1. Council of Europe : The Council of Europe defines lobbying as a concerted effort to influence policy formulation and decision making with a view to obtaining some designated result from government authorities and elected representatives. In a wider sense, the term may refer to public actions (such as demonstrations) or “public affairs” activities by various institutions (associations, consultancies, advocacy groups, think-tanks, nongovernment organisations, lawyers, etc.); in a more restrictive sense, it would mean the protection of economic interests by the corporate sector (corporate lobbying) commensurate to its weight on a national or global scene . A more recent document by the European Committee on legal co-operation (CDCJ) specifies lobbying as the act of promoting specific interests by communication with a public official as part of a structured and organized action aimed at influencing public decision-making .
  2. European Commission: The European Commission officially defines lobbying as all activities carried out with the objective of influencing the formulation or implementation of policy  and decision-making processes of the European institutions irrespective of the channel or medium of communication used: e.g. outsourcing media, contacts with professional intermediaries, think tanks, platforms, forums, campaigns and grassroot initiatives. Lobbying activities include contacting members, officials, or their staff of the EU institutions; preparing and circulating and communicating letters, information materials or discussion and position papers; and organizing events, meetings promotional activities and social events or conferences and invitations sent to members, officials or other staff of the EU institutions. Voluntary contributions and participation in formal consultations or envisaged EU legislative or other legal acts and other open consultations.
  3. Transparency International: For Transparency International, lobbying means any direct or indirect communication with public officials, political decision-makers or representatives for the purposes of influencing public decision-making, and carried out by or on behalf of any organised group.
  4. OECD: Lobbying, the oral or written communication with a public official to influence legislation, policy or administrative decisions, often focuses on the legislative branch at the national and sub-national levels. However, it also takes place in the executive branch, for example, to influence the adoption of regulations or the design of projects and contracts. Consequently, the term public officials include civil and public servants, employees and holders of public office in the executive and legislative branches, whether elected or appointed.

The avenues by which interest groups influence governments extend beyond the above definitions, however, and have evolved in recent years, not only in terms of the actors and practices involved, but also in terms of the context in which they operate . These actors, practices, and context include:

  1. lobbying activities through contracting with professional lobbying or public relations firms, law firms and self-employed lobbyists mandated to represent an organisation’s interests. These firms or individuals, usually established in key decision-making hubs, have an in-depth knowledge of policy-making processes in a given country and are able to better navigate institutional complexities. In countries with lobbying regulations, these actors are often referred to as “consultant lobbyists”. Such agents represent what is traditionally understood as lobbying;
  2. lobbying directly by companies, usually through their government affairs or public affairs departments and in-house lobbyists;
  3. lobbying indirectly through industry associations or trade associations;
  4. contributions to political parties, candidates and electoral campaigns, including through trade associations and third-party organisations;
  5. increased use of traditional and social media to shape policy debates, inform, misinform or persuade members of the public to put pressure on policy makers and indirectly influence the government decision-making process;
  6. the use of gifts and honoraria to influence scientists, practitioners and policy makers indirectly;
  7. movement of public officials, business executives and experts between the public and private sectors (the so called “revolving door” phenomenon);
  8. the influence of special interests through participation in established institutional arrangements such as government advisory and expert groups, or parliamentary inter-groups;
  9. the influence of foreign commercial and political interests – including foreign governments and their affiliated organisations, such as state-owned companies, state-sponsored NGOs and media groups, and cultural associations – through lobbying and other practices mentioned above;
  10. the influence of government policies by and through non-governmental organisations. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are one of the largest and most diverse groups of non-state actors influencing policy-making processes. Their lobbying practices are similar to those of other stakeholders when they seek to increase focus on a policy issue, notably through research and advocacy. Whether grassroots, business-led or government-sponsored, these organisations receive funds, often from companies, governments or individuals, and represent specific interests and policy positions .
  11. influence through academic institutions (universities and university research centres) or well-known experts and practitioners that can shape major discussions on key policies and/or produce results favourable to some interests;
  12. influence through think tanks and other policy institutes to provide knowledge on specific policy issues and propose policy solutions.

To this end, lobbying needs to be understood and addressed in a broader sense, to avoid all current loopholes, opaque practices and most importantly, to change public perceptions and increase trust in the policy-making process. Addressing not only the type of policies we need, but also how these policies are informed, designed and shaped by various views, is essential to overcome increased scrutiny and mitigate reputational risks to which both governments and businesses are subject. It will also play a key role in designing and implementing the necessary policies to address major global challenges. Enhancing the understanding of lobbying in all its forms, as well as its transparency and integrity, is thus in the shared interest of lobbyists, businesses, policy makers and governments.

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