B.4 Advocacy

Advocacy takes many forms and consists of activities undertaken to change the systemic and structural causes of poverty and disadvantage. This may include popular campaigning, lobbying, research, policy positions, alliances and use of the media. It can take the form of community-level action, research, private policy discussions, public campaigns and education. It seeks to change public attitudes and motivate their own action, and to influence the policy and practice of governments, companies and others. It is most effective when local, national and international levels of advocacy are pursued with common objectives.

It may occur both in Australia and globally and include working with stakeholders on a large, multi-partner campaign.

Advocacy has become an important and integral component of effective international aid and development. Much aid and development activity is designed to include well-integrated combinations of specific projects, longer-term programmatic engagement and targeted advocacy.

Human rights and the dignity of the person are the unifying principles drawing together these different levels of advocacy. Similarly, advocacy for the protection of the most vulnerable and the implementation of international humanitarian law is integral to humanitarian response.

Section B.4 of the ACFID Code of Conduct includes one Standard with its respective Principle and Obligations. Standard B.4.1 encourages signatory organisations to undertake all advocacy initiatives using evidence.

Compliance with Standard B.4.1 and its Obligations is progressive. This means that signatory organisations can work towards complying with the Obligations over a defined period of time. Signatory organisations are expected to have a plan to work toward meeting this Standard and its Obligations and to monitor their implementation.

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B.4.1 Speaking from Evidence


Where a signatory organisation takes on an advocacy role in Australia or globally, either alone or in partnership with others, this will be done from an evidence-based position and will include the perspectives of those affected.


  1. Signatory organisations will be transparent about the basis of the claims that underpin their advocacy.
  2. Signatory organisations will disclose any conflicts of interest.
  3. Signatory organisations will only claim to be representative when that authority has been clearly established.
  4. Signatory organisations will take all reasonable steps to protect the safety and rights of affected local people during or following an advocacy campaign.
  5. Signatory organisations will aim to empower those most affected by the issue in local communities to advocate for themselves.
  6. Signatory organisations will seek to work with organisations representing people most affected by the issue, where possible and appropriate.


Signatory organisations have a powerful voice in the public domain and with government. They have become increasingly involved and influential in forming public opinion and influencing policy through advocacy. With this role comes responsibility: to speak honestly and based on the facts, to be accountable, and to work in the interest of those whose interests are being represented.


This standard reflects the Code of Conduct’s commitment to:

  • Accountability to all stakeholders
  • Building creative and trusting relationships with communities
  • Honesty and transparency in all dealings

Practical guidance

Here are some practical suggestions for your organisation to strengthen its advocacy work:

Policy and procedures

  • Good advocacy practice involves well-integrated activities across the program spectrum. Consider testing your advocacy message through program work with the people affected by the issue, and then refine it based on your program experience. Do a power analysis to help design your advocacy campaign, which raises the voices of people affected by the issue to influence public and private policy and practice, using experience from the related program work to underpin the message.
  • Document a policy or guidelines outlining your organisation’s approach to advocacy. There is a wide range of approaches from complex and coordinated international campaigns to local actions. Your policy or guidelines could include:
    • How your organisation defines advocacy and your plans to implement it
    • Conflict of interest issues
    • How you ensure you protect the interests and safety of those whom you seek to represent or who the advocacy issue affects
    • Your commitment to facilitating their voices in the advocacy process
  • Disclose any conflicts of interest in advocacy materials, on your website, and in other communications
  • Ensure staff involved in designing, implementing and evaluating advocacy initiatives have the relevant skills to do so. Advocacy is a specialised area of work and requires different approaches and skills to that of other development work. For smaller organisations this could involve additional training or mentoring for staff, for larger organisations it could involve the recruitment of dedicated and experienced advocacy staff.
  • Consider in a systematic way, the unique risks associated with each advocacy initiative, in particular to those whom you are representing or who are most affected by the issues, as well as to your organisation and staff and the NGO sector more broadly, for example if speaking out against government policy. This does not suggest that organisations should avoid these risks but they should be considered and managed. .  The safety of people should be our primary consideration, in particular risks of retaliation.
  • Based on this risk analysis, determine whether there is information which should not be disclosed and why, for example, because it may create risk for local people or staff.
  • Consider how advocacy initiatives will be monitored and evaluated including indicators of progress or success. This should be communicated to the people or communities being represented to enable accountability.
  • Ensure that advocacy messages are informed by reputable and reliable sources of information. This may involve investing in research or collection of data and evidence from your own programming or other sources. The evidence which informs your advocacy messages should be readily available should any be questioned by stakeholders.

Partners and external stakeholders

  • Ensure that the people or communities being represented or affected by the advocacy issue are involved in the advocacy process. Their views should inform all advocacy initiatives. They should be fully aware of the advocacy initiative and where possible, involved in its creation, messages and implementation. 
  • Invest in empowering people to speak on their own behalf: local men and women, those from marginalised and vulnerable groups, those with a disability and anyone else who is the subject of advocacy. This may involve providing training, speaking opportunities or other support as requested, as well as an initial needs analysis.
  • Support local civil society organisations representing those most affected by the issue, e.g. organisations of people with disability, to undertake their own advocacy initiatives.
  • If speaking as a representative of a person or group, always obtain permission to speak on their behalf before doing this in a public forum. Ensure there is a clear, mutual and documented understanding of the scope of that authority.