Inspiration from Expertise-based Grassroots Advocacy

China Development Brief Quarterly no.59 (Autumn 2013)

中文 English

“If only the legislation advocacy efforts of NGOs had this kind of strategic power.”This is the sentiment I derived from attending the discussion forum on the draft of the “Protected Natural Area Law” organized by the Natural Conservation Legislation Research Group on January 29th 2013.

In March 2013, during the meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) (henceforth “two meetings”), the draft of the Protected Natural Area Law became the newly proposed legislation of the Beijing delegation of the NPC. In addition, 5 provincial and city-level NPC delegates proposed the draft, and each proposal received more than 30 joint signatures. More than 10 CPPCC members also submitted the draft proposal. This meant that the legislative recommendation for the Protected Natural Area Law landed on the NPC’s agenda for discussion. This strategic campaign had achieved the first step of Xie Yan’s1 three year plan for pushing the Protected Natural Law through, and excited those familiar with the process.

I was interested in the process through which this goal had been achieved. In July, when I interviewed the founder of the Natural Conservation Legislation Research Group, Xie Yan, I asked her if a civil society group could actually get this done. Smiling, she replied, “it’s difficult.” When I asked her the same question in regards to whether civil society group leaders could achieve such a goal, she again responded, “it’s difficult.”

Why is it so hard for non-governmental groups to carry out such grassroots advocacy? Is it that there are special circumstances or conditions that civil society groups don’t have a firm grasp of? Which elements essential to advocacy are civic groups unable to reproduce for the time being? Which of these elements can be acquired in the future?

In the initial stages of this investigation, I discovered that this legislative proposal had a distinct advantage in resources because the main participants were a team of experts. This advantage is reflected not only in the specialized level of the proposal’s contents and the experts’ stamp of approval, which has the ability to garner society’s confidence and mobilize the public. It is reflected even more so by the advocacy channels that only experts within the system, who have the ability to communicate directly with policy makers, have access to.

Similarly, some grassroots organizations have the advantage of having experts as a resource, such as the Beijing 21st Century Education Research Institute (subsequently referred to as “Research Institute”). Some organizations share similarities with the Research Institute in resource dependence and advocacy tactics, but there is a considerable discrepancy in the choice of advocacy method. There are also some NGOs whose professional resources are “innately insufficient,” such as the Beijing Yilian Legal Aid and Research Center of Labor (subsequently referred to as “Beijing Yilian”), which in the last few years have explored their own strategies and methods of advocacy and have gradually developed some of the aforementioned advantages that Xie Yan and her team possess. They have performed quite well in promoting legislation and policy.

Ten Years, One Blow

In April 2012, Xie Yan, founded a small voluntary group, the Natural Conservation Legislation Research Group. This small group has more than a hundred experts from fields including ecology, law, policy research, administration, civil society development, news and media who research or pay particular attention to China’s ecological and environmental problems. The goal of this research group is to push the government to formulate and pass the Protected Natural Area Law and corresponding laws and provisions, standards, and regulations. The research group believes that if the law were to pass, it would serve to protect China’s biodiversity and ecosystem.

Before establishing this research group, Xie Yan had already been active for more than eight years in promoting legislation on protected natural areas. In the last two years, her advocacy tactics have evolved “from top-down to bottom-up.” Altering her advocacy methods has increased the validity of her advocacy, which greatly boosted the morale of NGO partners who have only ever utilized bottom-up advocacy methods. From this, people have also observed the power and presence of grassroots advocacy. But if one analyzes the conditions surrounding the occurrence of this successful advocacy, the use of “bottom-up” only worked because other conditions were brought together (such as expertise, contacts in the system etc).

Setting the public policy agenda requires the coming together of many factors. What kinds of conditions must an issue meet for it to enter into the policy agenda? John Kingdon’s ‘policy window theory’ is one relevant theory for effectively taking advantage of policy opportunities. When the policy window opens, the policy opportunity draws nearer. His theory purports the process through which a policy change has three ‘streams’: a problem stream, a policy stream, and a political stream. According to the theory, by putting the “three streams into one”, the possibility of successful advocacy is highest.

The problem stream is the starting point of advocacy, in which one defines and explains the problem to policy-makers, greater society and other groups in order to win their support. The policy stream provides a choice of solutions to the problem, and substitutes a proposal. In the case of Xie Yan, the proposal was enacting the protected natural area legislation.

Xie Yan is a rare type of advocate because she is a seasoned expert in the policy environment, the legislative process, and has a long experience of practical work. Starting in 1994, she continuously researched biodiversity conservation until 2004 when she and her supervisor Wang Song jointly wrote and published a book titled “China’s Nature Reserves,” (中国的保护地) which solidified her academic status in the field and allowed her to gain a thorough understanding of the state of ecological preservation in China. Subsequently, she served as the head of the China office of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for seven years. Her work experience there gave her a clearer awareness and familiarity with real operational and systemic problems.

