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

Luísa Monteiro

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] P [/yt_dropcap]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 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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Americas

Weather and White House Turmoil as Elections Loom

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc as it traversed the Florida panhandle.  The first Category 5 hurricane to hit the area since 1881 when records began, its 155 mph winds (only 5 mph short of Category 6) felled massive trees, blew away houses, collapsed buildings and left devastation in its wake.  Relatively fast moving at 14 mph, it was soon gone continuing as a Category 3 into neighboring Georgia and then further up its northeasterly path.  It seemed to signify a stamp of approval for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on holding earth to a 1.5 degree Celsius warming issued a couple of days earlier.  We are at one degree now so storms can only be expected to get worse.

In northeastern Turkey, a 300-year old stone bridge disappeared overnight.  Villagers convinced it had been stolen called in the police.  Further investigation concluded it had been washed away by a flash flood caused by a sudden summer thunderstorm further upstream — clearly far more intense than in the previous three centuries.

Ever more powerful hurricanes, monsoons and forest fires point to a proliferation of extreme weather events that experts relate to global warming.  Yet President Donald Trump and his administration remain obdurate in climate change denial.

Thins are certainly warming up in the White House.  Nikki Haley announced her resignation in an amicable meeting with the president.  A staunch defender of many of Mr. Trump’s most egregious foreign policy changes, the UN Representative will be leaving at the end of the year to pursue opportunities in the private sector.  So said the announcement.  An astute and ambitious politician she has probably reassessed the costs versus benefits of remaining in a Trump administration.  Some tout her as a future presidential candidate.  Should she be successful she will be the first woman president, who also happens to be of Indian and Sikh ancestry.

The rap singer Kanye West visited the president in the Oval office.  A ten-minute rant/rap praising him was followed by a hug for which Mr. West ran round the wide desk that had been seemingly cleared of all paraphernalia for the performance.  He is one of the eight percent of blacks voting Republican.  Sporting the Trump trademark, Make-America-Great-Again red hat, he claimed it made him Superman, his favorite superhero.  And some suggested it was all further proof the place had gone insane.

A little over three weeks remain to the U.S. midterm elections on November 6th.  Their proximity is evidenced not by rallies or debates rather by the barrage of negative TV ads blasting opponents with accusations of shenanigans almost unworthy of a felon.  A couple of months of this and you lose any enthusiasm for voting.  Perhaps it is one reason why nearly half the electorate stays home.  Given such a backdrop, the furor over ‘Russian meddling’ in elections appears to be a trifle misplaced.  Others call the whole business a ‘witch hunt’ and state flatly the U.S. does the same.

The old idiom, ‘put your own house in order’ is particularly apt when we realize the beginning of this affair  was a Democratic National Committee email leak showing ‘the party’s leadership had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign’.  It resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Always fair, aboveboard elections?  Not bloody likely, as the British would say.  Given the rewards, it’s against human nature.

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Americas

The hot November for Trump is arriving

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Political turmoil in the United States has become extremely unpredictable. The turn of events became worse with an op-ed at the New York Times on September 5. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon described it as a coup against Donald Trump.

The reality is that the president faces domestic problems in his second year in office. This has rarely happened in the US political history. The issue is of great importance with regard to the approaching mid-term congressional elections in November. Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but they feel the risk of losing the majority in both houses due to Trump’s record.

Indeed, a feeling has emerged among some American politicians that their country is heading in the wrong direction because of Trump’s policies. Even former President Barack Obama has joined the election campaigns by breaking his promise not to get involved in political affairs.

The situation is not also good for Trump internationally. Disagreement with the European Union – a traditional ally of the United States – over trade and political issues, trade war with China, increasing tension with Russia, exit from international treaties such as the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement Iran, have all made Trump to look dangerous in the eyes of the world. All these issues have made the situation unfavorable for Trump and his government at home and abroad.

But what is the answer of the president of the United States to these criticisms? The answer to this question is one word: economy. However, Trump is proud of his economic record.

According to statistics, the Labor Department published on September 8, US employment growth in August has beat market expectations, the non-farm payrolls increased by 201,000 from the previous month. Analysts were expecting growth of about 195,000.

The unemployment rate for August remained low at 3.9 percent. The average hourly wage rose 2.9 percent from the year before. That’s the highest level since June 2009. The latest figures are increasing speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise its key interest rate this month. The US economy expanded 4.2 percent in the April-to-June quarter, and is expected to grow more than 3 percent in this quarter.

