For Help Contact:
Gareth Price
Tel: +41 79 910 2971

28. Advocacy

Advocacy is the deliberate process of influencing those who make decisions about developing, changing and implementing policies. Advocacy is one of the strategies available to CARE to respond to the humanitarian needs of people affected by emergencies. Advocacy may be an appropriate way to make positive changes to the policy decisions or conditions that are causing or maintaining a situation of acute humanitarian need. Humanitarian advocacy during an emergency is usually primarily directed at ensuring people’s access to life-saving assistance and protection in line with core humanitarian principles. It aims to uphold people’s rights in crisis, which are codified in international humanitarian and human rights standards.

1.1 CI roles and responsibilities for advocacy

1.2 Role of a policy and advocacy advisor in an emergency


  • Consider the range of advocacy approaches that could help achieve CARE’s programme goals, and how the complement operational approaches.
  • Use advocacy as one of the options that CARE has to promote a rights-based response to the emergency.
  • Develop a basic understanding of key international and regional legal frameworks that underpin rights-based humanitarian advocacy.
  • Coordinate with the various actors in CARE International to activate support for CO-level advocacy actions and to coordinate global level advocacy initiatives.
  • Undertake a process of problems identification and prioritisation to determine what the most important issues are that could be addressed through advocacy.
  • Apply basic criteria and risk analysis to emerging issues to determine whether advocacy is an appropriate and feasible response, and ensure that potential benefits outweigh risks.
  • Develop an advocacy strategy that is appropriate to the emergency context. This may be simplified in an acute crisis, or more comprehensive in a protracted crisis.
  • Ensure that the advocacy strategy is based on a sound analysis of the problem.
  • Develop a reliable base of information.
  • Identify clear goals and objectives for the advocacy strategy, which outline the specific policy changes that are sought.
  • Analyse and identify the key target audiences of CARE’s advocacy strategy.
  • Identify allies and opponents.
  • Define key messages, tools and actions to be used.
  • Plan the timing of the strategy carefully to take advantage of key events and opportunities to influence the target audience.
  • Identify and secure human and financial resources required to implement the strategy.
  • Include specific actions to mitigate and manage risks in the advocacy strategy.
  • Develop monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress and impacts.

Advocacy generally involves a variety of approaches which may be public or private; collaborative or confrontational; or a combination of all these. Advocates use a diverse number of tools and methods, including statements and media outreach, grassroots mobilisation, lobbying with policy makers, networking, and coalition-building.

Public advocacy might involve public statements and published policy papers. Approaches for private lobbying with decision-makers include sharing specific information confidentially and supporting local coalitions, particularly in contexts where public activities may carry some form of risk (see section 8.2).

Communication strategies are an important element of advocacy approaches. As advocacy aims to specifically influence policy, it is important to distinguish advocacy statements from other types of public statements that CARE may make, such as those aimed merely at taking a public stance on a crisis to profile CARE, or for fundraising purposes. It is critical, however, that CARE’s different types of communications are coordinated so that they reinforce each other and avoid any potential undermining of each other’s messages and goals. (see Chapter 13 Media)

Advocacy can take place at different levels, from local to global, depending on where the greatest capacity to effect change is. Humanitarian advocacy may involve direct, immediate interaction with officials at local, provincial and national levels. Advocacy concerns can also be shared internationally in government capital cities and multilateral institutions at a global level to reinforce messages delivered locally.

Advocacy can be carried out by the people and groups directly affected by injustice, by local NGOs and international organisations such as CARE on their behalf, or by a combination of both.

CARE’s humanitarian mandate identifies advocacy as a tool that can be used as a response to humanitarian needs in emergencies. This reflects the organisation’s commitment to a holistic rights-based approach to humanitarian relief (refer to Chapter 2 Humanitarian policy framework).

CARE’s humanitarian mandate extends to protracted crises and post-crisis recovery where issues related to community rehabilitation, peace-building and reconstruction can be important for advocacy strategies. Country Offices considering longer-term advocacy strategies should refer to Annex 28.4 CI Advocacy Handbook

Country Offices may also identify advocacy as a strategy for reducing risk in their emergency preparedness plans. Refer to Chapter 37 Emergency preparedness planning, for advice on including policy analysis and advocacy in scenario development and risk-reduction measures.