An even rarer experience presented itself in 2004 when the National People’s Congress drafted the Nature Reserve Law (自然保护区法). Xie Yan served as an expert and helped the NPC Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee start work on the protected natural area legislation. She and her colleagues did a lot of work at the high levels of the Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, and received approval from its chairman. This experience allowed her to become quite familiar with the whole legislative process and the problems within it, such that she became more sensitive to when a policy opportunity might or might not develop. In 2006, when the draft of the Protected Natural Area Law was officially issued, it did not pass because a certain department opposed it. After that, Xie continued serving as an expert and participated in legislative discussions. Against the background of the failure of the Protected Natural Area Law to pass smoothly, the NPC Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee once again issued a draft of the Natural Heritage Protection Law. Because it was limited to protecting national nature reserves and national scenic and historical sites, it was opposed by many people. Xie Yan also believed this draft did not solve the problem at hand at all.

Before 2012, Xie Yan had proposed her own ideas and suggestions through the normal channels by providing advice as an expert and during internal discussion. But by December 2011, when she was notified that “the NPC Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee believes the Natural Heritage Protection Law is already mature, and has already been submitted to the NPC for deliberation”, she felt a bit defeated: “There was absolutely nothing we could do.” Even though she was close to giving up in that moment, she still never imagined that she would stand and face the public. Her hopes hung on other people solving this problem. By early February 2012, someone told her that 22 academics had jointly signed a letter to the Premier in opposition to the Natural Heritage Protection legislation draft. She let out a sigh of relief. But the next steps for the Natural Heritage Protection Law still laid ahead.

In January 2012, Xie Yan visited several experts ranging from NPC Standing Committee members, NPC representatives and academics to share her thought, give her support and encourage them. She thought the goals of this legislation could only be attained if she helped others understand her viewpoint. On February 5, 2012, she published her viewpoint on Weibo for the first time. Many media outlets reached her through her Weibo and blog and reported on her views. Through these media, her colleagues also followed what she was working on, and came out in strong force to support her.

This was Xie’s turning point from top-down to bottom-up. During the 2012 “two meetings,” her goal was to express her position through the proposals and motions of NPC representatives and CPPCC members, push forward legislation, then compose two motions with more than 30 joint signatories from NPC representatives. One was an NPC individual proposal, and one had more than 20 individuals who jointly signed a CPPCC proposal. After one year of preparation, her results expanded again during the 2013 “two meetings.”

This methodology is rarely seen in the conservation sphere. Xie never wavered from her stance. While top-down and bottom-up methods are both fine, the real question is what path one should choose to achieve one’s goals.

Looking at Xie Yan’s advocacy by approximating the degree to which the three policy streams of the policy window theory comes together, she practically achieved unification of all three. Yan, with her expert background and her team of experts, had the ability to define the problem and put forward a proposal to solve it. As an expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, she was able to function within the system of scientific research institutions, and had the opportunity to understand the connection between legislation and policy making. In the eyes of many NGOs, government and legislation processes are a black box, but she was able to participate in the earliest legislative discussions and make suggestions that influenced policy makers. She understood the appeals and assertions of those with varying interests during the legislative process. For example, the department that opposed the Protected Natural Area legislation in 2006 again opposed passing the Natural Heritage Protection Law draft in 2008, but later became Xie Yan’s ally.

Blueprint for Passing Legislation

Even though Xie Yan had accumulated extensive research and lobbying experience, she still felt she hadn’t done enough. In the year following the 2012 “two meetings,” she wanted to do more research work. She immediately resigned her post at WCS in order to make the draft her main specialization. To make up for the limitations in each individual field, Xie brought together the scientists and legal experts within the conservation field to jointly participate in amending the draft. In June 2012, Xie Yan’s team made a special trip to Chengdu to attend the annual meeting of the China Resources and Environment Legal Research Association (中国资源环境法学研究会) to solicit suggestions from legal experts there. After returning to Beijing, the legal team of the Natural Conservation Legislation Research Group discussed and deliberated the draft line-by-line. The version of the draft submitted at the discussion forum on January 29, 2013, was completely different from the 2012 version.

In addition to the two aforementioned groups of experts, media and society participants also played a big role. In 2013, the cover of the Protected Natural Area legislation pamphlet had a sentence that read, “make natural protected areas the bottom line for safeguarding China’s ecological safety.” This sentence was revised and refined over several months’ time before it was received. In the past, the kind of language Xie Yan would have used would read, “protect biodiversity” or “protect our water resources.” Someone told her, “No one will listen if you put it that way. You have to make people identify natural area protection with their own personal interests.” Many environmental and ecological incidents occurred throughout 2012 and 2013, urging more and more people to ponder the ecological bottom-line. After several rounds of discussion, the research group finally approved the use of the sentence because it honed in on the public’s personal feelings, and could express the meaning behind natural area protection.

