Does your semi-autonomous region need professional lobbying?

As FP's coverage of Honduras shows, D.C. lobbyists are open to nearly anyone if the price is right. But for those with less cash, Independent Diplomat (ID), a non-profit organization, lobbies with a mission. With a team of experienced former diplomats, its stated purpose is lobbying on behalf of those without diplomatic representation with a goal of reducing conflict.

ID's current client list includes: Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, Somaliland, and the Burmese government in exile.  A recent AP story explains:

"Very often government or international officials will refuse to talk to our clients, or if they talk to them they're reluctant to givethem the information they need," said Nicholas Whyte, who heads the Brussels office of the nonprofit group.

"And from our clients' side, they are often inexperienced in dealing with international bureaucracies precisely because nobody talks to them,"said Whyte, an Irish international affairs expert.

According to the AP, Independent Diplomat's annual budget is $1.8 million, funded partly by foundations and partly by client fees--which depend on ability to pay.

Because the United States makes it fairly easy to look up lobbying records, especially for foreign entities, I checked out exactly how much ID is making from its U.S. operations.  

According to lobbying disclosure forms, ID's most recent client, registered July 20, is the Government of the Southern Sudan. The contract between the two agrees that the fee to ID will be $294,000 for a maximum of 100 days work. This amount would be high for one contract, even for the standards of, say, Saudi Arabia ($150,000/quarter), but this is where the sliding scale applies. The contract states:

The Parties agree that the Client is not in a position itself to fully fund the Fee and the Expenses payable pursuant to this Agreement but as a contribution to that Fee and the Expenses will pay ID USD $10,000 at a time... to be determine by the parties. As to the remaining amount...the Client agrees that ID and the Client will seek project funding from external sources.

Any donors out there want to pick up this tab? It's a drop in the bucket compared to the $530,000 the official Sudanese government shelled out in 2005.

As for ID's other clients, it appear that Northern Cyprus is paying its full bill of £104,000 ($176,945) and the Burmese exiles have already payed half of their $100,000 year-long fee. Somaliland and Western Sahara, however, are paying only ID's expenses--and it promises to only travel economy class.

In 2008, Al-Jazeera English did a short documentary on Independent Diplomat, and its founder, Carne Ross, who quit the British foreign service over differences on Iraq. Viewable below. 

H/T: David Axe


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