Using international lobbying leverage to advance national adoption of international policy mechanisms

In September 2008, the Association Libanaise pour l’Education et la Formation (ALEF) launched an international lobbying campaign at the European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) in order to push the Lebanese state to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (OpCAT).

In Lebanon, there were problems of widespread ill treatment and regular torture practices. In collaboration with other Lebanese civil society organizations, ALEF conducted capacity building workshops, awareness-raising activities, and community mobilization actions on the local level aiming to trigger an interest in the subject of torture prevention. These local actions raised awareness at the public and state level. This helped to set the stage and support ALEF’s preparations for implementing the international lobbying campaign.

While campaigning at the local and state levels, ALEF started by drawing a preliminary list of the potential stakeholders interested in the area of torture and working on the Lebanese file at the EU and UN levels. In December 2007 ALEF solicited the input of one of its partners in Europe, the IKV Pax Christi organization (an expert in the area of European institutions). Representatives of IKV Pax Christi were invited to ALEF’s premises in Beirut, Lebanon for a three-day planning meeting during which a presentation about the functioning of European institutions was made. As a result, a list of potential stakeholders was set, and a roadmap created to help establish meetings with those stakeholders. In addition, a list of potential UN officials was created through ALEF with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Beirut.

After having created the lists of stakeholders to meet, additional efforts were deployed with the objective of detecting the appropriate timing for visiting EU contacts in Brussels, Belgium and UN contacts in Geneva, Switzerland. ALEF found out that a Lebanese delegation was set to meet with the EU in September 2007 as a follow-up on Lebanon’s agreements under the European Neighborhood Policy framework. Based on that information, ALEF started to contact the different parliamentarians and commissioners in order to fix meetings prior to the Lebanese state delegation’s arrival. By meeting with their contacts prior to the delegation’s visit, they were able to increase the chances that Lebanon’s ratification of OpCAT would be on the agenda during meetings with the EU.

ALEF was able to conduct a total of eighteen meetings in Brussels and Geneva with several stakeholders conveying specific recommendations related to the policies Lebanon should adopt in order to prevent torture, and more particularly the importance of Lebanese ratification of OpCAT.

The main obstacle ALEF encountered was the unstable Lebanese political situation. On two occasions ALEF was obliged to change the period of the campaign due to the security and political situation in Lebanon. Another obstacle encountered was the organization of meetings with EU and UN contacts. It was not easy to arrange meetings with some high level stakeholders at the European level due to their tight schedules. One way in which ALEF addressed this problem was to have partners based on-site in Brussels and Geneva. These partners were able to follow up with contacts on a daily basis in preparation of ALEF’s visit.

Lebanon officially ratified OpCAT on December 22, 2008. While the success of the ratification process was the result of collective work done by many Lebanese civil society organizations, the international lobbying campaign led by ALEF was crucial to raising awareness and pressure on the Lebanese state.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

ALEF’s experience using international lobbying to push Lebanon to ratify OpCAT draws attention to the importance of timing in the selection of tactics. ALEF’s visit to EU stakeholders immediately prior to a visit by the Lebanese delegation helped put the issue on the agenda. This tactic also demonstrates the importance of an effective stakeholder analysis in identifying potential allies who can help support a cause.  By focusing their efforts on reaching influential decision-makers at a moment when they could have the greatest impact on their goal of ratifying OpCAT, ALEF was successful in its efforts to push the Lebanese government to take action and ratify the treaty.