In this series of blogs we look at some of the key tools that diaspora organisations and individuals can use in their efforts to promote peace, human rights and development.
Advocacy and lobbying have the potential to improve the lives of thousands of people.
They can bring humanitarian issues to the attention of governments and build momentum for change much more effectively than individual projects can.
Any organisation or individual has the opportunity to engage and influence key decision makers, particularly at a government level.
Here are some steps to get you started.
1. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is responsible for Australia’s policies and actions in the international arena.
To find out who in DFAT is responsible for issues in a particular country call 02 6261 1111 and ask to speak to the person responsible for human rights / humanitarian issues in that country.
2. Australian Members of Parliament and Senators also participate in numerous specialist committees which focus on specific issues or groups. These committees conduct inquiries into issues or situations, produce reports, and make recommendations to Parliament (and therefore the Australian Government and DFAT).
The two most important committees for your advocacy are the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. Check their webpages to see if your concerns are related to an inquiry they are currently conducting, and if so, send your information to them before the submission date. If not, ring the phone number on the committee’s contact page and ask them how to send them your information, who to address it to, etc.
3. MPs and Senators can also participate in Parliamentary Friendship Groups. These groups comprise parliamentarians who have an interest in specific issues. The list of Friendship Groups changes with each new parliament, so check their webpage for current groups. The Amnesty International Parliamentary Group (AIPG) has been recognised in every parliament since 1973, and would be a good audience for your concerns.
Friendship Groups are recognised by Parliament, but they don’t have an official status nor can they be guaranteed to make a difference to Australian government policy, but they can be useful for contacting politicians who are committed to your cause.
4. A group of Federal, State and Territory politicians comprise the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development, which works to champion women’s empowerment and safe reproductive choices, and to break down gender discrimination and violence against women. It is supported by CARE Australia, with additional funding from the United Nations Population Fund. It is a member of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development.
5. You can also contact your local parliamentarian to raise awareness of your issues and for assistance in contacting the appropriate MP and/or Parliamentary committees and groups.