Advocacy? The key word is participation!
There is a close connection between the spread of xenophobic and racist discrimination, the capacity of public decision-makers to design effective “inclusion” policies and the level of direct and proactive participation of migrants, refugees and people with a migration background in the design and implementation of these policies.
The direct participation in the definition of social inclusion policies and the ability to represent demands – both at local and European level – can be an element of discontinuity that puts social cohesion, citizenship rights and solidarity back at the centre of public policies.
With these premises and this shared vision, last November saw the start of the new European project “B.A.B.I. Better Advocacy for Better Inclusion”, supported by the Erasmus+ programme, which involves four associations from different European countries: Lunaria from Italy, Antigone from Greece, SOS Racisme from Spain and SOS Malta.
The aim will be to promote the participation of civil society organisations, associations of migrants, refugees and citizens of foreign origin and to develop the capacity of activists of foreign origin and natives to guide public policies for social inclusion, thanks to the design of training and empowerment tools, which will be implemented during the project.
Innovative training methodologies and tools will be created and tested in a participatory way, which can strengthen the knowledge and skills of social workers and anti-racist activists useful to put pressure on institutions, to guide public policies for rights, against discrimination.
The first phase of the project saw the 4 associations involved in a fruitful research activity on the advocacy strategies and actions, experimented both at local and national level by the associations of migrants, refugees and citizens of foreign origin, which ended in these days and will be followed by the publication of 4 national reports, which will be available online from September. A Handbook on the advocacy cycle, containing 16 successful case studies collected in these months; a research on social inclusion indicators and the design of a training module on advocacy, which will be tested in an international training course for 25 activists; the publication of the final Tool-kit Better Advocacy for Better Inclusion, the realisation of an international event and four national meetings to present the results of the project are the activities planned for the coming months.
Ongoing research: some food for thought
The research is highlighting how the concept of advocacy is little recognised and diffused among informal organised migrant and refugee groups and little applied in the anti-racist world as a whole despite the fact that there are many campaigns and initiatives promoted at national and local level with the aim of changing the choices of political decision-makers. A multiplicity of strategies and social priorities emerges, linked to the specificities of the countries involved in the project.
In Italy, even if a strategic approach to advocacy is not yet well established, the interviews carried out show a very dynamic world that pursues social change and the guarantee of people’s rights, adopting very different strategies and methodologies of intervention, chosen taking into account emerging social needs, its own social mission and the external political and social context. Specific initiatives aim either at directly guiding the choices of political decision-makers, or at indirectly provoking legislative reforms through strategic legal actions.
The situation appears to be consolidated in Spain, where most of the activists interviewed and movements led by migrants or racialised people are aware of the need for advocacy in order to promote social transformation from an anti-racist perspective, and therefore have their own determined strategy, linked to the political agenda and with different levels of action and activity.
In Greece, there are also groups with traditional advocacy activities that intervene at the political and legal level on different scales (from national to local), which led to the establishment of an informal transversal advocacy network of Greek NGOs: Advocacy Working Group. However, there are also groups whose interventions, despite being de facto advocacy actions, are not referred to as such by the groups themselves.
Within the general framework of the four countries, the concept of advocacy that is most acerbic is in Malta, a country that still bears the signs of post-colonialism in its educational, legal and civil structure, which is also reflected in the inability to communicate with civil society, associations and trade unions that are working with migrants.
The priorities identified and towards which the interviewed groups direct their advocacy activities seem to be shared by the four Mediterranean countries. The main issues on which the social realities interviewed focus are the fight against institutional racism, labour exploitation, the reform of laws governing immigration and citizenship, the guarantee of equal access to welfare, the fight against ethnical/racial profiling and the guarantee of the right to asylum.