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The New Approach: The New Target

In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning.

Advocacy is the communication of a particular message to an intended target in an attempt to change the behavior of that target. I’ll begin the new approach I introduced last week with a discussion of a new target.

With Darfur advocacy up until now, the message has looked as follows:
The target has been the general public with the message of the reality of the Darfur crisis in the hopes that more advocates will be created who will tell their government of the reality of the Darfur crisis in the hopes these governments will then use their unique powers to pressure Khartoum to stop ordering Janjaweed militias to kill Darfurians.

As you can see, the message has been the same (I will discuss the concept of message here next week). Because of the lack of coverage of the genocide, advocacy groups (like Save Darfur) and individuals (like Nicholas Kristof) have proclaimed a message of awareness. Making people aware about the atrocity will compel them to act, and then a change will occur.

However, the target of this message has been on two levels. The levels have determined the change in behavior sought, and thus have influenced the message itself. The message to the general public has been one of public awareness. Facts and stories of the genocide have been aimed at regular (non-governmental) people in hopes that these people will then lobby their government to do what it is perceived only governments can do: sanction, declare war, form alliances, embargo, etc.

So, the message is languaged in a very specific way, hoping to get these people to then deliver another message to another target (governmental bodies), chief among them the US Senate, the US President, and the UN.

Thus, the advocacy strategy has been one of mobilizing more advocates. The justification has been that if enough people care, then they will leverage whatever political and economic capital they have to change the behavior of the government, so that these governments will put pressure on the government in Khartoum, who many hold responsible for the perpetration of the genocide.

The result of this strategy has been mixed. Yes, more people are now aware of Darfur, and, yes, more letters and messages have been delivered to Washington and New York. But, the genocide continues because the target is one that has a much greater perceived power to act than they actually have in their capacity.

Asking ourselves the following question will give us the proper target: Who could literally end the genocide?

Many think that the government in Khartoum could make a sweeping pronouncement and all killing, raping and pillaging would stop. But, for such a hateful force to halt behavior, action on the part of large governmental bodies must be massive, which is currently impossible given alliances and loyalties. More is needed, in other words, than sanctions and peacekeepers.

Quite literally, the genocide would stop if individual soldiers stopped killing people. The genocide would stop when soldiers put down their guns and use another means for income and food other than raiding villages. The genocide would stop if individual soldiers no longer choose to do what they do.

There’s our target. Now, what’s the message? I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on what this message needs to be and how it needs to be delivered to have a maximum impact.

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