International Rivers’ advocacy training in DRC aimed at strengthening the movement of civil society partners and community groups to effectively advocate for the protection of rivers, rights of dam affected communities, and energy access. At the end of the training, groups were encouraged to sing their visions for their campaigns, which helped them take ownership of their visions and become more conscious of the expected results.

In May 2018, International Rivers’ Africa program held a week-long advocacy training in Kisantu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The training was aimed at strengthening the movement of civil society partners and community groups to effectively advocate for the protection of rivers, rights of dam affected communities, and energy access for marginalized populations. The training was attended by 18 participants from civil society organizations across the DRC. 

The purpose of the training was to help local activists and civil society groups:

  • Develop a practical skill base in messaging, advocacy and campaigns work.
  • Strengthen collaboration and coordination efforts among different actors relevant to respective campaigns’ collective planning.
  • Develop a shared advocacy and campaign vision, and a plan for implementation. This covered the use of legal strategies, gender mainstreaming, community engagement tools, promoting energy access, and investment chain mapping.

The training was facilitated by two former EarthRights International Mekong Advocacy School instructors, Maureen Harris, current Southeast Asia Program Director at International Rivers’, and Jonathan Kaufman, current Executive Director of Advocates for Community Alternatives.

A curriculum to drive change in Africa’s energy and water sectors

International Rivers’ Africa program strengthens on-the-ground advocacy for river protection, energy access, and rights of communities. In Kisantu, we discussed the campaigns to resist the controversial massive Inga dam on the Congo River,  prevent environmental damage caused by energy transmission lines, and support access to sustainable energy. 

Prior to developing the curriculum for the training, International Rivers’ Africa program conducted an informal assessment of the needs of our partners in the DRC. We saw a great need for consistency in messaging and developing strategies. We also shared campaign strategy pre-training forms with partners, which helped us develop a strategy map to guide our training. 

During the course of the week, participants shared their experiences in areas of energy infrastructure, community engagement, access to energy, gender advocacy, and climate justice. We drew from their well of experiences, and encouraged active participation. The lesson plans were structured to strengthen and develop current campaigns and activities, to ensure that they  strategically converged to a common goal. 

The training covered the following topics: 

  • Peace and conflict transformation
  • Gender and inclusivity
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Campaign messaging
  • Campaign planning
  • Campaign visioning and strategic objectives
  • Campaign strategies and tools
  • Media advocacy (tools and opportunities, media statements and interviews)
  • Legal strategies and Following the Money
  • Community engagement
  • Movement-building, collaborations and partnerships

Visions and strategies for river protection

Participants left the training with a completed legal strategy document that was developed during the training. Stakeholders, decision-makers, and other important actors were identified as targets for campaigns to protect rivers. Both judicial and non-judicial  strategies will be used in collaborative campaigns, among the groups. 

Legal strategy working group | Photo by International Rivers

At the end of the training, participants stated that they are in a better position to select strategies that best fit their campaign objectives. Not only did the groups have strategy options to choose from, they were also equipped with tools to help them implement their strategies.

Methods to empower women’s leadership and engagement were discussed throughout the training. In addition to empowering women leaders in civil society, we also identified the role of gender in shaping advocacy at the local community level, and discussed some key actions to take in promoting women’s advocacy at the community-level.  

Finally, the participants were encouraged to sing their vision, to take ownership of their visions and become more conscious of the expected results. 

Where we’re going from here

Post-training, International Rivers has continued to support partners who participated in the Advocacy School, as they further develop their campaign strategies and activities. Using the expertise of our staff across the various programs, we are able to provide strategic support and guidance to our partners engaging with development financiers, dam builders and policy makers. We are also working to connect partner groups to lawyers and experts who can further assist their campaigns. 

We are grateful for the support and funding of American Jewish World Service and Synchronicity Earth Foundation that made possible this first Advocacy School organized by  International Rivers in DRC. We hope to hold similar trainings in other regions of Africa and major river basins throughout the world, in support of river defenders everywhere.