This section is based on the publication Move the Nuclear Weapons Money: A Handbook for civil society and legislators published by IPB, PNND and WFC.

5. How to engage with legislators

Contacting your legislator

Your legislator/member of parliament was elected to represent you. So you have a right to contact him/her and to state your opinion on a key issue. You can do this by phone, fax, email, twitter or even publicly through letters to the editors of local or national papers.

Such messages are generally more influential if done on an issue or question that is currently before parliament or is in the portfolio of your legislator. They are also more effective if many people contact the legislator with a similar opinion, or if you can indicate that there are a large number of constituents supporting your opinion. It can help to cite petitions, opinion polls or resolutions of influential organisations supporting your opinion. It can also help to refer to relevant policy of the legislator’s political party, or to speeches of party leaders.

Messages to legislators should be kept brief. Neither the legislator, nor their staff, have time to read thousands of long letters from constituents.

Letters should be polite. Threatening letters will get thrown away. And they should be specific. You should ask your legislator to take action on a key initiative, resolution, draft legislation or budget allocation item. Or you can ask your legislator their opinion on specific policy issues or initiatives.

Contacting other legislators

If you are a member of a national or international organization, you may decide to contact a number of legislators in order to build support for an initiative, or specific legislators – such as the foreign minister, chairs/members of the foreign affairs and defence committees, speaker/president of the parliament, or heads of delegations to inter-parliamentary bodies such as the Parliamentary Assembly for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Include brief information about your organization in the letter to your legislator. You might consider contacting other relevant organisations to see if they will endorse your letter. This adds to the impact. You might also consider announcing your letter to the press through a press release.

Meetings with legislators

Meetings with legislators provide additional possibilities to inform them of your initiative or call, present information or perspectives that might not capture their attention in a letter, garner support from them and possibly even change their positions. However, securing meetings can be difficult. You increase your chances if you represent an organization with a large number of members (i.e. possible votes for the legislator) and if you join forces with other organisations to request a meeting.
Before meeting with your legislators, take some time to consider why they might be interested in this issue or willing to support. Research their interests and views. Try to gauge what might move them to support.

Ensure that you are on time for the meeting, and you have decided before-hand who will introduce your group and who will speak on which points. It’s most effective if you begin the meeting by praising the legislator for something they have said or done, before moving to criticism or to your request for support for your position.

Do not overload the meeting with too much information, nor too many points. You need to allow time after presenting your case for the legislator to respond and have some dialogue. To ensure that the legislator has all the information required, you can leave background/briefing papers (or send a briefing paper to them before the meeting).

In addition to asking the legislator to support (or take action) on your initiative, you could consider inviting them to join Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND). This way they can continue to be informed about, and engaged in, nuclear disarmament issues and related parliamentary initiatives.

After the meeting, send a follow-up letter thanking the legislator for the meeting. If the legislator agreed to your request, for example to support an initiative, sign an appeal or join PNND, thank them for doing so. If not, then politely remind them of your request for them to do so.

Influencing party policy

Most legislators are members of political parties. These parties have policy which their legislators, in general, are expected to follow. You will increase your chances of getting support from legislators for your initiative if it is consistent with their party policy, or if you can get specific support for this initiative/policy into party policy. Such changes are often initiated at local (constituency) level, and are then carried forward as a resolution to the annual Party congress or National Executive. You can find out how to work on this by asking party members or legislators from the party who are already sympathetic to your position.

Inter-parliamentary organisations

Most parliaments are members of inter-parliamentary organisations such as the Inter Parliamentary Union, Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet countries), African Parliamentary Union, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Arab Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, Latin American Parliament and more.

Many of these inter-parliamentary organisations have considered, and taken action on, nuclear disarmament issues and proposals.

Resolutions are adopted by the member parliaments at the annual assemblies of the inter-parliamentary bodies. Once a resolution is adopted, it gives civil society campaigners an opening to follow-up the resolution in the member parliaments, especially through delegates from your parliament to the inter-parliamentary assembly.

The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), whose 168 member parliaments include most of the nuclear-armed States and their allies, has adopted strong resolutions on nuclear disarmament in 2009 and 2014, committing member parliaments to work with their governments to eliminate the role of nuclear weapons from security doctrines and to participate in negotiations to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world. The resolutions were adopted by consensus, so if your parliament is a member of the IPU, it has endorsed this resolution.

IPU has also produced a handbook for parliamentarians on supporting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and participates actively in key events such as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA), which includes the parliaments of France, Russia, the UK, the USA and all European countries, has adopted declarations in 2014, 2015 and 2016 which include a call for nuclear threat postures to be reduced, no-first-use policies to be adopted, and for member countries to join multilateral negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament. The declarations were adopted by consensus, so if your parliament is a member of the OSCE PA, it has endorsed the declarations.

You can use the resolutions/declarations from inter parliamentary bodies to build support from your legislators for nuclear disarmament issues/initiatives.

The IPU and OSCE PA resolutions were introduced by PNND members. PNND is coordinating follow-up, including through events in parliaments. Contact PNND for more information, including on follow-up in your parliament.


This section is based on the publication Move the Nuclear Weapons Money: A Handbook for civil society and legislators published by IPB, PNND and WFC.