Legal action can be a useful tool to secure justice. But legal action is often just one part of a larger campaign, and is often not the only tool available to achieve your objectives. Campaigning can be another powerful and complementary tool to secure justice.
Campaigning outside the courtroom can be used as an alternative to legal action or it can be used alongside legal action as an often important strategy in securing your objectives.
A campaign is a co-ordinated range of activities dedicated to achieving a common goal.
This can involve:
Outside the courtroom, justice can be secured through effective advocacy and campaigning. This can create pressure for change, and influence the actions of governments and companies.
Campaigning can have the following advantages:
The effectiveness of campaigns has been proven throughout history, with many of the greatest achievements for social justice happening because of campaigns;
Campaigns can also be effective in securing justice regarding more specific issues. They are just as important on small local issues as large ones. For example the protection of a small area of land as a nature reserve or the removal of a junior official who is corrupt.
Example: Global Witness Diamond Certificate Campaign
After years of campaigning against the dirty supply chain of the diamond industry, Global Witness succeeded in getting diamond producing countries to establish a diamond certificate scheme. This has helped ensure the diamond industry no longer has a role in funding conflicts.
Like legal action, there are risks disadvantages of bringing a campaign.
Despite the risks of campaigning, there is sometimes no alternative but to act to uphold your rights in the face of injustice. Nevertheless, carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of campaigning before taking further action. Read the following pages for further information;
By raising public awareness around an issue, this can create considerable embarrassment for even the most powerful, causing them to change their actions. However, to create pressure for change, your campaign must be effective in achieving its goals.
Key Resource: The Change Agency
The Change Agency Education and Training Institute is an independent social movement initiative based in Australia with some involvement in international projects. They have a comprehensive platform with tips on campaign strategy. Their materials can help you decide the questions raised below.
Think about the following questions:
It’s vital you identify:
The more a problem impacts the lives of people in a significant way and the more an injustice is felt, the more people are willing to act to address the problem. The more specific the solution is, the more achievable the objective of the campaign will be.
Build broad alliances. Your campaign will be most effective if it gains support from a wide range of individuals, communities, public interest groups, and NGOs. This can be essential for gathering the resources and creating the pressure needed for a successful campaign.
To bring a successful campaign, a key aspect is choosing who to target.
This may not be the party directly responsible for the wrongdoing, but a connected individual, government, or company. This has similarities to choosing who to bring litigation against, which can also involve a wide range of potential defendants (see Who Can I Take Legal Action Against?).
In addition to campaigning directly against the company responsible, consider targeting the following entities;
Example: Campaigns against Vedanta in India
Local communities in India successfully campaigned to stop Vedanta (a British mining giant) opening a mine on their lands. This involved sustained targeting of the company, its investors, and the Indian government, who eventually revoked the license.
In addition to campaigning directly against the government responsible, consider the following entities:
Example: The Anti-Apartheid Struggle
In the famous anti-apartheid campaign, countries, companies and organisations across the world were targeted regarding their relations with South Africa. This succeeded in isolating the SA government and bringing about an intensive sanctions program, helping the local grassroots movement achieve justice.
Once it is decided who your campaign will target, you need a clear message highlighting the issue and what specific result you need to secure justice.
To be effective, your campaign needs evidence showing wrongdoing has occurred. This has similarities to gathering evidence for litigation, but need not be in the same level of detail or follow the same procedures, as you may be highlighting an ethical, rather than a legal wrong (see How Can I Prove my Case?).
Images, videos, and personal accounts are often key. These can make a greater impression on the target.
The exact nature of your campaign will depend on who it is targeting, but consider:
Example: The Rana Plaza Tragedy
After the Rana Plaza tragedy, where over 1000 exploited Bangladeshi workers died in a textile factory fire, the “Clean Clothes Campaign” targeted big clothing brands connected to the factory, getting many to commit to a compensation fund. A key part of their strategy was to highlight big brands’ role in the disaster and expose the hypocrisy of their ethical codes of conduct.
Highlighting a specific issue can help people connect to the aim of a campaign. Although a combination of appeals to specific and broader issues can be effective too. This depends on the issue and your audience.
Sometimes it can be helpful to use a “carrot and stick approach”. This involves a mix of persuasion combined with an appropriate level of pressure.
Where can your message be brought so that it creates the most pressure against the targeted group? This will depend on your target, issue and level of resources.
You can bring your campaign to multiple forums, mobilising support and creating pressure in different sectors. Remember that what is needed is pressure for change exerted not where you are but where the targets of the campaign will feel it.
Available forums can include:
Example: The Bring Back Our Girls Campaign
Following the abduction of 276 girls from Chibok, Nigeria, by militant group Boko Haram, social media was a key in supporting local campaigners, and mobilising international and national support to secure their return.
Remember that different methods of advocacy can be used together in your fight for justice. While campaigns are an alternative to legal action, they can be used to support a legal case. In fact, a combination of both can be the most effective strategy for securing justice.
On the other hand: