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Advice and Guidance (Part 2)
A fundamental part of AI's approach is inviting other organizations to support its goals. Outreach is an important component of AI campaigning, and groups and sections are expected to try to involve other bodies in the movement's program.
Similarly, other organizations often ask AI to support their activities. Trade unions, other human rights monitors, and exile or refugee groups frequently approach AI and ask it to take part in their public events and to endorse their goals.
To avoid misunderstandings about AI's limited mandate, and to safeguard its independence and impartiality, AI must exercise care when it works with other organizations. This is especially important when the cooperation involves any public or formal activity.
AI can work together with other organizations in many ways, for example:
Needless to say, individual members of AI are free to support publicly any cause or organization they wish _ provided they do so in their personal capacities and not as representatives of AI.
Whenever another organization asks for AI's support, AI groups and sections should consider:
Is it possible that AI's participation in this activity will lead to public confusion about the movement's mandate, or risk damaging its reputation for independence and impartiality?
When in doubt about what to do, consult your section office or, if there is no section, the International Secretariat.
Apart from the situations listed above, AI does not normally work together in a public or formal manner with other bodies.
As a rule, AI does not, jointly with other bodies: sponsor public meetings, hold demonstrations, conduct news conferences, issue statements or publications, sign resolutions or appeals, or endorse conclusions or recommendations.
Other organizations may express disappointment that AI is not always able to support their demonstrations and appeals.
It should be explained to them that AI's independence and impartiality _ both in practice and in the eyes of the public _ help to ensure the effectiveness of the movement's work on behalf of victims of human rights violations.
This policy does not reflect either approval or disapproval of the aims, policies, or judgments of other organizations.
When AI's policy on joint activities is explained carefully to them, most can appreciate and accept the movement's position, especially if they see that it applies consistently to all other bodies.
AI groups sometimes invite to their meetings speakers who have concerns that go beyond AI's mandate.
Such people might appear as personal witnesses to human rights violations, or they might be scholars or journalists who can help put AI's campaigning into a more meaningful context.
In each case, it should be made clear to the group that the speaker's views on matters outside the AI mandate are strictly his or her own.
Project planning: strategies for success
Within AI, the term campaigning refers generally to any systematic activity by the membership designed to create pressure in support of the movement's mandate goals.
AI campaigning can take many different forms. Here are just a few examples:
Often, in creating an action plan for the movement, the International Secretariat invites specific sections to take part if it feels they can wield a special influence on a target country. Likewise, in launching any particular action, AI sections will make strategic choices about involving specific groups, networks, and other campaigning resources that may be available.
Similarly, an AI group that has decided to carry out any type of action will be faced with a wide range of choices. It will find many ways to draw upon the resources of the group itself and of its community.
Just as your group should create an annual plan to guide its overall program, it should also make a plan to guide each project that is in this program.
A good project plan will help your group select from its many options, use its resources in an efficient way, and make a greater impact on the target government.
A plan will:
How a group chooses to go about making a plan depends on the group's style and situation, and on the details of the project before it.
Here is a basic outline for organizing any type of AI action project:
Begin consideration of the project well in advance of its launch date. Facilities may have to be booked, and people will need to schedule their own time.
To help get an early start, watch the movement's action calendar (issued by the International Secretariat or via section newsletters) where major activities are announced.
No AI group is expected to join in every action on the movement's calendar. At the same time, every group is expected to maintain a reasonable and consistent level of campaigning activity.
Members of the group should make a collective decision on its participation in any particular project. The group itself is the best judge of whether the project fits into its annual plan, and whether it has the members, time, and resources to do a good job.
If the group does decide to take part in a project, its members should also agree on the broad level of their involvement: Roughly what proportion of your group's time and energy will it devote to this activity?
Ensure the overall coordination and management of the project. In some instances, responsibility could be delegated to one person. In others, a small team of group members could be formed.
Before the project team defines its specific aims, it makes an inventory of the resources at its disposal.
It lists resources available from the section or from the International Secretariat. It also makes a list of the local opportunities for bringing pressure on the target government _ skills that exist in the group or in the community, contacts who may have a special influence, social or political forces that can be exploited.
For every AI campaign or action that the organization undertakes, the International Secretariat develops an overall, movement-wide strategy.
Each campaign is designed to achieve mandate goals _ the release of prisoners of conscience, fair trials for political detainees, the lifting of death sentences, and so on. Each campaign also carries a list of recommended actions _ letter-writing to an array of officials in the target country, outreach to key social sectors, lobbying of the home government, and so forth.
To help guide its local campaigning, a group will establish its own local strategy.
Each group will consider how it can make the most effective contribution to the international strategy. One way to do this is to compare the international goals and recommended actions with the resources at the group's disposal, and to create a plan of action that reflects the common points.
