What is needed to turn a policy or legal achievement into practical change?
In her 2008 chapter Still Alive and Kicking: The International Campaign to Ban Landmines in the book Banning Landmines previously cited, Elizabeth Bernstein gives a useful description of how the ICBL considered its future and adapted itself to a new phase of campaigning and advocacy work as a coalition. The chapter highlights a number of the items considered here, including whether the coalition should disband, the importance of consulting members of the coalition, the need for changes in coalition structure and possible changes in the focus of work, the turnover of staff and campaigners and the realisation that the hard work often starts once you have achieved your goal.
A number of people interviewed for this book noted the importance of long-term civil society commitment in order to convert legal obligations and policy commitments into concrete action. This is based on recognition that governments and businesses generally don’t do things unless they have to. In this way the continued presence and pressure from civil society can help to determine the success or failure of an initiative. It is important to build a process, for example some kind of forum that convenes the key actors on a regular basis.
It can be easier to get states to make a political or legal change on paper than it is to convince them to make a change to the way they distribute resources. Keeping track of government policy and practice at a national level in relation to the commitments they have made internationally can be a very effective way of promoting implementation. To do this it may be necessary to move towards a country-by-country approach, where national-level work becomes more important than international-level work. This may mean there is less you can do with big international conferences and more to be done through national advocacy.
THE POWER OF MONITORING
This section is based on Mary Wareham’s 2008 chapter Evidence-Based Advocacy: Civil Society Monitoring of the Mine Ban Treaty, in Banning Landmines and Thomas Nash’s 2010 article The role of NGO activism in the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in Disarmament Forum.*
The ‘Landmine Monitor’, set up by the ICBL in 1998, published its first report in 1999 and has published an annual report every year since then. As an initiative run by civil society and funded largely by governments, it has embedded civil society in the implementation structure of the Mine Ban Treaty. The research by ICBL members that make up the research network around the world has forged lasting relationships with government officials responsible for implementing the treaty. The work of the Landmine Monitor system has contributed to a ‘culture of implementation’ and has made it the norm for states to share information with NGOs on issues, such as military stockpiles, that were previously quite sensitive.
The reports of the Landmine Monitor have become the reference for delegates to Mine Ban Treaty meetings and have undoubtedly influenced the level
of reporting by states and the way this is done. It has been the cornerstone of the ”evidence-based advocacy” that Wareham has described as a key pillar of the ICBL’s influence.The annual reports have demonstrated the achievements generated as a result of the Mine Ban Treaty and have not shied away from shining the spotlight on those states that are failing to live up to their commitments.
Very importantly, the establishment of the Landmine Monitor subsequent to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty provided a mechanism for the coalition to evolve its work on the landmine issue, it gave the ICBL a focus during a period of change and provided a framework for sustained engagement by existing members of the coalition and fresh engagement from others. Over the longer term, the Landmine Monitor has been an important funding stream for the ICBL and its key member organisations, facilitating their continued activism within the coalition.
Wareham suggests that the “Landmine Monitor has demonstrated that civil society-based verification is no longer just a concept but can be a practice and a model for other campaigns to consider when exploring similar initiatives.”
* Disarmament Forum, 2010, no. 1, Implementing the Convention on Cluster Munitions, UNIDIR, Geneva.