FIRSTS: AU SUMMIT
First time experiences often have sharp learning curves. My first time at the AU Summit was no different. January 2012 marks the 18th Ordinary Session of the AU Summit held in Addis. AU Summits are held twice a year, in January & July (at least the ordinary ones). The January session is always held in Addis, the home of the AU. That is one of the first things you notice-nothing is simple at the AU. Sessions can be both ordinary and extraordinary. Protocol can mean either an instrument, such as the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women which we were lobbying for, or it can mean the team which provides both security and logistical support to local Ministers which I learned the hard way upon insisting to one of the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Protocol Officers that we wanted to speak with the Minister regarding the Protocol.
When lobbying and looking out for certain ministers whose countries have not ratified or not signed onto the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women, you realize how important it is to have a quick eye to scan badges. How helpful color coding is, regardless of how discriminating it is. How frustrating it is when a badge is turned around, preventing you from trying to decipher someone from the AU Commission to an observer, to press to a delegate who is often, but not always part of the delegation that arrived with the Minister of Foreign Affairs who we were targeting.
You also realize how important it is to be proactive, to approach individuals and in doing introductions, to scan their badges trying your best to read their countries inconspicuously to assess whether they are someone who you need to lobby. To not dismiss anyone-press can connect you to Ministers-which is how we were able to access the Minister of Somalia-through a Somali journalist who had their numbers on hand. How important it is to know your flags…because sometimes that’s all you see. Patriotic pins with the flag of the delegations’ country. To understand the nuances of accent, dress and mannerisms to place people in certain regions and countries. The importance of timing-being at the right place at the right time. Making sure to be ready to act as soon as the door opens. To be diplomatic and assertive all at the same time. To be confident and humble simultaneously. To be brazen but also understand your limits.
Lobbying is a true hustle. It is not easy to shove your agenda into someone’s face and expect a positive impact. You should be well-prepared for any response and any interrogation. Prepared to be persistent yet respectful. Prepared to be prepared.