How do ideas become policy? It's easy to imagine politics being the product of a clinical political process. This is usually the way we were taught the logics of politics when we were in school: as a bunch of politicians who gather to discuss and debate and whoever is the winner gets to produce policy in accordance with her or his ideas. In this scenario, it's almost like policy is produced within a vacuum, as if a parliament or a government operates within its own enclosed ecosystem.
Nothing is further from the truth – thankfully, I might add that, the process of creating policy is messy. In a well-functioning democracy, politicians are operating within the antithesis of a vacuum. Instead, they are often reactive to the myriad of voices from their constituents, careful to consider, listen to and acknowledge a plurality of legitimate agents for change within the broader society. Agents who push for policy that will solve the issues and grievances that they've identified are important for them and their communities.
This is the dynamics of democracy. And that is why IOGT-NTO Movement only works with partners that are well rooted in local communities and civil society, that are working with providing platforms and voices of those that are most affected by alcohol harm. Partners that help facilitate the dynamics of democracy, that messy system of a myriad of voices, where the unheard can be heard.
What is the alternative?
The alternative is not the clinical system found in your old schoolbooks. The alternative is instead that the only voices heard by our decision makers are those belonging to those who have the means to always make sure they are heard. Over the years, we have collected countless examples of alcohol industry interference to push for policies that serve no-one else but their own bottom line.
When the voices of civil society aren't loud enough, the alcohol industry will always fill that void. That's why we need to be loud. That's why we continue to push.