Is the coalition making the most of the membership at meetings?


For some coalitions, managing a large and diverse delegation at a formal meeting with delegates from governments, international organisations, businesses and so on will be a key task. Having a coalition in place is a good first step for organising NGO participation in such meetings and those hosting such meetings, very often governments or international organisations, are likely to be quite grateful if NGOs organise themselves.

“During the negotiating process lots of NGOs wanted meetings with US, UK, Russia etc. The Coalition would set up the meetings and then liaise with NGOs about what the key issues were, what order to raise them, who asks, who responds. We could also use the diversity of membership to avoid problematic perceptions of governments. This strategy of meeting coordination helped to get the Coalition formally recognised as the mechanism for NGO representation.”

Bill Pace, Coalition for the International Criminal Court

One of the main things that NGOs tend to do at meetings is lobbying, and when a crowd of opinionated and passionate activists descends on government delegates coordination is important. Coordinated lobbying is a two-way process. It involves gathering the information via meetings, and disseminating it through specific messages.

One way to organise lobbying has been through regional and thematic leads, where the advocacy goals are broken down into specific themes under one individual’s responsibility and different regions are similarly assigned lead individuals to coordinate them. The structure and key messages can be conveyed to all participants from the coalition through a book
that they receive at the start of the meeting – or electronically beforehand.

“We held a dozen or so campaign forums during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference to mobilise people and convey our message. NGOs also had an hour every morning from 8-9am to share plans and talk strategy, including on some joint statements and a few joint actions. We had a different chair every day. Then from 9-10am every morning we had an Ambassador come to see us, so we could prepare our approach to that government. ICAN and Abolition 2000 coordinated the NGO meetings in the mornings and Reaching Critical Will coordinated the briefings with Ambassadors. We had good feedback from Ambassadors who were impressed with the unity of the message about prohibiting nuclear weapons.”

Tim Wright, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons


The Cluster Munition Coalition put in place a detailed structure for lobbying during the two-week final negotiating conference in May 2008, held at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland. The key elements of this structure are set out below.

Thematic facilitators
There were eight ‘thematic facilitators’, each responsible for one key area under negotiation: general obligations, definitions, clearance of unexploded ordnance, victim assistance, stockpile destruction, cooperation and assistance, transparency and compliance, and national implementation.

Regional facilitators
There were nine regional facilitators, each responsible for communications between campaigners from different regions (Africa, Francophone Africa, CIS, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, Pacific, South Asia, South-East Asia). They were responsible for ensuring lobbying was undertaken with all of the government delegations at the conference and reported back to thematic facilitators and other campaigners.

This lobbying coordination structure was explained over email and then in person during a weekend orientation meeting prior to the conference. The facilitators were active during the daily morning briefings, and debriefed with the steering committee and staff at daily evening briefings. They also helped organise ad hoc meetings of their regional and thematic groups.

In addition to feedback during daily morning and evening meetings, each facilitator was issued with a pre-paid local mobile phone and the numbers were listed in the lobbying handbook.

In addition to publicity materials, CMC produced a series of documents specifically aimed at supporting lobbying.

Another key task for the coalition at a meeting is to keep people informed and working as a group. An effective way to do this is to have an orientation meeting at the beginning, morning briefings every day and a debrief meeting at the end of the meeting. Sometimes during a big conference it might be necessary to convene other meetings to deal with particular issues that arise.


Coalition team meeting to discuss plans for the day, logistics, events and so on

Sign off of coalition daily updates by relevant steering group members and printing for distribution

Daily morning briefing for all coalition campaigners to discuss plans for the day

Plenary discussions commence for the day, campaigners disperse to lobby delegates, participate in discussions in the conference rooms and so on

Lunchtime side events commence; possibly three or four in parallel

Plenary discussions recommence for the day, campaigners disperse to lobby delegates, follow discussions in the conference rooms, and so on

Steering group, regional and thematic facilitators and staff meet for daily debrief to highlight concerns, take decisions on strategy, discuss media lines and plan for the following day

Evening side events hosted by coalition or others, including government hosted receptions where campaigners can undertake lobbying of delegates

Dinners, used for planning, preparations for the following day or official dinners hosted by government delegations

Here are some ideas for making the most of the membership during a major conference.

  • Have a clear set of roles and responsibilities that cover all the aspects of the coalition’s work at the conference. Make full use of key people from the membership and ensure the burden of work is shared.
  • Have a clear system for organising the lobbying during the meeting. While planning for day-to-day needs, be prepared to deal with internal problems and disagreements.
  • Keep people busy through side events, field trips, advocacy planning, skills sharing workshops in addition to the key work of lobbying. Give responsibilities to key people to ensure their buy-in.
  • Plan how to deal with any NGOs who attend the meeting but are not part of the coalition – will the organisers expect the coalition to coordinate these organisations also?
  • Ensure a clear communication channel with the meeting hosts and organisers. At any big conference there will inevitably be points where the hosts are putting pressure on the coalition and vice versa. Strong relationships here can help to reduce possible tensions.


You must be logged in to post a comment.