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Sharing information and expanding networks

Conferences

Expanding the network of allies, supporters, and other interested parties in a campaign can be useful to attract greater attention for the cause, build a critical mass of support to influence decision-makers, and create a platform to educate and share information. Participating in conferences for example, can expand the campaigners’ network to other activists, professionals, academics and policy makers who could be helpful in furthering the campaign cause.

Practical tips: Stay informed of public conferences linked to your topic e.g. by signing up for e-mail newsletters from relevant organizations or initiatives, such as the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), and Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML). Some organizations use web networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to publicize their activities – receive updates by becoming their “friend”, “fan” or “follower” (depending on the platform they use). Find links via the website of relevant organizations, e.g. the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, or use the search function of online social networks, e.g. by typing “violence against women” into the search window on Facebook.

UN global and regional conferences

Large international congresses such as UN World Conferences may include civil society segments that bring together non-governmental groups who wish to influence the Conference agenda and outcomes. Lobbying, networking and the full spectrum of tactics and tools for advocacy campaigns can be applied for this purpose.

UN Conferences also offer opportunities to present a campaign, learn about others and make new contacts. But trying to catch someone’s attention in a crowd of thousands of activists can be frustrating. Any campaign events to be carried out during large conferences (e.g. a workshop, a march, a performance), must be prepared and advertised carefully.

Sessions of international commissions and treaty bodies

Apart from submitting written statements and alternative reports, NGOs can send representatives to the sessions of the committees that monitor implementation of international human rights instruments. NGOs that are accredited to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) can participate in the annual sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), usually held in February-March in New York. If a campaign organization or alliance members have consultative status with ECOSOC or are eligible (see below), this may be a useful opportunity for lobbying UN and government representatives, and networking with other organizations. The CSW website  offers guidance for prospective participants.

NGOs can also be accredited as observers at official state reporting sessions of international treaty bodies. In the case of the CEDAW Committee, NGOs can not only attend formal sessions as observers, they can also attend informal meetings for activists and other international agencies that are organized around the formal sessions. These informal NGO meetings with members of the CEDAW Committee can be invaluable opportunities to bring attention to campaign causes, build partnerships with other organizations, and share important national information.

Eligibility for ECOSOC accreditation: To participate in official UN conferences and sessions, international, regional and national non-governmental non-profit organizations must have been officially registered for at least two years, have an established headquarters, a democratically adopted constitution, a representative structure and appropriate mechanisms of accountability and democratic and transparent decision-making to apply for ECOSOC registration. The website of the UN NGO Branch provides details on registration.

 

Bear in mind: Before signing up for participation in a conference or other public event, clarify your purpose. Which specific elements of your strategy do you expect to strengthen by participating in the conference? For example, do you have good chances of meeting key members of your target audience, or of convincing new organizations to join your campaign alliance? Plan your participation strategically, with clear goals and the activities you intend to undertake to achieve your goals. Weigh the contribution you can make towards your campaign goal by attending the event against its costs (including your time).

 

 

Meetings campaigners can organize

Conferences (including congresses) bring people together for discussion, consultation and sometimes negotiation and decision-making on a common concern. They can be huge events stretching over several days – such as the World Conferences on Women in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995), or formal meetings between a few key people on specific issues. Seminars are conferences typically for researchers and other people with an academic interest in the issue.

Conferences, congresses and seminars help to gather and share specialized knowledge on the campaign issue with professionals – including policy-makers - and others who have a keen interest in the topic. Combined with effective public communication, including media outreach, conferences may catch the attention of the general public and add credibility to the campaign. However, organizing conferences tends to demand enormous resources, as each individual participant is likely to demand attention. Therefore, they should be used sparingly and deliberately.

 

Practical tips: Convene a conference or seminar only if…

  • Detailed information on something new and particularly important needs to be shared and discussed with professionals who have a stake in the campaign theme.
  • Your organization and alliance knows sufficient people and organizations who are likely to participate in and usefully contribute to the conference.
  • The conference and its outcomes are a necessary part of the campaign strategy and likely to strengthen the campaign in practical ways, e.g. by winning new members to your alliance, by producing joint recommendations to policy makers, or by capturing specialized media attention and support.
  • The necessary resources (manpower, time, funding, etc) are available and carefully budgeted for. Conferences can be extremely costly, time-consuming and onerous to carry out.

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