Events over the past few months keep reminding me of what Simon Anholt said during his interview with CapeInfo last September: “The sole remaining superpower is public opinion.”
An email just received from avaaz.org emphasizes the point:
Avaaz is on fire. The pace of our activity, our growth, and our victories is intense! Scroll down through this email to see highlights of the last few months — it’s astonishing what we’re building and achieving together.
There are over 8.2 million of us now, growing by 100,000 people per week! Two weeks ago, 650,000 Indians joined our campaign for a powerful new anti-corruption bill, and we won!! We’re racking up major victories every month — fighting political corruption in Italy, media-corruption in the UK and Canada, environmental destruction in Brazil and more. And across the Middle East, brave democracy activists are getting vital equipment and communications support funded by donations from almost 30,000 of us.
From people-powered revolutions in the Middle East to national anti-corruption movements, you can feel it and see it everywhere today — democracy is on the march, and together we are beating the drum. The press is noticing in hundreds of stories, with one 2000 word feature in the Times of London calling us ‘One of the most important new voices on the global stage’. Here’s a quick summary of the last few months in our amazing people-powered community…
RECENT CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS
Anti-Corruption Campaign Explodes in India
Two weeks ago, Anna Hazare, a 73 year old Gandhian activist, declared a fast unto death until the government agreed to let civil society draft a powerful new anti-corruption law. In just 36 hours, an unprecedented 500,000 Indians joined Avaaz’s campaign to support Hazare’s call for sweeping reform. In 4 days, the public outcry forced India’s government to sign a written submission to all of Hazare’s demands! We won!! Today, a new India is being born — and just as last year in Brazil with landmark anti-corruption legislation, Avaaz is helping to breathe life into it.
Breaking the Middle East Blackout
Funded by donations from almost 30,000 Avaazers, an Avaaz team is working closely with the leadership of democracy movements in Syria, Yemen, Libya and more to get them high-tech phones and satellite internet modems, connect them to the world’s top media outlets, and provide communications advice. We’ve seen the power of this engagement — where our support to activists has created global media cycles with footage and eyewitness accounts that our team helps distribute to CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and others. The courage of these activists is unbelievable — a skype message from one last week read ‘state security searching the house, my laptop battery dying, if not online tomorrow I’m dead or arrested’. He’s ok, and together we’re helping to get his and many other voices out to the world.
Huge Win on Hilton Hotels vs the Rape Trade
24 hours after 317,000 Avaazers called on the Hilton CEO to sign a code of conduct on the rape trade or face hard-hitting ads in his hometown, we got a frantic call from his vice-president. ‘You’re going to WHAT?’, she asked. Hilton had dragged its feet for months. We gave them four days, and they signed. Now 180,000 hotel employees will be trained to spot and prevent the horror of of sex slavery of women and girls.
UK — The People vs Murdoch’s Media Monopoly
Global media kingpin Rupert Murdoch’s bid to tighten his stranglehold over the UK press faces a relentless challenge from Avaaz members, who’ve run adverts, staged public stunts, delivered massive petitions, and organised phone-ins week upon week in an effort to safeguard public debate. An Avaaz-commissioned independent poll found that only 5% of Brits take Murdoch’s side — and new criminal charges for hacking politicians’ phones are further eroding the momentum of the Murdoch media machine. The government has been forced to extract concessions from Murdoch, and has now delayed a decision on the deal — costing Murdoch billions and giving us more time to stop him for good.
Libyan Massacre Prevented — one million messages to the Security Council
Our messages called for sanctions, asset freezes, and an internationally enforced no-fly zone to protect civilians in Libya. Our voices got through: the UN Ambassador from the US, one of the last hold-outs to back the motion, publicly thanked us for our messages. International action began just as Qaddafi’s tanks encircled the rebel-held city of Benghazi — and is widely credited with preventing a likely massacre of large numbers of civilians.
Berlusconi’s Censorship Bill, Defeated
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, facing souring political winds and a trial for statutory rape expected to coincide with general elections, tried to force a censorship law through parliament that would have silenced his critics on independent TV shows. But Italian Avaaz members fought back — powering a 70,000-strong petition and thousands of phone calls to parliament at the crucial moment that helped swing the final vote. The law was blocked, in a huge victory for Avaaz members and for the future of Italian democracy and free speech.