Each year, the NPC and CPPCC receive so many legislative proposals and motions that only a very small number of them can be submitted to the general assembly. According to the provisions of China’s legislative process, proposals that fall under the authoritative scope of the NPC can only be submitted after getting more than 30 NPC representatives’ signatures. In 2013, the Protected Natural Area Law proposal became the Beijing delegation’s new legislative proposal, and other delegations’ proposals of this bill all had more than 30 joint signatures.

Cai Suyu of the Hong Kong Legislative Committee said during a media interview, “The legislative proposal for the Protected Natural Area Law was extremely thorough and accurate, and we should make it the blueprint for legislation in this country.” One expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences also once said, drafting and proposing legislation is not just the special right of NPC delegates and CPPCC members, but can be accomplished by anyone. But, ordinarily, NGOs find it very difficult to put together high-level ideas. This is the main reason that the voices of the people are prevented from growing louder.

In this instance of advocacy, participants included experts, NPC delegates and CPPCC members, media, the general public, and governmental departments. I asked Xie Yan, which among these groups was most important? After thinking for a moment, she replied, “Our setup was ideal, because experts played the most important role. NPC delegates and CPPCC members also played a big part.” Compared with the PM 2.5 policy advocacy that engaged widespread participation from society and the public throughout 2012 and 2013, in the protected natural area legislation advocacy, experts from the conservation field were the group that participated the most.

Grassroots NGOs’ Pursuit of Expertise

Sociologist Zheng Yefu has pointed out that modern society relies on monetary systems and expert systems. In a modern society where knowledge is broken down into fields, specialists are trusted because of their authority in certain fields. Professionalized advocacy not only brings inherent benefits, but also creates expertise-based resource networks. These resources are not necessarily financial resources, and may include sources of information, power (like policy-makers), or public trust.

Most Chinese intellectuals work for official research organizations and universities. In all legislative processes, only government administrative departments, research organizations, and experts within the system, have the opportunity to express their views through institutional channels. Experts outside the system have difficulty getting these opportunities and channels. Beijing Yilian’s director Huang Leping believes that the only way for grassroots NGOs to access resources within the system is to rely on their expertise. Director Huang has edited nearly 40 publications on labor law, therefore earning the position of being an “expert” in the field. Because of this, he has been invited many times to participate in governmental and legislative discussions of the National People’s Congress. Beijing Yilian’s report on occupational diseases received the attention of many ministry and commission heads, NPC deputies and CPPCC members, and contributed to a draft of a law to prevent occupational disease. After the July 23, 2011 high-speed train accident, he seized the opportunity to submit a document on section 33 of the “Regulation on the Emergency Rescue, Investigation and Handling of Railway Traffic Accidents” to the NPC and successfully advocated for its repeal. Beijing Yilian’s motto; “born from the grassroots, a future through expertise”, supports this advocacy.

Yang Dongping, president of the Research Institute is a famous education scholar and non-profit leader. Yang has also assembled a group of experts similar to Xie Yan’s team. In addition to a board, the Research Institute has also established an academic advisory committee. This is different from many other existing NGOs. The Research Institute has also published the “Education Blue Book,” for the last ten years, including conference topics from each year, macropolicy, social trends, discussion topics, etc. Expert contributions ensure the high quality of this book. “2020: China’s Education Reform Strategy” (People’s Education Press) is an education reform proposal. In order to draft this reform proposal, the Research Institute held more than ten seminars between 2009 and 2010 and wrote many policy recommendations. It’s reform plan for the college entrance examination (the Gaokao) drew the attention of the Ministry of Education, and the Research Institute also submitted a special research report on “Urgent Problems Regarding the Implementation of Better Nutrition Programs for Students in Rural Areas” to the State Council. The community of experts has provided support for the many advocacy actions carried out by the Research Institute in its capacity as a think tank. Their support stands as evidence to its standards of expertise in advocacy work.

Liu Huquan, the Research Institute’s director of research, says that it is not difficult for grassroots organizations to invite academics to consult for their organizations. Of course, this has as much to do with Yang Dongping’s reputation and connections as it does with the Research Institute’s many years of copious publication. Every year, it holds a high-level forum or salon, and issues bi-weekly briefs focused on important information and case studies to readers who mostly work in education. It was only through publishing the “Educational Blue Book” over the last ten years that the organization has assembled such a large number of scholars. Implementing sustained programs is something that grassroots organizations can do to establish a network of experts. Friends of Nature has published “The Environment Green Book” for eight years, and through this process has created a network of environmental and legal experts. Some people in this field would argue that Friends of Nature’s successes in policy advocacy were dependent solely on the late Mr. Liang Congjie’s influence and position as a member of the CPPCC. This may have originally been the case, but in recent years, due to its network of experts and the professionalization of its own team, Friends of Nature has been the first to respond to unexpected policy opportunities and provide legal or policy suggestions.

