4.1.7 Lobbying

Lobbying is a process of dealing directly with decision-makers such as constitution-makers with a view to seeking support for a position on some issue of importance. In a constitution- making process the issues being lobbied about can involve the design and operation of the process itself as well as questions about contents of the constitution. It is common for civil society to become involved in lobbying on such matters. Here are some commonsense pointsPart 4: Guide to key external actors in the process: Civil society, the media, and the international community on lobbying as applied to members of a constituent assembly:

  • Choose the targets carefully: perhaps members who are not already committed one way or another on the issue in question, but may be persuaded to support the viewpoint held by the lobbying organization.
  • Find out the official view of each target member’s party, and about the member’s interests and possible biases.
  • Be prepared with all the facts and arguments.
  • Be on time for any meeting arranged, be polite, and be patient.
  • Be persuasive, using a little emotion perhaps, but always providing as much useful information as possible.
  • Be brief—in speech and in writing.
  • If the member asks a question for which you have no answer, be honest, promise to supply the information later—and do so!
  • Send a note of thanks after any meeting, one that emphasizes the main points made.

Lobbying a commission or expert committee may be harder. They are not chosen to “represent the people” in the same way a constituent assembly is. It is also unwise for any civil society actor to be exposed to any risk of being seen as attempting to use unfair influence on a member. Approaches to such bodies should perhaps be open—a request to speak to the entire committee, or an “open letter” in the newspaper, for example.

Box 45. Abolition of the death penalty in South Africa

During the South African constitution-making process, sensitivity about high crime levels contributed to difficulty in getting agreement on the abolition of the death penalty. But not long after the new constitution came into force, the constitutional court held that the “right to life” provision in the constitution meant there should be no death penalty.