But the economy cannot keep the president of the United States from the edge of criticism. Trump is in a difficult situation and worried about the result of the election and possible control of Congress by Democrats.

Issues such as the confessions of Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen on bribing women for having affairs with Trump and Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 presidential election could possibly lead to his impeachment and his dismissal from power.

The US constitution says that the impeachment of the president should be endorsed by representatives from both chambers of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats now have 49 seats in the 100-member Senate, and if they get 51 seats in the November election, they will still need at least 15 Republican senators to impeach Trump.

Still, if Democrats win the November election, even if this victory does not lead to Trump’s impeachment, it can put further pressure on him and cripple his government. According to a CNN poll, decrease in Trump’s popularity even among his supporters shows that the days following the November election will be hard times for Trump and his government.

First published in our partner MNA

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From Obama to Al Gore: Democrats taking stance against Trump

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Overcoming the current president of the United States has turned into the main goal of the Democrats in the United States. American Democrats who have been isolated in the last two years, and lost the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and many governorates, are now planning to win the Congress elections.

On the other hand, the public dissatisfaction raised over the performance of the US President has given hope to the Democrats for winning the midterm elections.

The president of the United States, speaking among his proponents, has warned about the Democrats’ victory in the US midterm elections. Trump has explicitly stated that if Democrats win the elections, many of his decisions will be destroyed. The US Democrats believe that if they fail in midterm elections, they won’t be able to return to power at least until 2024. Therefore, the Democrats will do their best to succeed in the upcoming elections. As we get closer to the Congress elections in November, we will see an increase in the verbal and political attacks of Democrats against Trump and his companions at the White House. Some analysts believe that if the Republicans fail in the mid-term elections, we’ll see a broad gap formed between the traditional Republicans and the Trump government. This gap exists at the moment, but the leaders of the Republican Party and its affiliated media avoid from fully disclosing it. However, it seems that if the Republicans lose the US Congress, it will be difficult for the Republican leaders to continue this game! In this case, Trump will be the main accuser of this defeat. The Democrats know well that the Republican defeat in the midterm elections will intensify the disagreement between the party members, and thus will lead to the possible defeat of Trump in the next presidential elections.

In recent days, many of the American Democrats have intensified their verbal and political attacks on President Donald Trump. Former Secretary of State John Kerry implicitly stated that he would not rule out running for president in 2020. Kerry was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004 but ultimately lost the election to former US President George W. Bush. He had also emphasized on the critical situation of the United States following the presence of Trump at the White House. Also Al Gore, the former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate, publicly called for President Donald Trump to resign. Moreover, former US President Barack Obama challenged the existing policies in the United States during John McCain’s funeral, without naming Trump. Delivering his eulogy, Obama said: “So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage.”

The fact is that one of the main goals of the American Democratic Party leaders in their recent political attacks on Trump is winning the US mid-term elections and the conquest of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Right now the republicans hold the majority of the Congress, and many members of the party, while opposing Trump’s policies, are not willing to confront him and stand up against the White House. But the Democrats, on the other hand, are trying to provide the ground for their victory in the 2020 presidential elections by explicitly criticizing, and even resisting to some of Trump’s decisions. Democrats such as John Kerry, believe that if the Republicans fail in the Congress midterm elections and lose their dominance on the House of Representatives and Senate, it will be difficult for Trump to win the 2020 presidential elections. However, if the democrats fail this time against Republicans, just like the way they did in 2016, and lose seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, Trump will not have a difficult way to win the next presidential election. Many American think-tanks and analysts believe that the mid-term elections this year (2018) will turn into a rigorous opposition between Trump’s supporters and opponents.

It should be noted here that Democrat candidates for the presidential election in 2020 are not yet introduced. As John Kerry has announced, this is supposed to be after the Congress elections. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and John Kerry are considered as possible candidates for the next US presidential elections. However, some Democrat leaders believe that they should introduce a new figure for this battle.

It is yet not clear that who will be the final nominee of the Democrats, but it seems that many of the party’s supporters do not have much confidence in their leaders anymore! In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders became the sacrifice of the secret lobbies of the Democrats’ senior figures. Later on, it became clear that Democrat leaders had agreed on Hillary Clinton’s presence from the very beginning, and the impartial gesture in the Clinton-Sanders competition was nothing but a lie. This caused many of the American citizens to vote for Trump instead of Sanders. Anyway, this time the Democratic Party has a hard time to persuade the party’s supporters, and the Congress elections will, to a great extent, depict the political and social composition in the United States.

First published in our partner MNA

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