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Six deadly sins of human rights advocates
Don Cheadle and John Prendergast, Hyperion Press 2007
August 01, 2007

Extracted from: Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond

Beware of the Six Deadly Sins of would-be human rights advocates like us. We can get pretty sanctimonious, long-winded, and overzealous. So here are some things to avoid when you are trying to make your case, whether to a politician or to a group of people you are trying to educate.

  1. Don't be too boring! Advocacy is not like an academic conference. We need to think through how to make our presentations stand out. Tell a story, tell a joke, make what you have to say interesting. Don't paint in black-and-white; paint in color!
  2. Don't be too long-winded! Most of us who get involved in advocacy could hardly be accused of being shy. We often tend to drone on just a little too long about the issues that fire us up. Zero in on the main points and be concise!
  3. Don't be too unilateral! We often just make long presentations or speeches at our meetings and events. We need to focus on interaction with our interlocutors or audiences. After initial presentations, engage people by asking questions. Be interactive!
  4. Don't be too complex! We often overload our message by telling everything about our subject of interest in all its glorious complexity. Pick the highlights. Make a few simple points!
  5. Don't be too unstructured! There's often so much to said about our topics that we have the temptation to just blurt it all out in a stream of consciousness, sort of like hurling mud (or any other similar substance) against a wall and hoping it sticks. Instead, it is important to make a tight situation report and then present a focused set of recommendations. Make it flow!
  6. Don't be too touch-feely! We have to match our advocacy agenda to the big picture. We can't just rely on the "because it's the right thing to do" argument, or simply hope that for humanitarian reasons people will respond. We also have to connect our issues to larger national interests and what politicians and Zimbabweans care about. Be relevant!

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