitudes and socio-political processes that enable and empower the marginalised to speak for themselves. Its purpose is social transformation through the realization of human rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural.
People-centered advocacy is
by the people,
of the people and
for the people.
Hence, it is the spirit of democracy that drives the very idea of people-centered advocacy.
What has SANSAD done so far?
- Finance Ministry : budget analysis and what needs to be done for helping the rural poor
- Defence Ministry : reduction in budget
- Commerce Ministry : WTO and other trade related issues affecting agriculture and livelihoods
- Health Ministry : AIDS drugs
- Prime Minister’s Office : WTO and Farmer’s Rights
- Advocacy with governments at the South Asian Convention of the People’s Summit against Poverty
- Lobbying with the SAARC Secretariat through the recommendations emanating out of the South Asian People’s Summit
- Mobilisation and participation in WTO 2005, FAO, G5 meet
- Presentation of paper on the Doha Agenda at the Carnegie Foundation
- Participation at ICARRD, Brazil for Agrarian Reforms