Advocacy coalitions and policy reforms

September 24, 2023

Transforming Pakistan’s policy landscape requires an evidence-based approach

Advocacy coalitions and policy reforms


akistan stands at a crossroads, facing a myriad of challenges that echo across its education sector, healthcare system and economy.

The impact of these challenges resonates through society, affecting not only the well-being of its citizens but also its economic landscape. In this intricate web of issues, the imperative of effective policymaking and the pursuit of evidence-based reforms emerge as beacons of hope for a nation on the brink of a transformation.

In Pakistan’s dynamic socio-political landscape, the path to policy reform is far from easy. Enter advocacy coalitions – dynamic networks of diverse stakeholders sharing a common vision to drive meaningful policy change. These coalitions have emerged as catalysts for policy formulation and implementation.

Advocacy coalitions can play a significant role in shaping Pakistan’s policy landscape, especially in a systems approach to policy transformation. Their emergence traces a path of resilience and determination through the ever-evolving socio-political terrain. These coalitions, composed of diverse stakeholders, represent the very essence of collaboration. Educators, healthcare professionals, policymakers, community leaders and passionate advocates unite under a common banner, driven by a common mission to revolutionise policies across various spheres.

Beginning with a fundamental issue or a sector in need of reform, advocacy coalitions can trigger a significant impact in policymaking. Within this intricate web of stakeholders, each unit plays a role driven by its unique motivation. Policymakers navigate the complex labyrinth of governance, seeking innovative solutions to age-old problems.

In policymaking, governments can find valued partners in advocacy coalitions. Advocacy coalitions not only support government suggestions but also help build consensus among stakeholders, generate public support and advocate for policy implementation. They assist in resource mobilisation, aid in monitoring policy impact, and promote transparency, fostering a more participatory decision-making process.

Collaborating with advocacy coalitions empowers governments to leverage evidence-based decision-making, enhance policy innovation and resolve conflicts, ultimately leading to more effective policies that serve the public interest.

For Pakistan, the demand is for a focused approach in policymaking. Historically, Pakistan has often formulated its education, healthcare, economic and other policies without engaging all stakeholders. Given the context, advocacy coalitions emerge as facilitators for not only the promotion of public-private collaborations but also initiating a transformative shift in the policymaking process.

Moreover, they bring about transparency and accountability in policy development, ensuring that both public and private voices are recognised and valued.

Within the realm of policy reform, advocacy coalitions have been formidable agents of change. These can propel Pakistan towards a more policy-resilient future.

In Pakistan’s intricate policy landscape, advocacy coalitions can emerge as potent catalysts for transformative change. They can unite stakeholders for shared goals, employing nuanced strategies tailored to the country’s unique context and short-, mid-and long-term requirements. This influence can span over multiple sectors, underscoring a substantial impact on Pakistan’s journey towards comprehensive policy restructuring.

In education, for instance, advocacy coalitions have spearheaded reforms that led to significant improvements in enrollment rates and learning outcomes. Healthcare sector, too, has seen some remarkable endeavours, with policies championed by these coalitions resulting in greater accessibility to quality healthcare services.

The evidence of efficacy of these policy changes is not merely anecdotal. It has been substantiated by rigorous data and research findings. Examples like Nigerian Healthcare Advocacy Network, Bangladesh Maternal Mortality Reduction Initiative, Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research–Global, Global Campaign for Education and the South African National Literacy Initiative are just some of the cases resulting from advocacy.

Advocacy coalitions have championed evidence-based decision-making as a cornerstone of their reform strategies. They have championed collection and analysis of data to inform policy shifts, ensuring that reforms are not only well-intentioned but also thoroughly effective.

In this manner, these coalitions have brought a refreshing dynamism to policy domains across the board, ushering in an era of informed decision-making and measurable progress.

A testament to the advocacy coalitions’ success lies in the South-South Programme. The programme is rooted in the aspiration to pool collective wisdom and resources. It seeks to harness the energy of advocacy coalitions among diverse stakeholders to address Pakistan’s distinct foundational learning challenges. Within this innovative framework, advocacy coalitions play a pivotal role, bringing their expertise and experiences to the table in a collaborative spirit. Their unique contributions shine brightly in this cooperative endeavour, forging connections that bridge continents and unite voices in the pursuit of transformative policy reforms.

An example of this is the Foundational Learning Hub, launched by the Ministry of Education and Professional Training on September 7 with the purpose of systemic policy reforms for foundational learning in Pakistan through evidence, analysis, support and sustainability. This was a result of sustained and continuous efforts by the South-South Coalition Fellows of Pakistan under the SS Programme.

It goes without saying that the efforts of advocacy coalitions extend beyond mere rhetoric, encompassing a diverse array of strategic manoeuvres to effect tangible policy change. These coalitions employ an arsenal of tactics, including stakeholder engagement, resource mobilisation and communication as their instruments of influence.

All advocacy coalitions face their unique challenges including the fear that one of the entities can take more control, intra-organisational conflicts, time constraints and accountability. But in many cases the coalitions have been able to meet these challenges and work through them. An example of this happens is National Learning Standards in Brazil, a coalition that faced some of these issues and was still able to build reforms.

The journey from policy formulation to effective implementation is rife with complexities, necessitating a keen eye for evidence-based decision-making to sustain the momentum of reform. The essence of effective policy lies not only in its formulation but in the ability to sustain it over time. Evidence-based decision-making emerges as a linchpin, ensuring that policies remain on course, driving improvements in outcomes. However, the path to successful implementation is seldom linear. Instead, it is often fraught with unforeseen challenges that demand nimbleness and adaptability.

As we contemplate the future of advocacy coalitions and Global South collaborations in Pakistan, we are met with a landscape ripe with promise and potential. These dynamic forces, fuelled by a collective will for change, are not constrained by the narrow confines of a single policy arena. Instead, they resonate across the vast spectrum of sectors that define our nation’s well-being. Their potential for transformative change is boundless.

To harness this potential to its fullest, strong political will is required. Without that coalitions can make or break; so can policy-making structures.

The writer is a project manager with Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi

Advocacy coalitions and policy reforms