YOUTHFORCE ADVOCACY E-CONSULTATION
From April 3rd - 21st, 2006, the TYF's Advocacy Taskforce organized an
E-consultation to brainstorm and discuss advocacy messages and strategy to
be implemented during the Conference. This report summarizes the opinions of
218 youth from over 36 countries on the most important steps to take to
scale up HIV/AIDS interventions for youth, who make up over half of the 5
million people infected with HIV each year.
Final Summary Report of the
Toronto Advocacy E-Consultation for the Toronto YouthForce
If you are like many young people, advocacy may sound like foreign concept or something that only large organizations do. But, most likely, you have been involved in advocacy in some way at some point without calling it advocacy. Have you ever thought something at school or in your community, country, or the world was just not quite right? And have you ever tried to do something to change it? Maybe you talked to your the school principal about providing comprehensive sexual health education, or talked to the media about the issues young people in your community face around HIV/AIDS, spoke with other young people about barriers to your collective health and well-being, or tried to increase the funding given to youth-driven HIV initiatives. These are all examples of advocacy.
Advocacy is usually associated with changing a situation that is seen as unfair. Sometimes the rules of governments, institutions (such as universities and churches), and organizations are set up in ways that create barriers, harm, or other injustices for individuals and groups of people. Advocacy is one way that people try to change the rules (often called policy and legislation) and/or increase access to services within organizations, institutions (like a university), or government.
There are many ways to advocate for an issue. The important thing is to know what you want to achieve, who you need to convince, and how you can motivate them to do what you believe is necessary. Once you know this, you can put together your strategy for change.
Young people around the world are working to create positive change to stop the spread of HIV and improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS. This includes a wide range of issues such as increasing young people�s access to HIV treatment, to poverty reduction measures such as employment training, and to needle exchange programs, or ensuring that women are able to own property and sexual assault laws are enforced.
Why advocate at the International AIDS Conference?
Many people use their time at the International AIDS Conference to advocate for change in their local community, country, region, or around the world. There is a unique environment at the Conference: major decisions and directions are set at the Conference and world leaders, scientists, government officials, funders, celebrities, media, and other people concerned about the same issues are often in the same room.
You will have opportunities to interact with people at the Conference who you would simply not have access to at home. This increases your ability to get your issue on their radar and hopefully on their list of priorities. And this, in turn, can increase your ability to create change back home. The information about advocacy on our website will be useful for those young people who attend AIDS 2006 and those who are not able to make it.
Story from the Frontlines:
The YouthForce is an example of how advocacy at the International AIDS Conference can create positive changes for young people. While young people make up over half of HIV infections happening each year and affected by HIV in many ways, the International AIDS Conference did not always work so hard to help young people get to the Conference and share their issues with the world. For example, in Barcelona, there were only 200 people under age 30 among the 15,000 delegates! The Barcelona and Bangkok YouthForces brought the importance of young people’s participation to the attention of the Conference organizers and advocated for greater inclusion. The YouthForce’s work helped to create the Youth Activities Programme that has sponsored this website. Young people are now involved in planning the Conference, delivering presentations, recording the proceedings of the Conference, and as delegates.
Ways to advocate at AIDS 2006
Advocate for What You Believe: Build Your Own Strategy
A good advocacy strategy starts with putting some time into planning. Here are some steps to help you define your issue and goal, find out who has the power to make the change you think is needed and what motivates them, as well as some things to consider when you build your strategy. You may want to use get some paper and a pen to make notes as you go.
Step 1: What’s important to you and why?
Before you can come up with a message or make a good argument for your position, you need to be able to identify what issue is most important to you and why you care about that issue. Keep in mind that people are drawn to stories. The more you are able to present the issue in a concise way and to show why the issue matters, the more effective you will be at convincing others that the issue is important.
Here are some questions to help you figure this out:
• What HIV-related issue(s) do you feel most strongly about?
• What is it about that issue that believe must be changed?
• What would be different if this issue was fixed? How would things be better?
• Why is this issue important to you?
Some examples of issues that young people have advocated around at International AIDS Conferences include: the type of sexual health education provided to young people if any, the inclusion of young people in national HIV/AIDS planning processes, access to comprehensive sexual health education, access to youth-friendly health services, and rehabilitation programs for young people involved in commercial sex work.
