#Nous Sommes Unis: Beirut and Paris
Following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, Avaaz members sent thousands of messages to show those living in these cities that the world was with them. These heartfelt expressions of unity and hope then appeared on thousands of posters across the cities to deliver an antidote to the hate, fear and division that politicians like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen were poisoning the air with.
At moments of terrible tragedy, we face two choices -- division or unity -- and the Avaaz community stood tall and together to fight back against violence and intolerance with the power of love.
“Let`s not fall into the trap of hate. We will stay united. We will stay human. That will be our biggest victory”
Protecting the Sierra del Divisor
After 20 years of local groups and indigenous communities campaigning to protect this unique rainforest, our community was called to action at the final tipping point to shine a massive global light onto the solution.
Just days after we delivered our massive petition to the Peruvian Prime Minister to sign a bill to protect the area, and thousands tweeted and covered his Facebook wall with messages, the PM designated #SierraDelDivisor a national park!
The Peruvian Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, underlined the importance of "the voice of over one million citizens in Peru and throughout the world who have supported the government". Now this rainforest and the extraordinary endangered species that live in it will be protected.
"The participation of civil society in Peru and around the world has finally produced results. In particular I would like to thank Avaaz. Today civil society, government, businesses and communities will be working together to lay down the master plan for Sierra del Divisor."
Opening our hearts to refugees
When a massive wave of desperate refugees started risking their lives at sea to reach the safety of Europe, our community sprang into action. First, we raised funds to grant $500,000 to the most effective private rescue mission in the Mediterranean, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which has saved over 7,000 lives this year. Then we ran an Avaaz aid mission to take urgently needed supplies to the Greek islands where refugees arrive with nothing.
Next, while politicians were saying “nothing can be done”, over 6,000 Avaazers opened their arms with compassion, offering their homes and volunteering in refugee integration programmes across Europe. Lastly, our community lobbied hard across to change migration policies across the world, and when Alan Kurdi tragically drowned, we brought his aunt to Brussels to deliver her message and our 1,200,000 petition straight to Europe’s leaders.
Our voices were heard, and from the EU to Australia to the US refugee resettlement numbers increased, and Europe adopted its first ever integrated migration policy. The crisis is still unfolding, and further action is critical to ensure safe and legal routes and sanctuary for these desperate families.
"Thank you for your beautiful initiative."
Indigenous power to protect the Amazon!
Nearly one million Avaazers joined the call to create the largest environmental corridor in the world, protecting 135 million hectares of Amazon forest -- the size of France! Then 78,000 of us chipped in to power a massive campaign to get the Brazilian, Venezuelan and Colombian governments to back it. The first step was to fund 25 indigenous leaders from all three countries to meet for the first time ever and agree on a regional and international strategy to promote the Amazon corridor. Now we will work hand in glove with them to push through this tri-national reserve. Experts say if we win it would be a total game-changer for stopping rampant deforestation.
The first ever Oil Rig Referendum
They said it couldn’t be done. Getting Italy's regional politicians to stand up and challenge President Renzi to drop drilling along the coasts. And yet in collaboration with the brilliant ‘No Triv’ movement, our community came together and forced six regional presidents to block a move that would have allowed offshore drilling all over the beautiful Italian coastline. Ninety thousand citizens' signatures, delivered right into the key meeting, helped convince ten regional councils to step up and ensure offshore drilling passes the people’s test - a national referendum. The first of its kind in Italian history!
“Thanks to all the international organizations here today, we know that the fight against offshore drilling is not a local, isolated struggle, but a much broader one which will continue in all our seas and coasts.”
An Aussie welcome for refugees
Former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott's point-blank refusal to help Syrian refugees was disturbing (to say the least). But our community in Australia refused to give up hope and within days, we helped reverse the government's position.
There were huge demonstrations of support, from a mega petition with an agenda setting aspirational figure of 20,000 new refugees, huge community outpouring, a massive media outcry and thousands of our members personally telephoning their leaders’ offices during the critical decision-making period.
As a result, Australia took in an extra 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees and contributed $44 million to the UNHCR. The first Syrian family has already arrived and started their new life.
