Decisions made early can make a big difference in the future


Early choices can have repercussions for the coalition’s future. A lack of flexibility in the coalition’s name or public position can limit room for manoeuvre or space for dialogue, and might seem impossible to change later. A rush to define things can likewise reduce options. Coalitions tend not to like publically changing their minds, so the fixed points that are established early on might dictate the terms around which the coalition has to campaign on its issue for the rest of its life.

A general recommendation would be not to lock the coalition into narrowly framing the issues, but keep the door open to various consistent framings in the future. Multiple framings can be used not only to bring in wider and more varied constituencies but also to get around blockages within individual lines of discussion. The suggestion then is to find a broad – overarching – articulation under which more specific lines of engagement can be developed.

“We were working for the general goal – an independent, fair, effective international criminal court. Definition of these terms would be developed slowly and in partnership with others throughout the process.”

Bill Pace, Coalition for the International Criminal Court

For example, in the development of the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a deliberate effort has been made to create a broad framing that could engage different constituencies; one that framed the nuclear weapon problem in terms of moral, economic and environmental issues.

For the CMC, the frame of reference provided by the general rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) became very constraining in the way that it was used by some states. Finding ways to challenge that frame of reference, particularly through a focus on the “unacceptable harm” that cluster munitions cause, was critical to making progress on the issue.


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