Saturday, October 20, 2007

Is There A Down-side To Advocacy?

excerpt from:

Reuters AlertNet - Has advocacy on Darfur gone too far?

Campaigners have raised the image of the violence in Sudan's western Darfur region over five years from a barely known conflict to a headline-grabber with what some are calling the greatest level of activism since the anti-apartheid movement.

But there are those in the relief world who believe there's been a price to pay for this kind of advocacy - one that may even have undermined the ability of aid organisations to help the victims of the conflict.

"It's been a huge campaign to 'do something, anything'," said Sorcha O'Callaghan, a researcher with the Humanitarian Policy Group at Britain's Overseas Development Institute (ODI) think tank, speaking at a debate in London.

The massive campaign, backed by celebrities including actors George Clooney and Mia Farrow, has indeed harnessed significant media attention for a conflict that experts say has left some 200,000 people and dead and driven 2.5 million people from their homes.

Thousands of ordinary people have taken to the streets in cities around the world in protest at the Sudanese government's mobilisation of Arab militias to crush the rebellion in the west of the country. The U.S . government has called it genocide.

Most recently, the high-profile U.S.-based Save Darfur coalition, an umbrella group of 180 religious and human rights groups, has called on China's president to stop selling weapons to Sudan and press Khartoum to admit U.N. peacekeepers.

But despite the global attention now devoted to the plight of Darfur, aid agencies in the field say the actions of the advocacy groups have triggered internal policy rifts and external resentments that have created significant operational complications.

"The assumption that advocacy has a positive impact is by no means proven," said O'Callaghan.

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