Efforts to Break into the System

Even if they have a professional team of experts, the methods of civil advocacy research institutes differ from those of environmental protection law institutes.

The “Environmental Protection Law” seminar was held on January 29, 2014, and was attended by members of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, local transportation departments, and many other departments related to environmental protection. This was a surprise to me as I began writing this article. It is unlikely that grassroots organizations will have this type of platform; it was even said there was a time when Yang Dongping’s presence in a meeting would keep officials from attending. He has two national expert consultation titles, but the Research Institute has no official governmental background. In addition to the “soft” barriers to breaking into the system, this may have something to do with the Institute’s expressed views. In August 2011, they published a report titled, “Administering Beijing’s Elementary School Exams: Which is the right path?”, which aroused a huge response, including a CCTV report. However, municipal and national high-ranking officials expressed concern about this type of advocacy. This got the Institute thinking about their work prior to 2011. After this event, the Research Institute began to reconsider its proportion of “destructive” and “constructive” criticisms, and to shift towards not only exposing problems, but also providing proposals and solutions.

The Research Institute has always believed that, “extensive public participation is an essential part of education reform.” For them, of the three most important advocacy channels, the most effective and useful is public relations; using the media to share and discuss public questions to help shape public opinion. Once they started valuing their relationship with the media, they established an internal department divided into research and public relations departments. This is one type of advocacy that NGOs are best at, but this is the point at where many organizations stop. Campaigners who take policy advocacy as their main goal see public relations as just one part of the process of establishing public policy. However, NGOs often seem incapable of getting involved in other parts of the process.

Finding relevant leaders in the bureaucracy is an effective form of advocacy, and many organization directors have these channels. However, this is not a conventional path and organizations need to be cautious. To most grassroots organizations, there is no special channel to establish communications with the government. However, the Research Institute has shown a way to break through the barriers of the system.

Their third advocacy channel is to obtain real data through studies and research, and then submit it to the government through formal channels. These studies differ from the large-scale questionnaires and surveys given by many research institutions and governmental agencies in that they produce real facts and figures through in-depth investigations. The government also has a need to understand the real situation.

On October 26, 2011, in a State Council executive meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao decided to implement a program to improve nutrition programs in compulsory education in rural areas. In 2011, the Research Institute was commissioned by the Amway Foundation (安利基金会) to conduct a study on these nutrition programs, and in April the State Council’s Information Department asked them to present their research results. By chance this research came to the attention of the State Council, but methods like this are rarely effective and very difficult to control.

Labor is a relatively sensitive field. Beijing Yilian has done considerable work over the last five years to introduce legislation, modify laws, and improve departmental regulation. Huang Leping believes that, on the whole, the environment is becoming increasingly relaxed. Legislative bodies and governmental departments welcome NGO reflections from the front line, but they are still relatively cautious when it comes to letting these groups advocate; Beijing Yilian can send material to the all the members of the NPC Standing Committee, but only after communicating abundantly with a few of them.

Apart from conventional advocacy methods, maintaining good relations with the government is essential. The Research Institute helps local governments with consulting, research and planning, reflecting the functionality of a non-profit think tank. For example, they helped implementing educational planning in the Shanghai Pudong District, in Tianjin, and in Chengdu’s Wuhou District. They created local innovation in education awards, such as an award from the NGO sector to the government. This particular award have already been presented three times. In each case, Yang Dongping personally brought along Institute scholars and explored local innovations in education, making the award not simply a prize in name. This type of high quality award and lesson is increasingly receiving attention from local education departments; originally only the deputy secretaries attended the award’s ceremony, but now some local departments will send the full secretary to participate.

Conclusion

Apart from social factors such as China’s increasingly serious environmental problems, the rise of vocal Internet-driven public opinion, and a growing sense of civic responsibility, analysis of Xie Yan’s work in advocacy shows that expertise, reputation, advocacy channels, and the ability to shape public discussion are all important aspects of policy advocacy.

