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Campaigning tactics and techniques

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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The next step is to devise effective ways of getting the target audiences to take the necessary action to achieve the desired outcomes and eventually reach the campaign goal, i.e. to decide on tactics and choose appropriate techniques.


The term “tactics” is commonly used to designate the ways resources are deployed and directed within a broader strategy so as to reach the desired outcomes.

Example: Reporting as a tactic to denounce VAW in armed conflict

After the violence unleashed against Muslim communities in Gujarat (India), human rights activists found that the existing national legal system was subverted or insufficient to obtain redress for the survivors. The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (Radhika Coomaraswamy) had requested to visit Gujarat, but did not obtain permission from the Indian government.

As an alternative tactic, women’s rights activists mobilized to form the International Initiative for Justice in Gujarat, with the objective of assessing the redress of violations during the violence, and the applicability of an international law perspective. A panel of 9 women lawyers and rights activists undertook a thorough investigation in Gujarat on whether perpetrators were held accountable, and whether redress and compensations were made available to women victims, who still lived in self-run camps nine months after the violence. The team produced a high quality 100-page report and a 50-page summary in English, Gujarati and Hindi languages, which was distributed widely in-country and presented at high-profile press conferences involving law experts and celebrities, and international venues. The document, titled Threatened existence – a feminist analysis of the genocide in Gujarat was extensively used as a reference by gender advocates and human rights activists.  

Read the press release

See other publications

Another creative and effective tactic to raise public awareness on an issue is the mock public tribunal.

Example: The Nigerian women’s human rights group BAOBAB and the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre organized the first National Tribunal on Violence against Women on March 14th 2001 in the capital city of Abuja. The tribunal was unofficial and not legally binding, but the testimonies would be real – 33 women were selected to testify. Some of them had volunteered, and many agreed to share their experiences when they realized this may have a positive impact on their families and communities. They testified about their experience of violence from the state, in the home, and from society as a whole.

The judges were selected based on their prominence and their concern for women’s rights. They included two Supreme Court Justices, several heads of NGOs, and prominent lawyers. The tribunals were open to the public, and the organizers took special care to invite journalists, police, commissioners, and other groups. Different types of human rights abuses were grouped into different sessions. The panel of judges listened, asked questions, and after the testimonies, they convened in private. Afterwards, rather than passing a sentence, as in a regular trial, the judges made a public policy proclamation.

The testimonies were very moving for the audience, and the attendance of journalists led to wider public awareness of the tribunals. Locally, the tribunals helped to get state legislation passed against female genital mutilation. On a national level, their impact helped advance a domestic violence bill (which was eventually passed in 2007). More generally, the tribunals created greater public awareness that abuses against women do exist, and that they are serious.

See related documents on this tribunal.


Source: Fijabi, M, 2004. A Mock Tribunal to Advance Change: the National Tribunal on Violence Against Women in Nigeria, on New Tactics in Human Rights.



The New Tactics in Human Rights Project offers extensive information and guidance on tactical mapping, a method of visualizing institutions and relationships, and then tracking the nature and potency of tactics available to affect these systems. Such mapping can be particularly useful in planning and monitoring advocacy. See also the on-line tutorial presentation on how to make a tactical map. Apart from the English version, a number of tools are available in Croatian, French, Spanish, Turkish and Tetum.



Different techniques may contribute to a single tactic or theory of change. In practice, however, the terms “tactics” and “techniques” are often used interchangeably. Common campaigning techniques include the following:

  • Campaign advertising (e.g. using posters, radio and TV announcements)
  • Attracting media attention (e.g. with press conferences and stunts)
  • Demonstrations, rallies, marches and other forms of mass meetings
  • Using traditional arts to raise awareness or initiate community dialogue
  • Electronic action-alerts via the internet and mobile phones
  • Using new media channels to spread messages (eg. social networks, videos, blogs, twitter, etc)
  • Mobilizing volunteer campaign activists to influence peer groups, e.g. by organizing community events or private house parties
  • Distribution of campaign merchandise, such as caps, bags and wristbands
  • Organization of or participation in specialized conferences
  • Lobbying key decision-makers

Since campaigning is a multi-faceted set of activities, the number of techniques that can be used is virtually unlimited. See Campaign Communication for more information and guidance as to where and how they can be applied.

Bear in mind: The most appealing or innovative techniques are not necessarily the most effective ones. Techniques and tools need to be tailored to the target audiences’ characteristics, and the resources of the campaigning organization or alliance.
Example: In Viet Nam, the United Nations, together with the Government and civil society organizations has been working to address violence against women.  Following the adoption of the Law on Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence in 2007, a Joint Communications Campaign was designed and launched. The Campaign was conducted in two phases between 2008-2010 using multiple techniques, including radio, TV spots, promotional products, internet messaging, talkshows, flyers and other print materials, together with dialogue groups to provide interactive fora for communities to engage on the issue.  The campaign reached upwards of 16 million people throughout the country.

See the full report in English.