Some NGOs lobby powerful decision-makers to take account of the interests of poor and marginalised people. NGOs lobby for change at the local, national and global levels.
For example, they might lobby:
- companies to provide better working conditions for their employees,
- governments (at national or local level) to set policies which favour the poor - or to deliver on existing policies,
- the public to push for political change - or to recognise their role in international markets,
- rich governments to drop the debt that poor countries owe them, or
- the UN to intervene in new conflict situations.
All this lobbying activity is based on NGOs' experience of working with poor people and on research they carry out. In addition, some international NGOs try to educate the public in rich countries about the realities that poor people in other countries face.
When successful, lobbying can have a dramatic impact in fighting poverty.
NGOs face a number of challenges in their lobbying work. It can be difficult to link field experience to lobbying goals - for instance, lobbying goals may reflect what is politically possible at any time rather than beneficiaries' priorities. NGOs lobbying activities may upset powerful interests and cause problems for their field work. Finally, NGOs have to work out whether they are lobbying 'on behalf of' local people, or whether they are 'amplifying' people's voices. This can lead to questions about the legitimacy of lobbying groups.
The relationship between empowerment, service delivery and lobbying can be complicated. All three activities often overlap with each other.
The Sugar Campaign, Kenya - an example of successful lobbying in favour of the poor.