The group's project team will ask itself questions such as these: Which of the International Secretariat's recommended actions can we carry out well in this community? What unique contribution to the worldwide action can we make by drawing upon the interests and skills of our own members and our own neighbourhood.
If, for example, one of the recommended actions is mass appeals, the group may identify:
Goal: Take advantage of the facilities offered by the local trade union, and design, print, and distribute a thousand postcards
If a recommended action is publicity, the group may identify:
Goal: Get an interview with the local radio station, where the manager is a well-known AI supporter
If a recommended action is lobbying, the group may identify:
Goal: Persuade a local politician, said to have a growing interest in international affairs, to raise the campaign issue during a speech in the assembly
The group's campaign goals should be expressed simply and clearly, and if possible, in terms that can be observed or measured.
Each of the three goals above states simply and clearly what the group intends to achieve, in terms that will make it easy to know whether it has been successful.
By this point, a group may realize that it has identified a long list of goals _ more perhaps than it can realistically hope to accomplish.
If this is the case, the project team must say yes to some goals and no to others. It does this by asking the question: Which of these goals will help our group create the most effective pressure?
The team must now choose to tackle certain goals and to set the others aside, perhaps for a different occasion.
It is crucial to a group's success that it aims, at the start, to do only as much as it reasonably can.
Assign responsibilities for specific activities, such as letter-writing, publicity, and fund-raising. Share the workload fairly, and agree on reasonable deadlines.
Create and distribute a week-by-week action calendar making clear who has volunteered to do what, and when.
As the project goes forward, the coordinator keeps every team member informed about what is happening.
And, even though the project has been carefully planned, the team maintains a flexible outlook. It stands ready to discuss and make changes in the plan that seem to be necessary.
Assess the success of the project in terms of its goals, as stated in step 6. Was the measurable outcome achieved? Did the observable events happen?
Learn from any difficulties or complications the group may have encountered. Ask: What will we do in a different way next time?
Celebrate the group's successes. Ask: What will we do in the same way next time?
Be sure to share the evaluation with all members of the group.
If it seems appropriate to do so, share the evaluation with the section or, if there is no section, with the International Secretariat. It is vital for the long-term enrichment of all AI's work that every part of the movement learns from the experiences of others.
An easy way for members of your group to create an inventory of its hidden campaigning resources is to make the list together.
During a full group meeting, describe briefly the key goals of the project. Set out broadly what the project seeks to achieve and how it will go about doing this. Mention any special AI materials (such as a report or a leaflet) that are on hand.
Then, ask the participants to name any contacts or links or services they know of _ located here in the community _ that can help make this action a success.
Every suggestion that is named is written down, no matter how far-fetched or inappropriate it may seem. Discussion is postponed until the exercise has been concluded.
Group members can be prompted with questions such as:
Do you know anyone who...
...and so on.
All the ideas are printed on a blackboard or on a large piece of chart-paper so that everyone can see what has already been suggested. Often, it happens that one idea will trigger many fresh suggestions. They may even come forward faster than they can be recorded.
The list-making can continue for a specified period or until the ideas are exhausted.
After a simple exercise such as this, a group will almost always discover that it has, at hand in its own community, a richer supply of campaigning resources than it had imagined.
To increase the impact of any campaigning project, take advantage of the group's imagination and creativity. Integrate techniques.
Publicity has always been one of Als most powerful techniques for putting pressure on governments that violate human rights.
Every part of the organization plays a key role in getting Als message published in newspapers, and broadcast on radio and television.
Many voices, one message:
Local groups are responsible for approaches to their community media. Sections deal with their national media. And the International Secretariat handles contacts with international media such as major news services and international radio and television.
Because different parts of Al are working simultaneously to publicize the movements message, it is crucial for Als image and credibility that these efforts be coordinated. If the movement expects to be taken seriously, the information it presents to the world must be consistent.
