Advocacy is a method and a process of influencing decision-makers and public perceptions about an issue of concern, and mobilising community action to achieve social change, including legislative and policy reform, to address the concern.
The term enabling environment is used to refer to an environment where laws and public policy protect and promote the rights of PLHIV and affected communities, support effective programmes, reduce vulnerability to HIV and address its consequences.
We advocate for an enabling environment that protects and promotes the rights of PLHIV and affected communties and supports effective programming.
Laws, policies, social norms and community attitudes and perceptions shape the environment in which we respond to HIV. Our efforts to address both the causes and consequences of the HIV pandemic require fundamental social change. Advocacy efforts may be focused at local, national and international level, with the aim of creating and sustaining an environment where laws and public policy protect and promote the rights of PLHIV and affected communities, support effective programmes and reduce vulnerability to HIV and its consequences. The Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, international human rights instruments and the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights: International Guidelines provide a blueprint for reform and invaluable tools for advocating national action.
We plan, monitor and evaluate advocacy efforts for effectiveness and in response to community need.
While there is a wealth of resources devoted to monitoring and evaluating the impact of different types of programme interventions, there is comparatively little in the way of monitoring and evaluating advocacy activities. The causality between advocacy efforts and changes in law and policy and in social norms is often difficult to measure. We have much to contribute to improving knowledge in this area.
In planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating advocacy activities, we need to:
- actively involve PLHIV, affected communities and community and opinion leaders
- map the environment to determine the factors that may affect advocacy processes and outcomes, such as leadership, HIV policy environment and legislative impediments to effective advocacy or HIV programmes
- draw on experiences in the provision of programmes and services to inform advocacy priorities
- set clear objectives about what legal, policy or social change is being sought
- identify and develop strategic partnerships with organisations, institutions and networks that share common goals and can lend support to achieving objectives by increasing our influence and capacity to achieve change through joint action
- determine the most appropriate advocacy methods for achieving objectives, such as media campaigns and lobbying policy-makers
- identify and build relationships with the target audiences needed to achieve objectives, such as political leaders, religious and community leaders, policy-makers and the media
- use experiences drawn from programmes and services to support the rationale for changes sought
- develop evaluation methods that define information to be collected and a method of analysis to determine whether objectives are achieved
- collect qualitative data to track the external environment to assess the effectiveness of advocacy efforts, including media reports, policy statements of target audience, meetings and discussions
- collect qualitative data on the process of undertaking advocacy efforts, such as effectiveness of partnerships and alliances, ‘packaging' messages and the use of evidence
- collect quantitative data from target audiences, programme implementers, strategic partners and beneficiaries of advocacy efforts about both the processes used and the impact of advocacy activities
- use the data gathered to assess the extent to which advocacy efforts have affected awareness about the issues; influenced the organisation's credibility as an advocate; made a contribution to debate; changed laws and policy; influenced the attitudes or beliefs of opinion leaders; and affected the lives of PLHIV and affected communities
- use the information gathered to assess the effectiveness of processes used, including effectiveness of partnerships, involvement of PLHIV and affected communities and organisational advocacy capacity, and
- use the evaluation of advocacy work to inform future advocacy planning and share lessons learned with partners.