In the process of promoting national legislative and policy changes, public opinion is an increasingly valuable element in providing a space for the integration of lobbying and public advocacy. Analysis of the cases of the 21st Century Education Research Institute and the Beijing Yilian Legal Aid and Research Center of Labor shows that professionalization is possible. Nonetheless, the prospects of breaking through the walls of civil and official institutions, while not impossible, are not bright. Policy advocacy is a difficult road, even for Xie Yan and Yang Dongping. After the annual meetings of the NPC and CPPCC in 2013, Xie Yan’s team planned another project – to research a way to create a value-added system for eco-friendly products. This would increase the value of eco-friendly products and ease conflicts between development and environmental protection. One goal in establishing this project is to avoid administrative departments and instead use market mechanisms to promote planning of legislation for environmental conservation.

The purpose of this article has been to further categorize different organizations’ advocacy areas and describe the advantages and strategies of each. This article describes organizations with clear policy reform goals and methods. Currently, many advocacy organizations focus on raising public awareness and make public advocacy their goal. A director of an NGO devoted to public advocacy said the reason they do not carry out direct policy advocacy is not only because they lack the resources of organizations like the Research Institute, but also because public advocacy is more fundamental and needs more grassroots organizations to continue carrying out this work.


  1. Xie Yan is an expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Zoology Institute who has been engaged in biodiversity conservation for years. 

 一场非民间组织的民间倡导带来的启发

 

“如果民间组织的立法倡导能有这样的阵势就好了。”这是笔者参加2013年1月29日自然保护立法研究组召开的《自然保护地法》草案研讨会时,对所讨论内容的专业水准和参与主体多样化生出的感慨。

2013年3月两会期间《自然保护地法》草案成为北京市人大代表团新的立法议案,此外还有5个省、市的人大代表提交了议案,每个议案都有超过30人以上的联合签名;十几位政协委员提交了提案。这意味着,《自然保护地法》立法建议进入了全国人大讨论议程。这场漂亮的战役实现了解焱关于推动《自然保护地法》三年计划的第一步,让熟悉这个过程人兴奋。

笔者更关注实现这个目标的过程。7月,笔者访谈自然保护立法研究组发起人解焱时问,民间组织能不能做到这些?她微笑着说:“难”。将同样的问题问民间组织的负责人,对方同样说“难”。

这场民间倡导过程,为什么民间组织却难以做到呢?是有什么条件和特质不为民间组织所掌握吗?继而,哪些倡导要素是与生俱来且民间组织无法复制的?哪些是可以后天习得的,甚至可以替代的?

在初步探究过程中发现,这次立法倡导因以专家团队为参与主体而令其拥有独特的资源优势。这个优势不仅仅体现在所倡导内容的专业水准上,还有专家符号获得的社会信任进而展现的公众动员的能力,更有体制内专家所独有的倡导通道、与政策制定者的话语对接能力。

同样有专家资源优势的民间组织,如北京21世纪教育研究院(以下简称研究院),在资源依赖、倡导策略方面与之相比,有部分相似的地方,但在倡导路径的选择上两者有明显的差异。还有些专业资源 “先天不足”的民间组织,如北京义联劳动法研究与援助中心(以下简称“北京义联”),也在最近几年探索出自己的倡导策略和路径,逐步发展出上文所述的解焱团队所具有的部分优势,在推动立法和政策倡导方面取得了不俗成绩。

十年一剑

2012年4月,从事生物多样性保护多年的中科院动物所专家解焱发起成立了一个志愿小组——自然保护立法研究组。这个小组有近100位来自生态、法律、政策研究、管理、公民社会建设、新闻传播等领域的研究或关注中国生态和环境问题的专家,研究组的目标是推动国家制定并颁布《自然保护地法》及相关配套法律法规、标准、规范。该小组认为,如果立法成功,这将有效保护中国的生物多样性和生态系统服务功能。

在这个研究小组成立前,解焱已经有8年之久的推动自然保护地立法的行动。最近两年她的倡导策略被标识为 “从自上而下到自下而上”。倡导路径的改变带来的倡导有效性提升,给从来都是自下而上倡导的民间组织伙伴们很大鼓舞,人们也由此看到了民间倡导的力量和空间。但如果分析这场成功倡导发生的条件,“自下而上”的作用只是“让饥饿的人产生饱腹感吃的最后那个馒头”。

公共政策议程设立需要很多要素合和而成。议题具备什么样的条件才能进入政策议程中? John Kingdon的政策窗理论(policy window theory)是一个有关如何有效利用政策机会的理论。政策窗开启,也即政策机会来临。该理论认为一个政策变化的过程包括三个政策取向:问题、解决政策和政治【也称为问题流(problem streams)、政策流(policy streams)、政治流(political streams)】。该理论认为,能够将以上三个取向结合,即“三流合一”,倡导的成功可能性最高。

问题取向是倡导的起点,即如何向政策制定者、社会大众等不同群体定义问题、解释问题,获得他们的支持;政策取向即是解决问题的备选、替代方案。对解焱而言,方案就是推动自然保护地立法。

