This month, the RESULTS National Conference discussed the theme of why citizens campaigning on international development issues matters more today than ever before.
Keynote speaker Professor David Hudson of Birmingham University opened the conference and stressed that poverty is essentially political (30s sound clip). In a democratic system, overcoming it is something we can't just leave to the experts and politicians. Public support for international development has been declining in the UK, so we've a big job to do to convince people of its importance. But we heard about ways in which we can speak compellingly about the moral value of the UK's global leadership on international development (52s sound clip), steering the debate away from our national self-interest. And there's evidence that people find these arguments convincing.
Analysing how power is exercised is at the heart of any successful advocacy, and we need to better understand how citizens can play their part. Professor John Gaventa from the Institute for Development Studies showed us how citizens musts not only fight for the causes they care about, whether global or local, but also make common cause (1 min 9s) where possible, to create a strong movement for change. Activists such as the Anti-Fracking Nanas (3 mins 2s), fighting for the quality of the environment we are handing down to the next generation, are inspiring examples of citizens powerfully advocating for change, who we can stand alongside, even though the issues we are working on - and our campaigning tactics - are sometimes very different. Linking all of our concerns is the problem of rising inequality (3 min 32s). That might be unequal access to resources, but it could also be about unequal power to have a say in our future. Raising our voices is the tool we use to fight this inequality, from our varying perspectives.
Advocating for our issues involves entering into public debate, and we know that the dialogue around international development is increasingly fractured, polarised and politicised. Aid seems continuously under attack this year. But we mustn't be disheartened. Nicky Hawkins from Equally Ours reminded us that there was never a time when arguments were entirely rational (you can hear more on her 'post-truth survival guide' video), or when people didn't choose the facts they wanted to believe, based on their preconceived notions. Recognising this helps us as campaigners, enabling us to play to people's values, and tell powerful stories that resonate with people who may have very different priorities from ours. In this way, we can share a positive case for international development with a wider audience, and not feel hopeless in the face of vociferous and ill-informed attacks on what we believe is important.
Whatever the outcome of the 2017 general election, RESULTS will carry on campaigning for the rights to health, education and economic opportunity for people around the world, and we will continue to build positive relationships with anyone who wants to work alongside us to achieve this vision, including politicians from all political parties.
Staying positive about our mission is vitally important, and we heard some great tips on how to be a healthy, creative and sustainable campaigner. And in the final session of the conference, we put together a "grassroots manifesto for change", showing how we will go about doing this: how we intend to act as campaigners for international development and as advocates for a more equal world. This should be a strong rallying cry, bringing others along with us, and giving them the opportunity to make a positive change in the world, rather than despairing of the politics of hate and of otherness. This is something we need to do - and can do - today more than ever.