Lobby and Advocacy: A promising field and a possible goal in the land of soccer

P
olitics is a very sensitive matter for discussion in Brazil. Even after the latest events and the abrupt development of a political mindset – especially fomented by social media, as we have long argued – some themes are still avoided, underestimated or simply ignored by the ‘ordinary citizen’, being lobby one of them.

It is a fact that there has been a growing demand for transparency and accountability; however a young democracy, such as the Brazilian, faces difficulties while struggling to figure out what lobby, a practice of foreign name and wide repercussion during one the most mediatized scam investigations in the country, really is.

Lobby, as a practice and in its practical sense, is a term to refer to the occupation of professionals who are meant to communicate with the government and intercede for a specific political or economic cause, normally sponsored by a company or association. One of the factors that make it different from the Unions and other private institutions is that those highly trained professionals normally don’t make use of the public space for discussion. Its name derives from the place where the political moves were executed, during the 19th century American and British politics.

The point is that the more mature the democracy is, the more regulated those processes are to be. This does not mean, however, that lobbying is not polemic. Actually, its need for legalization is also a strong evidence of how delicate the matter is, since the persuasion strategy used towards congressmen might involve gifts, favours and even bribes – which is why some scholars even deem it antidemocratic.

Making it a legal practice also imposes challenges, as too much regulation could turn the whole process into pointless bureaucracy. In Australia, there was a conjoint effort to regulate lobby, but the country ended up not recognising (nor prohibiting, it is to say) the activity. Most countries of Latin America, that follow the example of Brazil when it comes to very young democratic regimes, it is still a challenge to find a suitable social role for this practice.

In Brazil, it was, and still is, largely associated with crime, be that for the scandals in which lobbyists had a major role or because of the taboo that surrounds it – some big companies refuse to talk publicly about their own practices. Also, consulting firms specialised in lobbying are still gaining their space in the country, while trying to change the public opinion concerning the theme, through the creation of a Brazilian Association of Institutional and Government Affairs (ABIG), which is supported by the Brazilian Association for Business Communications (ABERJE).

In this plot, one could infere that, as the web becomes a fundamental tool for communication and spreadability of knowledge (something that the 54,4% of growing penetration of internet amongst Brazilians cannot deny), it will be natural for lobby to become digital, ergo, more trackable and exposed.

Curiously enough, apart from the mystery involving the Brazilian lobby, advocacy found itself very proficuous room to grow: according to the World Giving Index report of 2015, Brazil is amongst the top ten countries in absolute numbers when it comes to donating time, money and helping a stranger. We follow a global tendency, reinforced by the Marketing professor Phillip Kotler, the era of causes, in which consumers, look for personal, ideological, social satisfaction and positive collective impact.

Having this sort of demand in loco makes advocating for causes a very promising and inspiring activity in the country. Those causes might be well or little-known, but they have something in common – they demand changes from the government in order to promote more equality concerning themes like human rights, animals, gender, poverty, ethnicity.

What is interesting is to point that local studies and also agencies recur to lobby to define advocacy (or issue advocacy): lobbying directed to social causes. That might evidence that, if advocacy wants to work in Brazil, it’d better rush to regulate lobby – or make a huge effort not to be linked to that at all.

Finally, it is not about considering lobby or advocacy new practices in Brazil; they are not. It is about perceiving the whole movement there is towards the organization and wide use of those concepts. There is a growing sense of responsibility in the country, more awareness about the need of defining it and, if one can say so, facing those occupations in a less mystical and more rational way. And, although the path may be long, the journey has begun for good.

Luísa Monteiro

MD Senior Editor, PR Manager

Luísa Monteiro is a bachelor in Social Communication and is currently taking a Master's degree in Communication and Politics at PUC São Paulo.
Her researches are closely linked to the studies of internet as a democratic agora and her latest academic production correlates the (offline) social movements and their exposure on the net.

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