Your group can help safeguard the consistency of the Al message by observing the following practices:
· do not send material to national publications or broadcasting stations without first checking with the section. Als work can be damaged if major news organizations are faced with uncoordinated statements
· do not send news material to the press outside your own country. In special circumstances, members may be asked to write letters to foreign publications; however, press approaches to foreign media risk conflicting with the work of other Al groups or sections or the International Secretariat
· do not send material to international news agencies or to international radio and television networks, all of which are in regular contact with the International Secretariat
· do work closely with other Al groups that may be based in the same local area to make the most effective use of the media
The groups media contact person
The best way your group can ensure that its media approaches are coordinated is to appoint an experienced member as its media contact person. This person can be responsible for:
· keeping in touch with the sections media staff, or, in countries without a section, with the International Secretariat
· becoming familiar with the local media community, and building a relationship of mutual respect and confidence with the journalists
· developing skills in handling interviews and other tasks, and passing these skills to other group members
· arranging all contacts between other group members and local journa]ists, and monitoring these contacts to ensure the consistency of the message
· answering any questions that come from journalists
· adapting Al news releases to the community, and issuing them to the local media
The news release
One of the easiest and least expensive methods of sending information to the media is the news release. Here are some tips on creating an effective release:
· make it clear that the local group and not the section or the international movement is the body issuing the news release. The first thing the editor should see is the name and address of the group, and the last thins the name and telephone number of a local contact person
· if there is an embargo date restricting release of the information, state plainly on a line by itself:
"Par Release: (date)"
· provide a short, simple headiine
· the text should be brief usually no more than two pages and the style should be clear. A long complicated document may be thrown away, or may be rewritten so much that the message win be lost
· present the most important point in the opening sentence
· emphasize the local angle. Mention any colourful event or prominent personality who may figure in the story. Create the image of this community playing a part in the struggle against human rights violations around the world
· always say what Al is, and say it early in the text. Even a short phrase will do:
"Amnesty International, the worldwide human rights movement..."
· type and double-space the news release
· make certain that the contact person is well-informed about Al and about the subject of the news release, and can answer questions accurately
· when planning a public event, such as a demonstration or a fund-raising project, visualize and design it in such a way that it will attract the medias cameras. Make it dramatic and photogenic
· send to the news media announcements of the groups routine events, including its regular information tables and its general meetings
· remember that high-profile people are usually fond of getting publicity and that their presence often draws the media. Invite two or three dignitaries who are known Al supporters and who represent a range of political viewpoints to attend Als public events
· when lobbying your home government on a human rights issue (such as legislation concerning the death penalty, or ratification of a human rights standard) strengthen the pressure by writing to the letters-to-the-editor columns of newspapers
· in interviews or articles, make mention of any current action project, and encourage the public to help
· dont forget to work with the specialized media trade union newspapers, professional newsletters, or radio and television programs that report on issues relating to concerns of women, youth, and children
· look for free media services. Many newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations will provide space and time for community-oriented "public service announcements"
· strengthen the impact of your direct appeals by enclosing local newspaper clippings that report on human rights concerns in the target country
· distribute Als major documents and reports to schools, libraries, and bookstores, and make a special effort to publicize the appearance of the yearly Amnesty International Report
· dont overlook such "street media" as telephone poles, billboards, and public notice boards where information can be posted
AIs message: basic guidelines
Groups will often adapt, re-package, or translate Al information to make it more appropriate for their own local audience. Whenever materials are re-formatted and issued in this manner, groups should ensure that they continue to respect:
· Als mandate
Al does not report or comment on human rights abuses outside its mandate.
Background information in its publications should never overshadow the description of matters of concern to Al, or give the impression the organization is taking a stand on issues that are not within its mandate. An article on a subject not based on Al research should be accompanied by the disclaimer that it "does not necessarily reflect the views or research findings of Al".
· Als accuracy
Als information must conform to the highest standards of accuracy. It must distinguish clearly between allegations and facts.
· Als impartiality
Als information must be presented in a way that makes it clear that the movement does not support or oppose any government or political system, take sides in political conflicts, or endorse the views of the people whose rights it seeks to protect. Al does not engage in name-calling. It does not, for example, label governments "regimes" or "dictatorships", or describe their leaders as "reactionary" or "despotic". It does not use slighting or scornful labels in describing political or other organizations.
Writing letters is a simple, effective way to put direct pressure on powerful officials. It is one of the basic techniques used by AI to fight human rights violations.
Letters need not be long or detailed or beautifully composed. You do not have to show an awareness of complex political matters. You do not have to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of international law.
For your letter to make an impact, all you have to do is express your sincere concern about victims of human rights violations and end the letter with a plain request.
When sending an AI appeal, you must:
There are instances where AI warns that your letters should make no mention of the organization itself. Be sure that this alert is observed by every person sending an appeal. A link with AI may sometimes harm the interests of a prisoner or the person's family.
In cases where AI suggests that members write directly to a prisoner or to the family, take extreme care to follow the instructions precisely.
In your letters you may also:
Generally, a short letter will be as effective as a long letter. A good rule is to limit the message to one side of one page.
To ensure that the letter is legible, print or type it.
Write clearly and simply, in your own style and in your own language. Sometimes, AI will suggest that, if possible, letters be written in specific languages. If the target country maintains an embassy in your country, direct the letter there _ most embassies have staff who can translate local correspondence for forwarding to the home government. Even if you can provide a translation in which you have confidence, it is a good idea to send the original with the translation.
AI's action material always provides the title and address of the authorities to whom each appeal should be directed.
As a general rule, write about once a month on each concern. If you cannot afford to post many letters abroad, mail them instead care of the target country's embassy in your own country.
