The National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS) emerged as a result of the collective vision and commitment of social activists who felt the need for a resource centre to facilitate advocacy for issues of public concern, specifically the rights of marginalised people. NCAS is a social change resource centre that aims at creating enabling conditions for people’s empowerment at the grass-roots and facilitating efforts for human rights, social justice, and transparent, participatory and accountable governance.
Though the focus of its activities is in India and the rest of South Asia, NCAS is emerging as a premier centre for people centred advocacy throughout the Global South. NCAS works as a collective of activists, researchers, public interest lawyers, journalists and subject experts. It has pioneered the concept and praxis of “People-Centred Advocacy”. It attempts to support and strengthen people‐centred advocacy through capacity development programmes, research and documentation, media advocacy and support to various people’s campaigns. As part of its capacity development programmes, NCAS has initiated an Advocacy Internship Programme since July 1999.
NCAS believes in:
- a society without poverty, injustice and discrimination,
- where every person and community can realize Human Rights to live with dignity,
- working towards a people-centered participatory, transparent, accountable and just governance.
NCAS is an Advocacy Resource Centre that seeks to:
- strengthen capacities and struggles of marginalized communities to claim Human Rights and Social Justice.
- promote people’s access, influence and participation in institutions of democracy.
PEOPLE CENTRED ADVOCACY
Capacity building involves enhancing the capacities of grassroots activists and support groups at the local, regional, national and international levels, in order to advocate for social justice and strengthen democratic alliances. People centred advocacy is possible only if the local level leaders have the capability and knowledge base to advocate for their communities. Capacity building is thus an action-oriented process of sharing and analyzing life experiences and building up one’s knowledge base.
NCAS has over the years created a niche in capacity building and knowledge management, especially on the themes of livelihood rights, environmental justice, and governance. And while NCAS is a leader in organizing action at the national and state levels, it avoids overruling people’s leadership. To that extent, promotion of people-centric governance is a key strategy of capacity building, focusing on people centred advocacy.
Using community learning movements (CLMs),NCAS enables people at the grassroots level to become political activists. CLM can be summarized as building up of a network of empowered community leaders who can organize and mobilize people to demand their basic rights. Through issue-based capacity building, NCAS seeks to build and support campaigns on adivasi, dalit, and women’s rights, with a final product of strengthening advocacy skills and expanding knowledge of social justice issues.
Each CLM maintains a unique design and is catered to best address the issues selected by the respective communities. CLMs can result in anything ranging from a national advocacy campaign to something as simple as creating an open space for people to discuss their struggles. No matter what the final product, CLMs inform and empower grassroots communities with the necessary skills and knowledge to fight for their human rights.
NCAS views research as paramount to all advocacy work. By regularly researching contentious issues in India, NCAS provides the needed publications and materials to educate future activists on issues related to human rights. These publications are circulated throughout marginalized communities so as to empower them with the necessary knowledge to advocate for the fulfillment of their rights. In order to reach all sectors of society, NCAS’ publications appear in many different forms, including policy briefs, report cards, books, and pamphlets; they also appear in many different languages, including English, Hindi, and Marathi.
NCAS seeks to use media as an alternative advocacy method to raise awareness concerning social justice issues. The media unit at NCAS attempts to bridge the gap between media arts and advocacy by using film and dance as tools to advocate for human rights. Media advocacy, as employed by NCAS, includes the production and distribution of visual and performing arts in order to spread awareness of social justice issues and increase people’s understanding of their human rights.
Media advocacy at NCAS involves:
- Media workshops and outreach sessions
- Documentary making
- Photo documentation
- Film festivals
NCAS plays a critical role in co-ordinating, networking and planning campaigns that work collectively with activist groups and people’s movements, especially those within marginalised groups. The campaign support programme lends special attention to legislative advocacy, working with social activists to catalyze social change at the policy level. And while NCAS works on legislative advocacy at the national level, the campaign support program seeks to continue its geographical focus on the central belt of India, especially with the Maharashtra State Legislature.