Picked up PR Week today to find a hugely interesting article by Kate Magee which reveals that the British Red Cross is setting up its first advocacy department.
Magee writes that this marks 'a radical departure from its long-standing politically neutral stance'. The BRC has hired a senior associate from PR giant Burson Marsteller.
The Red Cross has traditionally eschewed advocacy, preferring to concentrate on providing aid on the ground. But the reality of NGOs in the 21st century is that advocacy is a central part. As Ian Bray of Oxfam told me for my original research 'We don't believe aid changes the world; politics does."
Oxfam and Save the Children have been some of the strongest players in this area - along with Christian Aid which has just launched its Mass Visual Trespass Campaign. All will be nervous however about the BRC's venture into this field: it will be seen as a potential sleeping giant awakening. The BRC has huge reach, influence and will be taken very seriously.
Will this compromise the Red Cross's famous neutrality? The agency has said it will be careful not to by lobbying all parties equally and making sure its campaigns focus on humanitarian consequences rahter than root causes. It'll be a tricky one. A cliche to raise Amartya Sen at this point but it's something that the BRC will have to bear in mind.