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<nettime> Keycode Bayer #42: German Industry to use NGO Campaign Tactics
CBGnetwork on Fri, 3 Aug 2001 18:17:58 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Keycode Bayer #42: German Industry to use NGO Campaign Tactics



GERMAN INDUSTRY TO USE NGO CAMPAIGN TACTICS

Since Seattle European business has chosen to leave the task of tackling 
WTO critics to politicians like EU Commissioner Lamy. However, there are 
now strong indications that this strategy is about to become more like 
that of US business and that European industry will engage in various 
forms of counter- campaigning to undermine the perceived growing powers 
of NGOs. A leaked strategy paper from the powerful Association of German 
Industries (BDI), shows that German industry is planning NGO-style 
campaigning to win public support for corporate-friendly international 
trade and investment policies. The paper, entitled "NGOs - a challenge 
for business" and written for an industry seminar on NGOs and trade 
policy, also points out the potential for weakening NGO campaigns by 
luring the opponents into =91dialogue=92.

The BDI paper complains about the growing influence of NGOs on public 
opinion. Their power, the paper states, is based on the widespread 
credibility and trust enjoyed by NGOs like Amnesty International and 
WWF, as well as the advanced international networking, through which 
"NGOs have gained an advantage in knowledge and mobilization". The 
campaign against a WTO Millennium Round is mentioned as an example of 
how fast NGO campaigns can spread and how effective they can be. It is 
exactly the fact that NGOs have taken on topics like international trade 
and foreign investment that worries the German employers organisation. 
These issues used to be the exclusive terrain of corporate lobbyists, 
who now have difficulties responding to these new "important 
competitors". This is why BDI has set up a working group on how to deal 
with the NGO threat. The working group collects information about 
membership, financing and structure of the most important NGOs and which 
develops strategies how to counter criticism. One strategy proposed is 
to copy NGO tactics and carry out campaigns targeting public opinion, a 
style of working which was until now very rarely used by German 
business.

Emphasis will be on controversial issues like genetic engineering and 
the impacts of globalisation. The BDI also plans to establish a European 
network of corporate policy experts which will directly target 
politicians and the EU bureaucracy. Internal communication will be 
through email lists - a classic NGO tool. In case of conflicts with 
NGOs, BDI distinguishes three different options: non-reaction, 
confrontation and dialogue. The strategy of non-reaction boils down to 
simply ignoring all criticism and was for many years the preferred 
option for German business. BDI however only recommends this strategy in 
the rare cases where the opponent is too unknown, powerless or 
ideologically extreme to be a real danger. The strategy of confrontation 
includes for instance the threat of court trials as well as discrediting 
the opponent. This strategy tends to be counter- productive because of 
the "David against Goliath" effect, which shifts sympathy to the 
attacked NGO and might damage the company=92s image.

Therefore BDI recommends its members to consider engaging NGOs in 
"dialogue": an effective strategy to evade conflicts =96 "without giving 
up own points of view." Indeed, the BDI paper does not in any way 
acknowledge the problems resulting from corporate-controlled 
international trade and investment policies. Instead, it clearly states 
that industry through "dialogue" with civil society hopes to gain the 
upper hand in the conflict and improve its public image. Among the 
benefits for business is the possibility to gain insights into the 
strength of the NGOs and their arguments, learning from their expertise 
as well as generally "taking the wind out of the sails of their 
opponents.

_____________________________________

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and coordinates activities against violations of human and environmental =
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CBG/Coordination against BAYER-dangers, Postfach 15 04 18, 40081 =
Duesseldorf, Germany

E-mail: CBGnetwork {AT} aol.com=20

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