Is the coalition’s evidence and research a source of credibility and accountability?
Another key role of a coalition is to marshal evidence gathered by members so that it can be used throughout the coalition as a whole. In some political processes, NGOs can present a ’field reality‘ that has an impact on decision makers. When used well, this field evidence can give the coalition – and consequently its members – a powerful voice
Some NGOs have the capacity to gather more data than others due to their network of researchers and operational programmes in different countries. Some of this information can be sensitive due to the sources and the circumstances under which it is gathered. Some NGOs might be reluctant or unable to share data, bound by non-disclosure agreements or other such conditions on its use.
NGOs might adopt different methodologies for reporting facts and figures: some might be relatively conservative while others might seek to play up statistics to bolster the case for change. The way in which data is used can affect the legitimacy of these NGOs and of the coalition as a whole. If a coalition of NGOs is deriving its authority and legitimacy by representing civil society in a range of countries then it bears a responsibility to use data carefully and consistently. Otherwise the coalition opens itself up to attacks from opponents and risks losing credibility.
Some questions that might help in thinking through this:
- Does the coalition as a whole undertake research or is this left to members?
- What is the process for the coalition deciding what facts and figures it will use in materials and statements?
- What is the process for mediating between the different uses of data by different members of the coalition?
Initiatives frequently undertaken by coalitions include:
- Global Days of Action – CMC, IANSA, ICAN and others have all organised global days or weeks of action where campaigners around the world are encouraged to take a range of actions to mark an occasion or present a call for action to governments. Actions can include public demonstrations, meetings with officials, concerts, exhibitions and accompanying media work.
- The “adopt a negotiator project” – pioneered by the Global Campaign for Climate Action and also used by the Control Arms campaign. It provides a system for specific activists to follow the statements of specific delegations at a negotiation and report on that delegation’s actions via a central website.
- People’s consultation – in different countries, Control Arms worked with various media, street theatre, text, Facebook etc. to gather people’s views on an arms trade treaty, The results of this consultation were then presented to governments during the negotiations.
Presenting these individual national level activities as part of a whole serves to amplify their power as perceived by decision makers. To mark the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, campaigners took actions in over 80 countries. No matter how big or small these events were, they were recorded on a dedicated website and contributed to a global collective action: www.august1.org