Maintain a record of the letters you send so that you will be better able to respond properly in the event you get a reply. Make copies if that is convenient, or keep a log of the letters.
When you do receive a reply, acknowledge it immediately as a matter of courtesy. At the same time, send a copy to your section office or to the International Secretariat. These offices may then suggest points you can make in your formal response.
If you do not receive a reply from the government within a reasonable time, send a polite query.
Although state officials fail to acknowledge most of the appeals that are send to them, you should never be discouraged. Governments take note of the sheer volume of letters, and they receive the repeated messages that the letters contain. AI has seen striking examples of the effect of letter-writing in achieving improvements in human rights, even though the letters were never acknowledged.
Every letter _ whether acknowledged or not _ makes an impact. Every letter plays a part in sustaining the constant collective pressure.
There are no strict rules about how to address important officials at the opening and closing of letters. AI's material usually suggests the best form to use in specific instances. Here is a general guide:
All letters can be closed with the simple Yours truly, or Yours sincerely, or with the slightly more formal Yours respectfully and sincerely.
For making your group's letter-writing more effective:
Here is an example of a letter of appeal that reflects many of the points above:
It is not always necessary to write such a long letter. Here is an example of a simple, polite message that lets officials know that concerned people around the world are aware of what is happening:
You can reinforce the impact of your letters by launching other types of direct appeals at the same time.
As with letter-writing, the rules are: be polite, give the facts, avoid political jargon, make a request, and follow carefully any instructions that AI may make in specific cases.
Many groups and sections design, print, and distribute illustrated postcards. The text makes a concise demand of a government official. Here is a postcard produced by one AI group:
Many people may not have the time or the resources to write full-scale letters. Postcards make it possible for them to send appeals anyway. The activist only needs to sign the card _ and perhaps add a personal note of concern _ then affix the correct postage and mail it.
Cards can be distributed at AI group meetings, or enclosed with group newsletters, or provided in bulk to other groups or sections. They can be made available to the public during demonstrations, at information stalls, at the workplace, and at public buildings _ wherever they can help to involve non-members in practical campaigning work.
If a small charge is made for each postcard that is distributed, some of the costs of production may be covered.
With their graphic and visible format, postcard mailings are a combination of mass petition and publicity effort, and they can have a powerful impact on government authorities.
A petition is a brief statement of appeal addressed to a senior government official. Its text should be easy to read and there should be room for many signatures. Where possible, the signatures are formally presented to the official or to a diplomatic representative of the target country.
Below is an example of a standard petition.
Petitions can be circulated among AI members, the general public, or professional groups, religious organizations, or trade unions. The overall appeal can be strengthened if there is a line for each signatory to indicate his or her occupation or background.
The endorsement of an influential politician or other prominent person can be highlighted when the petition is presented.
Like postcards, petitions are an easy way for people to make a protest about human rights abuses. Sometimes, the act of signing a simple petition is the first step leading to long-term involvement in human rights work.
A petition can also help to raise public awareness about human rights when the number of signatures becomes a news item in itself. AI used this approach during its 1988 Human Rights Now! campaign, when its appeal for observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gathered countless thousands of endorsements worldwide.
Brief messages of concern are sent by telegram in emergency cases, such as in response to Urgent Actions. Here are examples:
RESPECTFULLY URGE CLEMENCY FOR __________ ON HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS.
STRONGLY URGE PROTECTION ___________ AGAINST FORCIBLE REPATRIATION TO _____________WHERE IMPRISONMENT AS PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE AND TORTURE FEARED LIKELY.
GREATLY DISTURBED DISAPPEARANCE OF PRISONER ___________ REMOVED FROM CELL 16 OCTOBER. RESPECTFULLY SEEK ASSURANCES HER SAFETY.
Letters, postcards, petitions, and telegrams are not the only means whereby human rights appeals can be delivered to foreign officials. In recent years, AI members and groups have been:
When in doubt about the security of these approaches, or about their appropriateness in particular circumstances, check with your section or, where there is no section, with the International Secretariat.
Meetings with diplomats or with visiting officials of a target government allow face-to-face exchange and a rare chance to hear the authorities' direct response to AI's concerns.
Usually, embassy visits are planned and carried out by section-level representatives of AI in consultation with the International Secretariat. Groups that wish to send a delegation or take part in one should contact their section office or, where there is no section, the International Secretariat.
One picture is worth a thousand words.
To send a strong message, send a photograph _ of your information table, poster display, or demonstration _ in which members of the public are shown to be concerned. Simply mail it to the target government with a short note of explanation.
Be sure that the photo includes portraits (or names) of individual victims of abuses. That way the authorities will see that people in your country are hearing AI's message and are interested in knowing the facts.
If you have the resources, turn the photo into a mini-postcard action by sending one copy _ openly, in the manner of a postcard _ to every official on your list of government authorities