Making schools safer in South Africa
For too many children, the classroom is a place where terrible things can happen in South Africa. Then, when a horrific gang rape was committed in a school and our community rose to challenge the outrage.
We demanded wide-scale school reforms and, with other groups, opened up talks with South Africa’s Department of Education to bring about change.
The test of whether this will work will be in whether children are safer, but the Minister agreed to implement all our campaign asks, including training all teachers in values, citizenship and human rights!
"There has been widespread public support for action, as evidenced by the online campaign signed by over 25,000 citizens. A major priority for the Department is providing school environments that protect learners at all times, and these new commitments build on the work already being done in this area."
Rewarding India’s loyal animals
The Indian Army had quietly been killing its old, unfit horses and dogs despite their years of loyal service in dangerous combat situations. The Animal Welfare Board of India took up their cause and urged citizens to pressure the Defence Ministry to rehabilitate these loyal creatures.
Thousands of Avaaz members signed the petition and crucially many wrote directly to the Defence Ministry, even offering to take in retired Army dogs. Within weeks of the campaign, the Indian Army asked the Animal Welfare Board of India to develop a proper rehabilitation plan, the Defence Ministry allocated funding for it and officially announced an end to the brutal policy of “humane euthanasia”!
“To those who took the trouble to write these emails to the government, besides signing the petition we are truly, truly grateful. Thank you.”
Wearing a dress is not a crime
In Morocco, two women were attacked and taken to court because they were wearing dresses. An outraged Avaaz member launched a petition and within weeks, her call to protect women’s right to make their own choices gained almost 30,000 signatures.
The media team at Avaaz galvanised public attention and soon pictures of Moroccan men wearing dresses in support of the campaign flooded social media. On the day of the judgement in a local court, peaceful demonstrations were organized outside the court-room. Eventually, both women were found innocent and their attackers taken to court instead!
"The women accused of wearing a dress won their freedom today only because of the massive mobilisation of public opinion"
Hope for Greece
When newly elected Greek PM Tsipras visited German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin, our petition to mend relations and ensure support for Greece's economic crisis was delivered with a kiss.
A kiss marathon in fact -- right in front of the building where the leaders met. With enthusiastic German-Greek couples kissing and 200 people hugging and dancing around them, our event was all over European and international news -- and even got a tweet from PM Tsipras himself, who acknowledged that the demo gave him strength.
We then revisited the campaign during the greek referendum and invited renowned economists Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis to call for Greek debt relief in an open letter. The letter made international headlines and was mentioned in over 5,000 media articles, helping change the debate in Germany.
#Blatterout of FIFA
When top FIFA executives were arrested, Avaaz swung into action, launched a global petition, and sent a team to Zurich the next day to put up a giant, symbolic prison cell for Chairman Sepp Blatter in front of the waiting media, calling for him to quit. Our images helped define the story for millions, appearing on TV news in 41 countries and hundreds of print and online publications. Blatter has announced his departure now and in Zurich Avaaz staff were invited to meet authorities in Qatar to discuss their use of slave labour in preparing for the World Cup.
Save Venice from the big ships in the lagoon
In Venice, developers and cruise companies wanted to build a new devastating channel to allow huge cruise ships to be able to enter the center of Venice. But the government had the final decision on the project so, when Prime Minister Renzi announced his presence in the city for a political rally the Avaaz-team went there and delivered to his hands almost 100,000 signatures.
When thousands of citizens took to the streets of the city, the Contorta channel project was finally dropped! A big win, although now a new equally devastating plan has been proposed, and we’ll need to keep fighting them.
Aid 2.0: Saving lives … fast
Since 2007, Avaaz members have donated an incredible $10 million to help save lives in the aftermath of humanitarian disasters. But it’s not just the amount that is impressive. When you’ve lost everything, every minute counts and we acted faster possibly than almost any other organisation, carefully selecting partners that can help get aid to where it’s needed most. For example:
After Cyclone Nargis in Burma when almost every NGO was banned, we sent staff to the border to work with monks to get aid out to the delta to save lives within 48 hours of the disaster. When Pakistan was washed away in 2010, we got $1 mln on the ground through local groups in less than 3 days.
