KATHMANDU: Effective advocacy is important for the Nepali private sector to garner support for a conducive economic environment. As with other types of advocacy, business advocacy requires collective action and unified voice that represents the needs and concerns of all members. The business community’s power can be increased with individual businesses, groups, chambers and associations coming together — either in a loose network or a robust coalition.
Traditionally, business associations targeted public authorities to make regulations more business-friendly. What has been neglected in some ways is to involve other stakeholders and build cross-sector alliances to pursue joint interests. This requires a thorough analysis of those stakeholders, their needs and interests. For example, the stakes of political parties, youth groups, women groups, other NGOs, the media, human rights or consumer activist groups need to be understood. Through this, potential proponents can be identified and included in a campaign. Potential supporters can be motivated to become proponents and so-called ‘fence-sitters’ can be informed and attracted to convert them into proponents.
For example, in terms of security, the private sector can unilaterally lobby with lawmakers for better industrial security provisions. Alternatively, it could try to identify likeminded stakeholders who suffer from insecurity and unite to lobby for improvements in public security. With a clear understanding of stakeholders, it is much easier to build a strong coalition.
Similarly, improvement of public infrastructure is a major concern for all members of a society. Therefore, lobbying for it only from private sector’s perspective might be less fruitful. Including other groups could help in taking a stronger stand for a common
interest. To build these coalitions, it is important not only to analyse and understand other stakeholders but also inform them about underlying interests, potential impact and consequences if issues remain unaddressed.
In many cases, the private sector can mobilise stakeholders to support an agenda if represent-atives take the time and effort to
inform and collaborate with others. It has shown this potential at least twice in the recent past by calling for peace-assemblies. By pushing an agenda without trying to get others on board, the private sector might miss out on engaging proponents and supporters and it can even upset ‘fence-sitters’ so that they become opponents.
Apart from building strong coalitions there are a few other major steps in developing a joint advocacy strategy:
1) Issues need to be identified very precisely
2) Goals and objectives need to be clearly defined
3) Target groups (decision
makers) need to be identified
4) Messages have to be defined and agreed upon
5) Implementation plans and timelines need to be developed
6) Responsibilities and contributions need to be agreed upon
Considering the current sit-uation of Nepal, it will be vital for the private sector to advocate even more strategically and with more support from others to overcome future challenges. Thorough preparations and strategic coalition are the first steps to take on
a probably long and difficult road.
(The author is the project manager at National Business Initiative and can be contacted through email@example.com)