By Mark Horler, Simpol supporter and networking officer.
There are a lot of NGOs out there these days. From the ‘big beasts’ right down to the little community organisations. But, for now, let’s focus on the big ones.
That still leaves us with many many NGOs to talk about. I’m going to make a point of not naming names in this piece because it’s the principles that count really.
It was put to me at a post conference pint in London not so long ago that Simpol is no different from any other NGO insofar as it’s still just lobbying MPs and governments, only at a global level that requires all of them to act at once.
The argument went that this meant it was more effective to lobby through NGOs since they can appeal directly to a given government on a particular issue at a particular time without, crucially, having to wait for everyone to act. Now this is an argument that I have had put to me more than once and it’s partially true insofar as it goes.
Let us be clear and say outright that we respect the vital work done by NGOs. Simpol is a long term project and we recognise, of course, the necessity of action now to mitigate the worst effects of our various excesses and shortages.
What’s odd about it is the notion that Simpol is somehow competing with these NGOs and that Joe Public must necessarily choose between the one and the other. This is the bit that is not true.
Simpol is actually inherently complimentary to the work done by these NGOs. In fact, if you think about it, Simpol is the logical extension of the lobbying process carried out by NGOs. Let’s look at the message sent by NGOs via their members. The message is essentially this:
“Dear MP, as your consituent I urge you to do x, y or z”. There is then the implication that failure to do so will result in loss of votes though this is rarely, if ever, stated explicitly.
This is fine in itself. The problem is that, as we have established, there are loads and loads of NGOs all sending their various messages on various subjects at various times. They therefore unfortunately end up competing with each other. This leads to the famously fragmented progressive movement which, in turn, allows a minority supporting the status quo to dominate the policy agenda.
Here, by contrast, is what Simpol members say (in essence) to their MP:
‘Dear MP, here is a package of measures that, as a global consituent, I urge you to enact. Pledging to do so will make you eligible for my vote and that of others like me. Failure to do so makes you ineligible for those votes and thus you risk losing your position. ‘
So we can clearly see that here the statement is explicitly made that failure to comply endangers votes for that politician and party. In this way Simpol ensures that the competition is between politicians for the votes, not amongst the members of the progressive movement.
In addition, by allowing for a range of measures to be presented together in one package and by ensuring that all of the policy measures in that package are decided entirely and democratically by it’s supporters, Simpol is able to create an umbrella under which the people and the NGOs can come together to drive the policy agenda as a unified movement.
Simpol invites the people to choose cooperation over unbridled competition. We invite the NGOs to make that same choice so we can all move forward together.