Winning in the court of public opinion

Let’s be clear: the purpose of public advocacy is to give voice, particularly to those who are marginalized and who want to bring about change. To win arguments in what I call ‘the court of public opinion’; and then to achieve the desired outcome.

For such advocacy to be e!ective, campaigners have to adopt some of the skills, discipline and rigor of the legal profession. To recognize that while the ‘court’ in which they operate may be di!erent from judicial proceedings, nevertheless they face the same challenges as lawyers do. They must win over first, the ‘jury’ or key experts and stakeholders; second, the ‘public gallery’ and third, the ‘judge’ or key decision-makers – and achieve a result.

Examples of successful public advocacy campaigns include the Kenyan Greenbelt movement – led by women – which has planted 30 million trees: the Greenpeace ozone layer campaign for the Montreal Protocol; ACT UP and other campaigns for gay rights; the South African Treatment Action Campaign for equal access to HIV prevention and treatment services; the campaign for the banning of land-mines; for an international criminal court, for fair trade.

And also a campaign close to my heart, the northsouth Jubilee 2000 campaign for the cancellation of debts owed by more than forty of the poorest countries.

2018-04-11T15:07:29+00:00