international_advocacy_organizationsInternational advocacy organizations are at the heart of improving the lives of millions all over the world. But what exactly are they? How do they function? How do they differ from other “charity” organizations? How effective are they?

A simple Google search provides a basic definition of an advocacy organization: “an ‘advocacy group’ is an organized collection of people who seek to influence political decisions and policy, without seeking election to public office.” Apply this to an organization working on a global scale and voila, an international advocacy organization.

However, things get sticky when the distinction is made between an international advocacy organization and other global nongovernment organizations (NGOs). But, there is a difference between an advocacy organization and a charity or other global NGO. For example, The Borgen Project is strictly an international advocacy organization. It advocates for the world’s poor.

However, another popular NGO named UNICEF is different. It provides aid, as well as a bit of advocacy as well. This is the difference. International advocacy organizations usually focus more on advocacy and not providing physical aid to those in poverty.

ONE Campaign is a perfect example of an international advocacy organization. ONE advocates for the world’s poor, with a particular focus on those in Africa. Their mission fits the definition of an advocacy organization perfectly: “we raise public awareness and work with political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency so governments are accountable to their citizens.”

ONE does not focus on raising the funds to build hospitals and schools. Instead, ONE does its work by educating and mobilizing thousands of volunteers who advocate and campaign to keep programs related to key issues regarding poverty funded by governments.

Global Citizen is another international advocacy organization, with a focus on advocacy and campaigning instead of direct aid. Global Citizen focuses on a broader group of issues and global challenges including health, education, water, sanitation and food security. Just like the ONE Campaign, Global Citizen mobilizes volunteers to campaign for awareness of these issues.

What do international advocacy organizations do to ensure efficiency and impact? The World Health Organization (WHO) suggest seven points to make sure that advocacy efforts are effective:

  1. Define the situation – identify the issue. For example, global poverty.
  2. Establish goals and objectives – specific, targeted, measurable long-term goals that can be met.
  3. Identify target audience – usually decision-makers (Congress) and people who influence decision-makers.
  4. Develop key messages – a clear, compelling, and structured message to deliver to target audiences.
  5. Develop and implement advocacy plan – plan by which messages are delivered to audience.
  6. Engage media interest – social media, advertising, and opinion pieces.
  7. Monitoring and evaluation – important to assess and monitor the impact of advocacy efforts in order to make improvements.

Global advocacy organizations are generally effective at what they do. In 2014, Global Citizen along with 18 partners successfully saw the passage of the Water for the World Act in the United States and $639 million secured for the provision of quality education to kids in impoverished countries. The ONE Campaign has a long list of successful accomplishments, including seeing the United Kingdom become the first country to meet the 0.7% as a share of national income international aid target set 43 years ago, as well as successful advocacy for the African Growth and Opportunities Act which mutually improved trade ties between the United States and Africa.

These are only a few of the many successes of Global Citizen and the ONE campaign, and only a minute number when the multitude of other international advocacy organizations around the world are taken into account. Global advocacy organizations are key to fighting poverty and with more successes, they will continue to improve the lives of millions around the world.

– Greg Baker

Sources: ONE 1, ONE 2 Global Citizen, WHO
Photo: Unicef