解焱是一位少有的同时对政策环境、立法程序、实际工作都熟悉的专家倡导者。1994起,她一直做生物多样性保护方面的研究工作,2004年她与导师汪松合著出版了《中国的保护地》一书,奠定了她在该领域的学术地位,这种专业视野使得她对我国生态保护的总体情况比较了解。随后她做了7年国际野生生物保护学会(WCS)中国办公室主任,这段工作经历让她对实际运行和体制问题有了更多真切的实感和认识。

更难得的经历是,2004年全国人大起草《自然保护区法》草案,解焱作为专家,帮助全国人大环资委推动自然保护地的立法工作,她与同行在人大环资委上层做了不少工作,并得到当时两届主任的认可。这个经历令她对整个立法过程及当中存在的问题比较熟悉,对于可预期和不可预期的政策机会的敏感度要强于他人。2006年《自然保护地法》草案出台,因为有关部门反对没有获得通过。此后她继续以专家身份,参与立法的讨论。在《自然保护地法》未能顺利出台的背景下,2008年人大环资委又出台《自然遗产保护法》草案,因局限于国家级自然保护区和国家级风景名胜区保护,招致很多人的反对,解焱也认为这部草案并没有解决现存问题。

2012年之前,解焱以惯常的专家咨询、内部讨论的方式提出自己的意见。2011年12月,在得到“人大环资委认为自然遗产保护法已经成熟,已将草案提交人大进行审议”的消息后,她有些绝望:“一点办法都没有了。”即使在那个近乎绝望的时刻,她还没有想到自己要站到公众面前。她寄希望于别人来解决这个问题。到了2012年2月初,有人告诉她,已有22个院士写了联名信给总理,反对自然遗产保护法草案。她松了一口气。但《自然遗产保护法》立法的脚步还是没有停下。

2012年1月份她走访了几个专家,他们的身份包括人大常委、人大代表、院士,专家们听了解焱的想法,给了她肯定和鼓励。她想,如果这套想法让更多的人了解,立法的目标才可能实现。于是,2012年2月5日,她第一次在微博上公开了自己的主张。很多传统媒体通过微博和博客找到她,对此进行报道;她的同行们也因此知道她在做什么,给予她不少支持。这是她从自上而下到自下而上的折点。2012两会,她的目标是通过人大代表、政协委员的提案和议案表达主张,推动立法,后来形成了 2个30名以上联名的人大代表议案、一个人大的个人议案以及一个20多个人联名的政协提案。经过一年的准备,又在2013年两会上扩大了成果。

这样的做法在保护界绝无仅有。她从未动摇过自己的主张,自上而下也好,自下而上也好,只是一个实现目标的路径选择问题。

如果约略以政策窗理论的三个政策流结合度来看解焱的倡导,她几近做到了三流合一。她自身的专业背景和她的专家团队具有界定问题和提出解决方案的能力。作为中科院这种体制内科研机构的专家,使得她有机会了解立法和决策的环节。对于很多民间组织来说,政府和立法操作流程还是一个黑匣子,但是她已经参与最初的立法讨论并提出建议并对决策者产生影响;她在实战中了解立法中不同利益相关者的诉求和主张。如2006年反对保护地立法的部门,在2008年反对《自然遗产保护法》草案的行动中,又成为解焱的同盟军。

做成立法蓝本

即使有多年研究和游说经历的解焱,在2012年两会结束后,也还认为自己的研究工作尚不到位,在接下来的一年,她要在研究上做更多的工作。随即她即辞掉了WCS的工作,为了让草案更专业,弥补各自专业的局限,她将保护界科学家和法律专家连接起来共同参与修改草案。2012年6月,解焱团队专程到成都参加中国资源环境法学研究会的年会,征求法律专家对草案的意见。回京后研究小组法律组的专家们对草案一条条讨论、斟酌。2013年1月29日讨论会提交的草案版本已和2012年版完全不一样了。

除了以上两类专家,媒体和社会工作者也发挥很大作用。2013年自然保护地立法宣传册封面上有一句话:“用自然保护地捍卫中国的生态安全底线”。这样一句话用了数月修改、提炼才得到。过去解焱游说别人,无外乎是“生物多样性保护”、“水资源保护”这些专业名词。有人告诉解焱:“你这么讲是没有人听的。要把自然保护地与人的切身利益结合到一起。”2012~2013年,多起环境、生态事件的发生,促发人们考虑生态底线的问题。在专家组讨论几轮之后,这句最贴近公众切身感受、也能表达保护地立法意义的话,才最终确定下来。

