Advocacy in the Age of Authoritarianism: Adjustments of all Sorts in Egypt
IDS Working Paper 337
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Tadros, M.(2009) 'Advocacy in the age of authoritarianism: adjustments of all sorts'
This paper examines how advocacy, a highly political concept became a depoliticised technocratic buzzword for many donors, international and local NGOs. The focus of the paper is on the top-down introduction of advocacy in the Egyptian context in the 1990s as part of the bid to promote democratisation in the Arab world.
It argues that in authoritarian contexts, participatory advocacy is inimical to the inhibitive policy environment and the nature of the political culture in place. The paper relies on a series of case studies involving donor-state-civil society interfaces in supporting advocacy. It draws in particular on the largest funding scheme to promote advocacy in the country, a USAID initiative involving a consortium of partners.
It tracks the transformations that took place in order to convert advocacy into a 'government friendly' form of engagement and reflects on the inherent tensions for donors backing a politicised form of development that clashes with their foreign policy.
The paper argues that often advocacy NGOs are disembedded from the wider context due to a focus on the policy influence arena where they are expected to elicit change. Insufficient incentives to mobilise a constituency as well as a politically restrictive environment means that sometimes advocacy oriented initiatives or organisations ignore prompts from citizen groups engaged in contentious politics.
Many advocacy NGOs engage in an elite way that impacts negatively on policies and on downward accountability towards a weak or nonexistent constituency. This not only has implications for their positionality in their contexts but also on the nature of policy demands made as well.