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Selling protection: Does the protection imperative require a social marketing approach?


Today, too much of the clarity and conviction of protection messaging and communication seems to have been lost. Protection is still considered a priority by many humanitarian actors; indeed it is a core mandate to organisations such as UNHCR and ICRC. However, a legalistic and theoretical narrative seems to have replaced the compelling narrative of the late 1990s and 2000s. This contributes to a growing sense of confusion and frustration with regards to protection amongst humanitarian actors. So why has the protection discourse lost the clarity and conviction it carried in the late 1990s? And how can we reclaim it? This paper suggests that some of the explanation lies in the increasing complexity and inaccessibility of protection messaging. It further suggests that part of the solution may lie in applying a social marketing approach to protection communication.