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Case Study In Advocacy From Honduras
What started as a small gathering of concerned citizens in a crowded cafe, eventually led to the formation of Aire Puro. Concerned that Honduras lacked an organized focus on environmental issues, Aire Puro is intent on "bringing attention and practical solutions to specific environmental problems".
In order to determine an area of focus which would be supported by a broad-base of Honduran citizens, Aire Puro's volunteer staff conducted public surveys and held forums. Leaded fuel was identified as a major health and environmental hazard and therefore became the main focus of their efforts.
Although leaded gas is illegal in Honduras, the law was ignored. Aire Puro's early efforts to obtain government support to enforce the ban were met with resistance. Their initial attempts at meeting with the Minister of Economy failed, yet they persisted. The group went on to meet with others in the government who might be more receptive to their message. They encountered officials who would listen to their suggestions and then did nothing. The government's main concern was that if they made the switch there would be a decrease in the revenue collected on gasoline taxes. Aire Puro had to convince the government that gas taxes was only part of the issue. In order to realize total costs, the government must also factor in the benefits accrued from switching to unleaded gasoline including improvements to air quality, public health and the economy.
The press was quite receptive to Aire Puro's Campaign. It helped that two of Aire Puro's founders studied journalism and another worked at a radio station. Aire Puro combined these skills with careful research that included data from hospitals and assistance from medical specialists. The group was then able to present a compelling case to the media.
Being in the right place at the right time was also useful: While standing in line to speak with governmental Ministers, Aire Puro staff and volunteers often found themselves in the company of the press. It turned out that the press regularly visited the Minister to research consumer goods pricing. After talking with Aire Puro, the press became interested in the gasoline issue and eventually began to add questions to their list about the pricing of unleaded gasoline and when it would become available.
Part of Aire Puro's strategy involved correcting inaccurate information. Aire Puro also held press conferences and made numerous radio and T.V. appearances. One T.V. appearance featured Aire Puro presenting an oversized bill from the Honduran people to the Minister of Economy which signified the health, driving and environmental costs of using leaded fuel. This effort generated a great deal of favorable press coverage. Aire Puro became further convinced of it's success when the Minister of Economy made it clear that he found the effort threatening.
Two years into the campaign, a decision was made to phase out leaded gasoline. What is most impressive about Aire Puro's Campaign is that it was the group's first advocacy effort. Aire Puro attributes much of its success to the fact that it identified one clear goal and never became distracted with side endeavors. Additionally, the group maintained an optimistic and positive attitude and, it strategically plotted a media effort which included ensuring the accuracy of information and careful framing of the issue to generate a broad-spectrum of support. Finally, the group took strategic advantage of a stroke of luck that occurred when a more receptive Minister of the Economy was appointed.
For further information contact: Alvaro Calix, President, Aire Puro, Apartado 5189,
Tegucigalp, M.D.C, HONDURAS.
[Gas Guzzler Campaign]
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