Step 2: Understanding your issue
Now that you have pinpointed your issue, the next step is to understand the layers of causes (those things that lead to the HIV/AIDS-related issue) and consequences (those things that happen as a result of HIV/AIDS. There are many layers of causes and consequences to most health issues just like an onion. Some parts may be easier to change than others, while other parts may have a larger impact if they are changed than others.
Story from the Frontlines:
Young people’ vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is recognized by most people as an important issue. Changing the circumstances that contribute to young people’s vulnerability is no smaller matter: there are complex systems such as the global economic, education policies, longstanding gender inequities, etc. that all play a role in the situation. The YouthForce at AIDS 2006 chose to focus on increasing youth participation at the International AIDS Conferences in the hopes that this would give young people a venue to speak out and affect the issues that are important to them.
The Expanded Response Model provides a help tool for understanding HIV-related issues. It includes three components: Risk, Vulnerability, and Impact. Understanding these concepts will help you answer the questions about your HIV-related issue.
Risk, like the causes in the second circle, focuses on the individual. Risk asks: how did the HIV virus get into this persons body?, or how is HIV now attacking this person’s body?
Vulnerability, like the causes outside of the second circle, focuses on root causes. It focuses on societies and groups, and examines the ways that broad social, political, and economic factors limit the number of choices available to different people. Vulnerability asks questions like: are some groups over-represented among people living with HIV?, and what social, political, and economic factors contribute to people from some groups being over-represented?
Impact, like the consequences, focuses on the outcomes of HIV on different levels from the personal to global. Impact asks: what is happening to this person, family, community, nation, region, world as a result of HIV? It looks at health and the health system, productivity and the economy, food security, access to education and the education system, family structure, community structure, grief and loss, etc.
The following activity is meant to help you figure out which part of your larger issue you want to focus on. You may want to use coloured markers so you can see the different levels of causes and consequences.
• Place the HIV-related issue you have identified in a circle in the centre of your page.
• Draw a larger circle about around this circle. There should be about 2 inches of empty space.
• Focus your thinking on a person who is living this issue. This person might be based on yourself, someone you know, or what you have read about HIV issues.
• If you were to think about this person, what lead them to experience the issue (the causes) and what has happened in their life as a result of the issue (consequences)?
• Explore the ”root causes” of each of the above “causes” you brainstormed one at a time. Explore how this cause developed in the person’s life. Keep asking yourself “why?” and “what lead to this?” until you run out of ideas. Write each chain of ideas down outside the second circle and connect them with a line.
• Explore the larger “consequences” of the issue. How does the health issue affect families, communities, nations, etc.? Write these down outside the second circle in another colour.
Step 2: Understanding the environment you want to change
Now that you have a better understanding of the causes and consequences of your health issue, the next step is understand both the environment you want to change and in which your advocacy strategy will operate. This will help you figure out possible “levers” for change and who you need to get on side to make things happen.
The environment for your issues depends on whether it is a local, national, regional, or global issue. What people or realities in your environment are supportive of your issue? What people or realities create challenges for your issue? Within the environment who shares your position (your allies), is against your position (the opposition), is sympathetic to your issue, and is indifferent to the issue? These people are known as stakeholders because they have a “stake” or an “interest” in the issue. If you can, find out who among these stakeholders will be at AIDS 2006 and what they are planning to do.
Another important environment to understand is the Conference itself. This will help you determine how to best use your time at the Conference. You can learn more about the International AIDS Conference at www.aids2006.org and [link to pages written by main conference]. You may want to think about the different kinds of people who will attend AIDS 2006, what are the issues that will be competing with yours, what are the priorities for AIDS 2006, etc. Again, you want to understand who already shares your position (your allies), is against your position (the opposition), is sympathetic to your issue, and is indifferent to the issue.
The theme for AIDS 2006 is Time to Deliver and refers to the need for governments and organizations to follow through on the commitments they have made to end the HIV pandemic. Understanding these commitments will provide you with a tool for positioning your message and hold governments, institutions, and organizations accountable to their promises. Two important commitments are the UNGASS 2001 and the Millennium Development Goals. You can learn more about these documents at www.unaids.org.
