Winning over sceptics

There can be invisible forms of opposition. Engaging with the public early in the process can lead to a more constructive discussion and optimised results.

Example

Utrecht has a proud history of upholding fundamental rights and has traditionally welcomed asylum seekers and recognised refugees. However, officials experienced a phenomenon that they labelled the “not-in-my-backyard” attitude. The citizens of Utrecht generally believe that asylum seekers and recognised refugees should be given a safe haven within the city. However, they often oppose the development of shelters for refugees if these are located in their own neighbourhoods.

Source: Local focus group, 2011, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Learning Point

The example above illustrates the importance of addressing invisible forms of opposition. On the surface, people support fundamental rights but this may change to direct opposition when activities have an impact on their own lifestyles or neighbourhoods. Recommendations for overcoming invisible forms of opposition include:

Anticipating friction
Being proactive in trying to anticipate possible problems, being aware of the local context and engaging people early on can overcome resistance to change.

Demonstrating the impact on society
Fundamental rights initiatives should be designed, presented and discussed as ‘win-win’ scenarios for everyone involved. The benefit of protecting fundamental rights of all members of society is a key message to convey.