CARE’s humanitarian advocacy draws on international legal frameworks and guiding principles-which establish human rights and humanitarian law-as well as common standards and codes of conduct subscribed to by the humanitarian community. The key frameworks are:

  • International Humanitarian Law/Geneva Conventions
  • 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees
  • international human rights conventions
  • Statute of the International Criminal Court
  • Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief
  • NGO codes of conduct (refer to Chapter 2 Humanitarian policy framework, and Chapter 9 Cross-cutting issues)
  • The Core Humanitarian Standard, Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response
  • Numerous UN Security Council country-specific mandates and protection resolutions.

These frameworks establish the obligations of governments, parties to conflict, humanitarian agencies and other actors in emergencies to ensure that affected populations receive assistance and protection (refer to Annex 28.5 Summary of relevant international standards).

These principles must guide CARE’s programming and advocacy response in any crisis. See Chapter 2 Humanitarian policy framework, and Chapter 32 Quality and accountability, for practical advice on achieving this. The responsibilities of other actors-such as states and parties to conflict-to ensure populations receive assistance and protection provides a basis for humanitarian advocacy targeting policy and decision-makers.

6.1 Support for CO advocacy efforts

6.2 Global-level advocacy

Emergencies raise a large number of potential advocacy issues, at a time when capacity is often stretched. The CO must carefully identify and prioritise a few issues, and determine whether advocacy would be an appropriate and feasible response for the CO and others in CARE.

Advocacy is usually based on programmatic priorities as determined by the concerns of affected communities. In an emergency, issues may be identified based on response activities, programme experience, research, witnessing and observation.

The following questions can help issues prioritisation:

  • Does the issue affect a large number of people?
  • Does it have a significant impact on affected populations in terms of threats to life or welfare?
  • Does the issue affect CARE’s field work or response priorities?
  • Is the issue one that the CO has previously advocated?
  • Does the issue connect to or complement CARE’s global advocacy initiatives and overall mission?
  • Where does CARE fit into the policy landscape? Who are our likely allies and what level of effort is already being devoted to the issue?
  • Does CARE have credibility with beneficiaries and policymakers on this issue?

7.1 Common advocacy themes in emergencies.

When key issues are identified, the decision to engage in advocacy must be considered by reviewing the CARE’s criteria for engaging in advocacy in an emergency (see section 8.1).

The decision whether or not to engage in advocacy as part of a humanitarian response should be made by the Country Director, together with the CO Advocacy Advisor/RAA and senior management team. The decision should be made in consultation with the Lead Member and CEG through the Crisis Coordination Group. The presence of a CO will be the first condition required to decide whether to use advocacy as part of a humanitarian response.

A rapid SWOT analysis can help the CO to assess its internal strengths and weaknesses against the external opportunities and threats (see Annex 28.6 SWOT).

8.1 Key criteria

8.2 Assessing risks of advocacy

When the decision has been taken to engage in advocacy, a clear advocacy strategy must be developed.

9.1 Different levels of planning

9.2 Key questions and strategy format

9.2.1 Standard advocacy strategy format

9.3 Problem analysis

9.3.1 Information gathering

9.3.2 Problem analysis checklist

9.4 Goal and objectives

9.5 Rationale for CARE’s engagement

9.6 Target audience

9.7 Identifying allies and opponents

9.7.1 Collaboration on humanitarian advocacy

9.8 Advocacy messages

9.9 Tools and actions

9.9.1 Case study: CARE advocacy and the Darfur Crisis

9.10 Opportunities and events

9.11 Human and financial resources

9.12 Risk management

9.13 Monitoring and evaluation

When CARE sets up an emergency response in a country or region where it has no prior operational presence, an initial advocacy response is likely to be limited to support positions of peer organisations (based on fundamental IHL principles) or building on relevant CI policies on thematic issues such as humanitarian coordination, aid effectiveness and ‘humanitarian space’.

The decision to do any longer-term advocacy must depend on a solid understanding of the local context, knowledge of key actors and credibility with policymakers. If advocacy is still determined to be essential, the CI approach should be based primarily on collaboration with allies or coalitions who have more experience locally, so as to rely on their deeper contextual understanding and credibility.