Advocacy as more than just protest
How M&E can play an important role in strengthening advocacy work. In many democratic nations, civil society plays crucial roles in contributing to democratization.
Generally, a civil society group can be strong and powerful organization if it is undertaking activities such as taking a watchdog role in maintaining the governance quality, informing and mobilizing wider community regarding the nation wide issues, and advocating and influencing public policies for better society, etc.
Likewise, civil society actors in Myanmar have also been trying to expand their space through taking similar responsibilities to make positive future for the country. Under previous government’s administration, civil society tried to influence policies and practices related to different national issues such as irresponsible investment, human rights and land rights violations, peace and ethnic issues, environmental issues, etc.
In doing so, Myanmar civil society organizations used different strategies primarily targeting at getting wider public awareness of issues and attract media attention through organizing campaigns and demonstrations.
Campaigns, demonstration and strikes are effective and can gain quick wins in terms of solving problems as long as the government is willing to compromise.
However, in the long run they are not always the method of choice for every advocacy action led by civil society.
If these approaches are used too frequently, the government (and other stakeholders such as private sector and even the wider community) may see the local organisations as problem creators.
For this, approaches such as evidence-based advocacy should be promoted, which can help the civil society to collect data, to generate credible evidence for effective policy advocacy and use these evidences as a strategic means to constructively engage with different power holders to achieve desired changes in policy and practices. For government, who really wants to listen to credible community voices for making policy changes, it should definitely value and promote such practices.
Currently, while some local civil society groups collect evidence for advocacy purpose, evidence based approaches are not widely adopted. And even among those who collect evidence, the qualities of evidence are not credible enough to effectively influence policies. It is due to different limitations such as lack of capacity and resources in evidence collection, lack of familiarities with community friendly research methods and tools, lack of capacity in making sense of evidences into useful information (data analysis) for effective advocacy, etc.
In this regards, if M&E and research practitioners in Myanmar can fill the capacity gap of Myanmar civil society to be able to apply evidence based advocacy practices, it would be really beneficial for the whole society. In addition, the government and the donors should also provide required resources and institutional supports.
Not only at the civil society level, evidence-based practice should also be integrated, adopted and promoted by government in its policy making.