Building coalitions to affect local, regional and international policy using a rights and health-based approach


Country or Region: 

The need for building coalitions among diverse constituency groups at local, national, and international levels grew out of the recognition that individual actors could not take on large corporate or government pesticide policies alone. For example, pesticide activists faced formidable, well-funded opposition to Proposition 128, known as the “Big Green Campaign,” which called for the end of hazardous pesticide use in California. Although the proposition failed to pass in 1990, PANNA recognized that a large, coordinated network was required to take on the state of California, the seventh largest economy in the world as well as the largest farm state and pesticide user in the United States.

Founded in San Francisco, California in 1984, PANNA has twenty years of experience mobilizing diverse groups committed to replacing pesticide use with ecologically-sound and socially-responsible alternatives. First, PANNA maintains a broad agenda that appeals to various interests while facilitating specific campaigns, such as the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) and Workers’ Rights Projects, which serve as opportunities for participation. Because it believes that groups must work together in order to move forward, PANNA fosters trust and mutual respect among its members for one another’s contributions to the overall mission.

PANNA also cultivates synergies among the coalition members, exploring its own links to the work of other organizations and identifying their shared resources. For instance, PANNA recently took advantage of the Sacramento Ministerial Meeting to organize a well-coordinated, multifaceted campaign on genetically modified crops that drew upon the strengths of its coalition members. In order to address Ministers directly, PANNA pooled their financial resources with member groups to purchase a table inside the meeting. At the same time, PANNA launched a book, “Special Report: Voices from the South—The Third World Debunks Corporate Myths on Genetically Engineered Crops,” and worked with other coalition members to organize a march outside the meeting with media coverage to bring public attention to all the events.

Another key element of PANNA’s effectiveness is utilizing existing organizational and financial resources to mobilize leadership at all levels of its network. As with many movements, PANNA relied on the initiative of dedicated volunteers who were willing to share their time, energy, and financial support. That initial excitement of the project could only be sustained, however, by identifying financial resources and leaders to keep its projects moving forward.

A final way that PANNA continues to expand the coalition is by reframing pesticide use in terms of workers rights and health issues. PANNA appeals to a wider audience of civil society and social activists by connecting this environmental issue to other movements, professions, and interests. Through Californians for Pesticide Action Reform (CPR), a coalition of over 170 public interest groups with PANNA as a founding member and steering committee member, the coalition includes women farmworker organizations and medical professionals. In fact, PANNA is now able to host conferences and media events on the damaging effects of pesticide use with pediatricians and other medical professionals.

It is important to consider the best balance of engagement with coalition members who have different organizational cultures and interests, or a narrow range of commitment to the network’s overall mission. In such cases, PANNA first recognizes its own limitations and respects the coalition organizations for the meaningful work that they do. PANNA then seeks to find the optimum working relationship between itself and coalition groups.

PANNA is one of five Pesticide Action Network Regional Centers worldwide that have a combined network of over 600 participating nongovernmental organizations, institutions, and individuals in over 60 countries. PAN links local and international consumer, labor, health, environment, and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to insure the transition to a just and viable society.



New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.