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What is Environmental Advocacy?

by Sung-ok Lee

What is Environmental Advocacy?   

  • Dictionary definition of advocacy:  “speaking on behalf of someone.”
  • Advocacy Sourcebook by WaterAid*:  Definition of advocacy.

Range of activities to bring about Change in any one of several areas in

  1. Attitudes & political will
  2. Policy / decision-making
  3. Policy implementation
  4. People’s awareness of policies
  5. Monitoring policy implementation

Example: We advocate to:

  1. Change the policy of a national government to take greater account of communities’ rights to participate in the management of their water supply and sanitation services.
  2. Make sure such a policy is rightly implemented
  3. Educate the community to raise its level of understanding about existing policy.

Environmental advocacy for water tackles the water crisis by defining this problem as a crisis of governance.  There is the understanding that the present threat to water security lies in the failure of societies to respond to the challenges of reconciling the various needs for and uses of water. (2004 BOR)

Advocacy for Water Security:  U.N.’s VISION 21

Water security in the 21st century can be achieved if the institutions that determine the management and use of water resources are effective.

The Crisis in Water & Sanitation:

  1. Health:  2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die each year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking. water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
  2. Education:  poor sanitation in schools affects attendance rates, particularly of girls.
  3. Economics:  national economics are weakened by the need to spend significant funds on healthcare and medicines, while many working days are lost to ill-health resulting from poor water and inadequate sanitation.

The WASH Campaign (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All)  was launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in September, 2002.   The WASH Campaign is a vehicle by which WSSCC (Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council) can promote priority themes and activities – to achieve Vision 21, as the 2004 Book of Resolutions calls on the United Methodist Church to do.

To realize the Vision 21, we must recognize that water and sanitation is a basic human right. 

Key Themes of the WASH Campaign:

  • Hygiene promotion
  • Environmental sanitation
  • Institutional and management reform
  • Community-based approaches

Activities for the Campaign:

  • Social Education -  Effect behavioral change through education (through mass media, teaching hygiene in schools, etc.)
  • Community Organizing – Provide training and build local capacity in communication and improve networking
  • Advocacy for Policy Change – Raise commitment of political and social leaders to achieve the goals of making water, sanitation and hygiene a reality for all

Advocacy:  Way of working to change policies and practice to improve the lives of local communities, particularly the disadvantaged, and includes a range of tools in achieving the goal.

*Advocacy Source Book:  A Guide to Advocacy for WSSCC Coordinators Working on the WASH Campaign, WaterAid/WSSCC, 2003

How To of  Advocacy:  The Steps

  1. Identify the Issue  -  Discuss the problems & issues
  2. Analyze & Research the Issue – Use data to make a case and a campaign tool
  3. Set Objectives -  What will you attempt to achieve?  Example:  Increase funding for sanitation provision in the five poorest districts of a country by 50%; stop subsidizing pollution and waste; tax pollution; set a limit on emissions and allow companies to trade pollution permits; charge deposits on items that should be returned; make renewable energy a standard; certify and label; fund research and development; use alternative energy source.
  4. Identify Targets -  Example:  Government, regulator, corporations
  5. Identify Allies – Coalition or group that shares a vision
  6. Define the Message – Generate different message fro different audience
  7. Choose Approaches & Activities
  8. Select Tools – Letterwriting, petitions, leaflets, forums, radio interviews, press releases/ media events, art/drama presentations, meetings, legislative events.
  9. Assess Resource Needs – Set budget
  10. Plan for Monitoring & Evaluation – Documentation, analysis, reports
  11. Draw Up Advocacy Plan  -  What/When/Who/How

Levels of Community Participation in Advocacy

  • Take notice – hear/see the message                              Passive Response
  • Show an interest – discuss message
  • Small change in personal behavior/attitude
  • Significant change in personal behavior/attitude
  • Attend public meeting or other event
  • Write letter to local paper
  • Join local action group
  • Participate in organized event
  • Lobby local representative
  • Take direct action
  • Become an organizer                                                         Active Response


Date posted: Apr 15, 2005