Story from the Frontlines:
The International AIDS Conference can be a powerful space to spark change. The young people in the Bangkok YouthForce believed that an international network of young people and adult allies was needed. A few of the youth were able to arrange a meeting with Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS and a supporter of youth participation, during AIDS 2004. Dr. Piot agreed to fund such a network and, as a result, the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS was formed.
Step 3: Identifying what you want and how to get there
By now, you have gathered a lot of information. Now it is time to assess what is your priority and how to go about achieving it.
1. Look over your brainstorm on the causes and consequences of your issue. Choose one or two that you believe are most important to your issue and are within your ability to “win” or influence. This is what you will focus your advocacy around.
2. Determine who has the power to change this cause or consequence.
3. Do a SWOT analysis. Divide a fresh piece of paper into four quadrants. Label the four squares:
Strengths and weaknesses are about your or your organizations abilities in relation to your issue. This might include financial and human resources. Opportunities and threats are about things outside of your control. This might include the opinions of major stakeholders and what motivates the powerful person or group you want to influence.
4. Determine the message that would best convince the “powers that be” to adopt your position. This includes both your message and the way you get it to those you want to hear it. You should carefully consider the information in your SWOT analysis. Make sure that your message matches up with what motivates the people you are targeting; this may be a different message than you would target to someone who shares your beliefs and priorities.
5. Choose a way to get your message to the people you want to influence. This can happen in many ways. Some people think that advocacy only involves protest or lobbying, but there are many other ways. For example, you may want to focus on building a coalition of likeminded individuals and groups to take advantage of the “strength in numbers”, you may want to undertake research to build your case, you may want to raise public awareness and support for your issue through the media. The important thing is that you chose a method that fits with your issue and will influence those people you have identified.
6. Some things to keep in mind:
• Know what motivates people: facts are not as engaging as stories and moral outrage over an injustice is often not enough.
• Levels of messages: Your message can be framed in different ways. One thing to keep in mind is that level of your message and which level will best motivate your target audience. There are three possible levels for framing issues: 1) Core values (for example, fairness, responsibility, peace, equality, etc.); 2) the general issue for which you are advocating; and 3) the details of the general issue. It works best to frame your messages at first level and be able to back it up with the other levels. This is the deepest because Level 1 speaks to people’s deeply rooted desires for the world, and our actions are often motivated by our values.
• Make it easy to act: Many people who support your position will only show that support if it is easy for them to do so.
• Understand the media: Give them an angle to present your story.
• Manage your information: Keep track of the information you have collected and use it to inform your strategy.
7. Have a post-AIDS 2006 plan. The International AIDS Conference only lasts a week. It is a good idea to look at your time there as a beginning or a catalyst for your advocacy efforts. Consider collecting the cards of the politicians, civil servants, journalists, researchers, funders, etc. you meet. Follow up with an email or letter to remind them of your conversation, the key issues, and how you think things could be improved. If you have an information package, send it to them. Write a letter to the editor or try to get a journalist to cover your story. There are many ways to follow up; the important thing is that you do follow up.
Build the TYF Advocacy Strategy
Support the TYF Advocacy Strategy
This section is currently under construction. Check back mid-May to read the report on the e-consultation and see how it has informed the key messages and advocacy materials such as talking points, stickers, pamphlets, etc.
The Toronto YouthForce worked with young people around the world to build its own advocacy message and strategy for AIDS 2006. This was done through a 3-week long e-consultation from Monday, April 3rd to Friday, April 21st.
The consultation gathered opinions about the YouthForce advocacy message, strategy, and materials from both young people who will and will not be at the conference. Additionally, participants will be asked to consult with their peers who do not have access to internet to include their opinions on what issues need to be included. The e-consultation resulted in a concrete message and strategy that young people can use to effectively hold their governments and other decision-makers accountable to commitments they have made (such as the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment and the MDGs).
The e-consultation was hosted by TakingITGlobal and the 3-week time frame was meant to include the voices of as many young people involved in HIV/AIDS interventions as possible. Young people ages 16 – 26 (the conference definition of youth) were prioritized and urged to participate throughout the 3 weeks.