Voluntary Sector: Red Cross begins lobbying

British Red Cross sets up first advocacy department and appoints B-M associate.

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.

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

He reports to 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.

Daynes said that in the past, the organisation believed the principal way it could help people was by providing aid on the ground.

The charity had only one public affairs officer based in the central press office, with another in Wales and one in Scotland.

But Daynes said there had been a shift of opinion in the organisation, where operations, public policy, advocacy and communications were seen as an integral mix that together could be more powerful. 'Other organisations such as 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 have not 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 of 'saving lives, changing lives', which will be launched later this year. A key challenge will be to maintain its politically neutral reputation.

Daynes said the organisation 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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