In today's globalised world, the decisions made in each country interact with others. NGOs need to be ready to take action anywhere across the world. There are over 150 countries out there. NGOs have limited resources and rarely are able to have 150 national branches. So how do we do it?
Cruelty Free International is the leading global organization solely dedicated to ending animal testing for cosmetics and household products worldwide - a potential issue in every country. We need to keep track of developments wherever they happen and work to influence policy in countries with a political climate and culture that may differ from each other in subtle ways. This article explores a recent example of how we achieved change in one country: Korea.
South Korea is one of the "tiger economies" which has exploded onto the world stage. From a relatively underdeveloped society in the 1950s, it is transformed into a huge consumer market, with world-famous brands like Hyundai and Samsung exporting all over the world. Their cosmetics market is dominated by two giant companies, LG (also known internationally for televisions) and Amore Pacific.
Winning over consumers
Korea is not known for sympathy towards animals - practices such as eating dogs may be dwindling, but the first job was to influence public opinion. So we looked for a Korean partner, and found the Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA), who readily agreed to work with Cruelty Free International. We supplied facts and figures from around the world and KAWA worked to promote understanding of the suffering caused by using animal in cosmetics.
Building a consensus
Soon, cosmetics companies started to report rising consumer pressure, and both Amore Pacific and the large LG cosmetics subsidiary Beyond moved to end animal testing for new products. Now it was time to talk to the regulators and politicians. We appointed a Korean campaign manager, Hyung Ju Lee, and at the end of 2012, we contacted the Korean Food and Drug Administration (FDA), leading members of the National Assembly and leaders of the Korean Cosmetic Industry Association to arrange a series of discussions. Our Director of Policy, former British MP Dr Nick Palmer, drew on his political experience together with Hyung Ju's contacts to organise a major event at the National Assembly with simultaneous interpretation, bringing together all sides to discuss the way forward. Ms Lee and Dr Palmer held further meetings with senior staff at the FDA and with consumer groups campaigning for reform. A consensus was starting to emerge.
Hammering out the details
We now turned to promoting a Parliamentary initiative, spurred on by our million-signature global pledge with The Body Shop showing tremendous support from around the world. Representative Jeong-Lim Moon, member of the Health and Welfare Committee, agreed to take forward a Bill in the National Assembly, and we engaged in detailed discussion with her office, the Ministerial officials and the FDA. By now, the authorities were fully engaged. A Korean delegation was welcomed to the Cruelty Free International head office in London, with the help of the very active Korean Health Industry Development Institute in London.
Numerous practical issues now arose. How would Korean exports to China be affected? Here, we were able to point to the progress we were making in China, giving the real prospect on non-animal testing being accepted (as it was in mid-2014). What would a reasonable transition period be, to allow realistic time to change, yet keep up the momentum? And how much priority was this going to get, given the competing issues demanding political attention.
National elections interrupted the process, and afterwards we needed to work hard to get the issue back on the table. Then initially it appeared that only finished products would be included, leaving the major area of ingredients for later. In frantic further negotiations, we persuaded the authorities to reconsider.
Korean officials have now to accept a Bill to end animal testing for both finished products and ingredients from 2017. The Bill will be presented to the Assembly by Representative Moon on March 11.
So what does success take?
First, popular support. Without the backing of consumers all over the world, neither companies nor politicians are sufficiently interested. Without mobilising local support, we would never get off the ground.
Second, determination. Politicians have hundreds of demands on their time. They need to feel that our issue really matters to voters and that it is actually easier to deal with it than postpone it.
Third, open-mindedness. We need to be willing to talk to anyone. Politicians, scientists, regulators, companies, consumer groups. We are as happy talking to senior Ministers as we are engaging with grass-roots campaigns. We do not confront them. We persuade them.
And finally, energy. We have to be willing to cross the globe at a few days' notice to clinch a vital decision.
Cruelty Free International is always ready. After all, we have a world to win for animals.