The ‘Angel’ Tackling Corruption in Spain
This week a Spanish newspaper trumpeted Avaaz as its ‘Angel of the Day’ for battling corruption — one highlight of a nationwide torrent of media coverage of Avaaz’s 100,000-Spaniard petition and theatrical stunts calling for Spanish politicians with records of corruption to be barred from upcoming elections. The rising pressure is fuelling a national debate on corruption, and political parties are feeling the heat.
Brazil: Blocking an Amazon-Destroying Mega-Dam
The proposed Belo Monte dam complex, an environmental catastrophe in the making, has been delayed — thanks in part to the spectacular delivery led by indigenous tribes-people of more than 600,000 petition signatures from Avaazers in Brazil and around the world. The Organization of American States has now joined the opposition to the dam, saying it violates human rights — and the momentum is building to cancel it and focus on clean renewable energy sources instead.
A Million-Strong Swarm to Save the Bees
Over a million people, including 200,000 in France, signed an explosive petition to ban pesticides that are mass-killing bees the world over — and, standing with a team of French beekeepers, delivered the petition to the French Agriculture Minister at a major conference. The campaign continues, building pressure for action in France, the EU, and around the globe.
Victory Over ‘False and Misleading’ News in Canada
Conservative officials in Canada have been working to launch a Murdoch-style propagandistic TV network — but in February, when they moved to strike national journalism standards against false or misleading broadcasts, they brought down a firestorm of opposition. 100,000 Canadian Avaazers signed in opposition, and the outrageous proposal to undermine balanced reporting was withdrawn.
Worldwide Solidarity for Egypt
In the darkest hours of their struggle for liberation from Mubarak, Egyptians told the world they needed solidarity — and Avaaz members answered the call. 600,000 of us around the world signed messages of support carried by Al Jazeera broadcasts straight into Tahrir Square — helping to sustain a movement fueled by hope through some of it’s darkest and most uncertain hours.
Mubarak’s Billions, Frozen
When Mubarak left power in Egypt, he tried to take his stolen fortune with him — but within days, more than half a million of us petitioned the G20’s Finance Ministers to immediately freeze his billions, delivering the message with a ‘protest pyramid’ built opposite the Eiffel Tower during the ministers’ meeting. In the weeks following, the EU and countries around the world agreed to freeze the assets of Mubarak and his top aides.
Under Pressure, South Africa Begins to Confront ‘Corrective Rape’
When a local group in South Africa launched a petition demanding that their government address ‘corrective rape’ — the sickening epidemic of rapes of lesbian women to ‘turn them straight’ — they were, at first, ignored. But when their petition reached 170,000 signatures, the government noticed — and now, with nearly a million of us signed on and massive media attention, the pressure for meaningful action is becoming unstoppable.
Delivering 1 million voices for food safety
Before the ink even dried on an exciting new tool for direct democracy in Europe, over one million people from every country in the EU took part in the first-ever European Citizens’ Initiative — a process where people can lodge official petitions that require a response. Avaaz members called for an immediate freeze on genetically modified crops entering the EU until objective studies free from industry influence could show they were safe. The initiative had a spectacular delivery directly to the EU Commission that flooded the media with coverage and sent a clear message to officials.
… And All of This is 100% Funded by Avaaz Members Worldwide!
All of these campaigns are demonstrations of the promise of people power — of what’s possible when we come together to do what’s right. And all of them were funded entirely by small donations from Avaaz members, including almost 250,000 of us who have donated to Avaaz campaigns and 10,000 of us who have become ‘sustainers’ and donated a few dollars or euros a week or month to cover all of Avaaz’s core costs — click here to join in giving. Because of these small donations, Avaaz doesn’t have to answer to corporate sponsors, large individual donors, or government grantmakers. Instead, Avaaz is accountable only to its members, and all our dreams of a better world for all.
With hope and enormous appreciation for the service of every person in this amazing community,
Ricken, Ben, Saloni, Alice, Graziela, David, Shibayan, Morgan, Tihomir, Emma, Giulia, Rewan, Kien, Luis, Alex, Mia, Stephanie, Milena, Heather, Veronique, Iain, Pascal, Benjamin, Yura, Laura, Saravanan, JC, Alma, Dominick, Brianna, Sam, Mohammad, Tricia, Janet, Laryn, Aleksandr, Maksim, Denis and all the volunteers, translators, and all the members of the Avaaz team.