The British Red Cross makes radical move to start campaigning for first time

The British Red Cross is about to start lobbying politicians for the first time, marking a radical departure from its long-standing politically neutral stance.

Campaigning: radical move for British Red Cross
Campaigning: radical move for British Red Cross

The NGO has set up its first advocacy department and hired Burson Marsteller senior associate Christopher Deacon as advocacy manager.

He reports into Leigh Daynes, who has taken on an expanded role as head of corporate external affairs. Daynes was until recently head of media and public affairs.

In the new role, Daynes will be in charge of creating and implementing a cross-department approach to advocacy.

He said that in the past, the organisation believed the principle way it could help people was by providing aid on the ground. The charity only had one public affairs officer based in the central press office, with one in Wales and one in Scotland.

But Daynes said there has been a shift in opinion within the organisation that says operations, public policy, advocacy and communications are an integral mix that together can be more powerful.

‘Other organisations like Oxfam and Save The Children have understood that campaigning is part of their DNA and they are hugely effective organisations,’ he said. ‘Because of our long-standing neutrality we haven’t framed our work in that way. But our founding principle requires us to act, and that sometimes means through advocacy.’

The shift in approach is part of the British Red Cross’ new corporate strategy ‘saving lives, changing lives’, which will launch later this year.

A key challenge for the British Red Cross will be to maintain its politically neutral reputation. Daynes said the body would do this by lobbying political parties equally, and by making sure its campaigns focused on addressing the humanitarian consequences of a situation rather than the root causes.

Top campaigning priorities will be to tackle the consequences of government policy on asylum, building on a previous ‘discreet’ campaign to get first aid embedded in the school curriculum, and to argue for the need for humanitarian space in conflict zones.

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