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PIL can be a useful tool to secure justice. But PIL is often just one part of a larger campaign, and is often not the only tool available to achieve your objectives.
Before launching a PIL action, it is helpful to consider alternative or parallel routes to achieving your objectives, which may be quicker, less costly, and more effective in securing justice in your circumstances than litigation.
One of these alternatives is campaigning outside the courtroom. But even if you are involved in PIL, a good campaign alongside it is often important in securing your goal.
a) What is a Campaign?
A campaign is a co-ordinated range of activities dedicated to achieving a common goal.
This can involve;
b) Why Start a Campaign?
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.
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.
c) Disadvantages of Bringing a Campaign
Like PIL, there are risks disadvantages of bring a campaign.
Indigenous and environmental rights activists in Para, Brazil, have launched a campaign against deforestation and the destruction of indigenous people’s land in the region. They have faced immense hostility from State authorities and the agribusiness sector. Tragically, this has lead to 44 activists being killed this year by police and paramilitaries.
But, when the alternative is exploitation and impunity, campaigning and seeking to enforce one’s rights through litigation remain the only tools available for the people of Para in the fight for their rights.
Instead of giving up, further campaigns have now been launched with the support of organisations to help protect environmental defenders and highlight the risks they face as they continue their fight.
Despite the risks of campaigning or bringing a PIL case, in the face of injustice, there is sometimes no alternative but to act to uphold your rights.
Nevertheless, carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of campaigning (or bringing a PIL case) before taking further action.
Read the following pages for further information;
To create pressure for change, your campaign must be effective in achieving its goals.
By raising public awareness around an issue, this can create considerable embarrassment for even the most powerful, causing them to change their actions.
a) Who to Target?
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 Sue?”).
A key difference in bringing a campaign (compared to litigation) is that it is not fundamental to have a strong legal case against the target of your campaign.
Rather, the best target is often a connected government, company, or group, who is most likely to respond to pressure, moral appeal, or embarrassment created over the issue.
i) The Wrongdoing of a Company
In addition to campaigning directly against the company responsible, consider targeting the following entities;
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.
ii) The Wrongdoing of a Government
In addition to campaigning directly against the government responsible, consider the following entities;
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.
b) Highlighting the Issue and Solution
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;
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.
To build support for your campaign, it can be useful to highlight a specific result you want to achieve.
For example, to protect an indigenous community’s land in a section of the Amazon, rather than the protection of rainforests generally.
This can help people connect to the issue and appreciate 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.
c) Where to Bring my Campaign?
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;
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.
Build broad alliances. Your campaign (and PIL case) 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.
Remember that different methods of advocacy can be used together in your fight for justice.
While campaigns are an alternative to PIL, they can be used to support a PIL case. In fact, a combination of both can be the most effective strategy for securing justice.
On one hand;
On the other hand;
Across Latin America, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights has protected many environmental and human rights activists from imminent threats by issuing “provisional measures”, ordering their governments to provide for their immediate security needs.
For more information on the benefits of PIL, see “Is Public Interest Litigation for Me?”).