每年人大和政协接受的议案和提案很多,能够进入大会讨论的非常少,我国的立法程序规定,经由一个代表团或者30名以上的人民代表联名,可以向全国人民代表大会提出属于全国人民代表大会立法职权范围内的议案。2013年《自然保护地法》立法建议成为北京市代表团新的立法议案,其他代表的议案都有超过30人以上的联合签名。

香港立法委员会蔡素玉接受媒体采访时说,“像《自然保护地法》立法建议这样的提案,十分翔实,国家完全可以将此作为立法的蓝本。”中科院一位专家也曾说过,提案和建议不是两会代表和委员的专利,任何人都可以提。但是,一般的NGO很难提出高水平的想法,这是限制民间声音上传的主要原因。

在这场倡导中,参与者包括专家、人大代表和政协委员、媒体、普通公众、政府部门。我问解焱,在这几大群体中,哪个最重要?她想了一下说:“我们这个体系看起来比较完善,专家发挥作用是最重要的。人大代表、政协委员也发挥了很大作用。”与在2012~2013年社会公众广泛参与的PM2.5政策倡导相比,自然保护地立法倡导中保护界专家参与最多。

民间组织的专业追求

社会学家郑也夫曾指出,现代社会所依赖的就是货币系统和专家系统。在一个知识细分的现代社会,专家因为在某个领域的权威而获得信任。专家型倡导除了自身的专业优势,还有以专业能力为核心形成的资源网络,这个资源未必是财务上的资源,还有信息来源、权力精英(政策制定者)及社会大众对专家的信赖。

中国知识分子大多存在于体制内科研机构、大学里。在各种立法过程中,除了相关行政部门,研究机构、专家有在体制渠道内发表看法的机会。体制外专家却难以有这样的机会和通道。北京义联主任黄乐平认为,草根NGO想要获得体制内的资源,惟一能依靠的便是自己的专业性。黄乐平先后编著了近四十本劳动法专著,为自己奠定了圈内“专家”地位。他也因此多次受邀参加政府部门和人大的立法讨论,北京义联完成的职业病调查报告,得到了多个部委领导的重视,并为多位全国人大代表、政协委员提交修改职业病防治法的议案、提案贡献草案。2011年7.23动车事件后,他抓住重大事件和焦点事件的机会上书全国人大,倡议废除《铁路交通事故应急救援和调查处理条例》第33条,最终实现了目标。北京义联的“草根出身,专业坚持”,为其倡导提供了助力。

21世纪教育研究院院长杨东平是著名的教育学者,也是民间公益领袖。与解焱的团队相似,研究院也聚集了一批专家。研究院理事会之外,还建立了学术委员会。这是与很多民间组织不同的地方。研究院连续做了10年《教育蓝皮书》,每年的选题会上,宏观政策、社会走向、议题选择等,专家们都给很多建议,保障了皮书的高质量。《2020:中国教育改革方略》(人民教育出版社出版)是一部民间教育改革方案。为了完成这部教育改革方案,研究院在2009~2010年前后开了10多场研讨会,撰写了若干个政策建议。研究院关于高考改革的方案也得到教育部的重视,调研报告《农村学生营养改善计划实施中存在一些亟需解决的问题》专报国务院……专家群体对这家定位于民间智库的研究院所实施的很多倡导活动提供了专业支持,也决定了研究院的倡导工作的专业水准。

研究院研究部主任刘胡权说,民间机构邀请各大高校的学者做民间组织的学术顾问难度不大。当然,除了杨东平个人的声誉和人脉关系,也与研究院多年全面的“信息轰炸”有很大关系。研究院每年都做高峰论坛、沙龙,同时以简报、双周刊形式发送相关领域的重要信息和案例,关注教育领域的人自然会关注它。单是通过做10年的《教育蓝皮书》,就聚集了一大批学者。通过某个持续的项目形成专家网络,是民间组织可以操作的事情。自然之友做了8年的《环境绿皮书》,也是在这个过程中,形成了环境和法律领域的专家网络。现在业内依然有人认为自然之友能做政策倡导的事情,完全有赖于梁从诫先生生前的影响和政协委员的地位。这在早期固然是实情,但最近几年面对突发的政策机会,自然之友能第一时间反应,提出法律、政策建议,与专家网络和自身团队的专业化建设有很大关系。

突破体制软墙的努力

即使同样具有专业水准、专家团队,民间背景的研究院的倡导路径与保护地立法研究小组还是有些差异。

今年1月29日举办的《自然保护地法》草案研讨会上,农业部、环保部、地方交通部门等多个涉及自然保护的行政部门出席,这是笔者在本文开始时感叹的缘由之一。民间组织不太可能有这样的平台,据说甚至曾经有一段时间,杨东平参加的会议,相关部门的人是不参加的。杨东平有国家两个咨询专家的头衔,但研究院无官方背景。除了这层体制软墙,可能也与研究院的民间立场表达有关。2011年8月研究院发布调研报告《北京市“小升初”择校的治理:路在何方?》,在社会上引起很大反响,中央电视台也做了报道。但是,北京市有关领导与国家有关部门领导都对这种倡导方式表示担忧。这让研究院开始思考2011年以前的工作思路。这件事情之后,研究院重新分布“破”与“立”的比例,不仅披露问题,更多提供如何改进的方案、方法。

