Budget advocacy – what is it?
Budget advocacy is a strategic approach about influencing decisions made by authorities in regards to budgets. This approach is aimed at obtaining clear and specific results - for instance, in the field of harm reduction, this approach is aimed at ensuring stable funding of services for people who use drugs, from the state budget. This is an example of a long-term goal for the advocacy. Efficient advocacy is moving to achieve these goals through gradual, small, concrete steps, such as increasing budget allocations or strengthening control over the use of public funds.
Why it is so important for communities to participate in budget advocacy?
Budget advocacy and changing of policies suggests active participation in the budgeting process using three fundamental approaches:
- Changes in the regulatory framework: based on problem analysis data, activists engaged in advocacy are campaigning for the adoption of new laws, government programs and initiatives or amendments to existing laws and programs.
- Changing the decision-making system: activists engaged in advocacy, can also draw attention exactly to decision-making system, demanding transparency and access to information, gaining opportunities for community participation, and better control over how public funds are being used and state programs are implemented.
- Providing opportunities for communities to make changes by themselves: it is important for efficient advocacy to delegate, empower and provide opportunities for those people, whose lives will be affected by government decisions, so that they can understand the existing problems and can take action on their own behalf.
- Only if all these three elements of advocacy will be used together, then advocacy by community will have the greatest impact on actions of authorities, and in turn, on lives of people.
Five principles of efficient budget advocacy by communities efforts from Maxim Demchenko, budget advocacy practitioner, Svet Nadezhdy (Light of Hope) NGO, Poltava, Ukraine:
1. This is not similar to fundraising. When we are engaged in advocacy, we are not asking for more money, but we offer socially significant and more efficient solutions. We advocate and defend the need for services by proofing their efficiency.
2. We have to understand that we will always compete with other budget items. However, the lack of financing of social services most often is not the question of lack of funds, but lack of priorities at the decision-making level.
3. Often we work not with those with whom we need to, but with those with whom it is comfortable to work; for example, directors of social services, chief medical officers and health care officials, many of whom are all for it, anyway. Yet they themselves often do not have possibilities to influence the process. We do need to contact “opponents” and convince them by arguments, and then accompany the process at all stages: during the budget planning, and, later on, at the stage of funds allocation to ensure that funds allocated are equal to funds promised, and that at the time of procurement the items purchased are items needed.
4. For the beginning it is very useful to negotiate with the local authorities on the allocation of municipal premises. It is unreasonable to get social services contract and then substantially give half of a grant back in rent payment.
5. The money is there, you just have to know how to take them! The main thing is to do everything in time, using the budget cycle.