研究院一直认为 “广泛的公众参与是一场实质性的教育改革的必要条件”。对研究院来说,在最重要的三条倡导渠道中,最有效、最管用的是媒体关系,通过媒体发起并引导公共话题,形成舆论压力。研究院一直重视和媒体的关系,在机构内部设置中,业务部门分成研究部和传播部。这是民间组织最擅长的一种倡导策略,但一般的公共倡导的精确定位到此为止。而以政策倡导为目标的行动者,只是将其看成是公共政策议程设立的环节之一。然而,民间组织对其他环节的介入,往往显得无能无力。

找相关部委领导是有效的倡导方法,一些公益领袖也不乏这样的渠道,但这不是一条常规路径,需要谨慎使用。对于更多的草根组织来说,没有特殊的渠道与政府建立非常规的沟通。但研究院的实践,为民间组织突破体制软墙找到一些方法。

研究院的第三条倡导途径,是通过调研获得一些真实的数据,再通过正式的渠道递交给政府部门。这些研究不同于科研机构和政府部门大规模的问卷和调查,而是深入调研获得真实情况和数据,政府也有看到真实情况的需求。

2011年10月26日,温家宝总理主持召开国务院常务会议,决定启动实施农村义务教育学生营养改善计划。2011年研究院受安利基金会委托做了一个营养餐调查报告,4月国务院信息司就让研究院提供一些真实的情况。这个偶然研究却得到国务院的重视,但这些常规渠道偶尔有效,很难把控。

劳工是相对比较敏感的领域。但是,从推进立法到推动行政法规的修改,到参与部门规章的完善,北京义联过去5年做了很多的探索。黄乐平认为,总体上来说,外部环境越来越宽松。立法机构和政府部门欢迎民间组织把一线的情况反映上去,但是决策层对于民间倡导还是持比较慎重的态度,北京义联给全国人大常委会所有常委寄送材料,事先都与个别人大常委做过充分的沟通。

除了常规渠道倡导,和政府建立并保持良好关系也很必要。研究院帮助地方政府做一些咨询、研究和规划,体现民间智库的功能,例如帮助上海浦东新区、天津市、成都武侯区做教育规划。研究院举办的地方教育创新奖,算是民间机构给政府颁奖,至今已经办了三届。入选的每个案例,都是杨东平带着院校学者亲自访谈、发现地方教育的创新点,而不是形式上颁个奖。这种高质量的评奖和经验总结,越来越受到地方教育部门的重视,原来地方教育局只派副局长参加颁奖仪式,现在有些地方的正局长也来参加。

小结

抛开中国日益严峻的生态形势、互联网催生的不能忽视的舆论压力、公民更自觉的责任意识等社会背景外,通过对解焱作为倡导者的分析,专业水准、良好的声望、倡导通道、形成公共话题的能力都是很重要的政策倡导条件。

在推动国家立法和政策变动中,“民意”是一个逐步被重视的要素,为体制内游说与民间公开倡导的融合提供了一定的空间。通过研究院和北京义联的案例分析,专业素养的提升是可及的,但要突破民间与官方的体制隔离软墙,虽并非全然不可能,却仍然是一个很暗淡的前景。政策倡导无论是对解焱还是杨东平,都是一条艰难的路。2013年两会之后,解焱团队策划了另外一个项目——“创建自然保护地友好产品增值体系”的研究项目,试图通过建立自然保护地友好产品增值体系,提高符合保护要求的产品的价值,来缓解社区发展和保护之间的矛盾。创立这个项目的目的之一,也有避开行政部门,以市场机制推动自然保护地立法的考虑。

本文写作目的,是在有不同参与主体的民间倡导谱系中,进一步细分不同的倡导主体,描述他们各自的资源优势和倡导策略。本文所述落在皆有明确的推动政策变革的目标和路线的组织上,当前许多民间倡导组织更多着力在公共意识启蒙、以公共倡导为主要目标。一家致力于公共倡导的NGO负责人说,没有直接做政策倡导,除了不具备如研究院这样机构的专业资源,同时,公众倡导是更基础的工作,还需要很多草根组织继续做下去。

Translated by Lauren Gloudeman, Glen Meyerowitz

Reviewed by Charles Vest

Edited by CDB Staff

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