Following the terrible earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, Avaaz partnered with over a dozen of the best local relief efforts, the shelter, food, and medical supplies that our community funded were often the first to reach devastated villages.
“While the buildings were still crumbling from the aftershocks in Nepal, Avaaz spoke to us, understood the magnitude of the problem, and arranged the funds - all in less than 24 hours. The way they make decisions and take action is mind-blowing.”
Benetton pays Rana Plaza Victims
After years of flat-out refusal, we finally got Benetton to pay compensation to victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh! We combined a million strong appeal with a social media blitz, billboards outside Benetton’s HQ, a heartfelt appeal and deep negotiations with company executives.
Benetton responded by backing the new compensation scheme and then even thanked Avaaz for giving them the motivation to act! Their support became a game changer for worker’s rights -- as following their pledge of $1.1 million, the compensation fund was 100% filled by other companies and individuals which will change the lives of workers and their families who lost so much.
“We accept and agree that it’s a shared responsibility for those who were there.”
Winning for Palestine
After the horrific attacks on Gaza in 2014, Avaaz launched the biggest global divestment campaign ever, calling on major companies to cut ties with operations engaged in the illegal occupation and repression of Palestinians. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Russell Brand joined our call, and other groups called for Barclays to divest from Elbit weapons company.
Avaaz staff met with Barclays to deliver the campaign and were informed that Barclays now has no beneficial ownership of any shares in Elbit Systems in any capacity, nor does it hold any shares in nominee for clients. Barclays has also confirmed that it is not recommending Elbit Systems shares to clients via any trading platforms.
This win is huge and Avaaz is now pushing others including G4S and the Dutch pension firm ABP to withdraw and respect international law.
A humanitarian leader for the world
When media reports suggested UK’s disastrous Andrew Lansley could be appointed as the next UN Humanitarian Chief, we launched a campaign demanding transparency and the principle of merit.
We ran ads on the front page of Financial Times, met with the UN chief of staff, polled existing UN employees and ran a full bore campaign to get Ban Ki-moon to not appoint Lansley.
Thankfully British Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts to parachute his old friend into this role was stopped -- now the fight is to ensure that future UN appointments attract the best possible people and are not “jobs for the boys”.
Mexico’s water for the people, not corporations
Mexico’s Congress was quietly fast-tracking an outrageous law to give corporations the right to pollute the nation’s entire water supply and make academic investigation of contamination illegal. When we heard about it, we launched a massive public campaign with key partners, building a giant petition, taking to the streets and creating a media wave the politicians couldn’t ignore. In a subsequent vote in Congress, the law was voted down and Mexico’s water supply kept safe.
“The Avaaz campaign really helped, informing people and mobilizing them to pressure our representatives. We never imagined we could actually stop the law!!!”
Paying to protest?
When police in London refused to send officers to close roads for a climate march, telling organisers that they would have to hire a private company at a cost of thousands of pounds instead, the Avaaz community swung into action. More than 60,000 people joined our call to reject the privatisation of protest, which was delivered to police by march organisers.
After a media firestorm, London Mayor Boris Johnson publicly questioned the police’s position, piling pressure on them to do the right thing. Days before the march, the force backed down, agreeing to send officers to march and ensuring our right to democratic expression was upheld.
"Thanks to Avaaz for ensuring that the right to free protest remains a fundamental democratic right available for all. As a result of the petition we will no longer have to hire a private traffic management company to close the roads for our protest. It helped us draw the public support we needed to challenge the authorities at this pivotal time."
Countering Hate in Germany
When a wave of xenophobic marches were organised by the right-wing group Pegida in Germany, Avaaz members came together to fight back against this ugly display of fear with love.
We built a wall of friendship where Germans of all faiths and backgrounds posted images of friendship which we took to rallies in Dresden and Berlin which saw the hashtag #mitdir explode.
The campaign was very effective in challenging Pegida’s message of division and peaked with a day-long festival of diversity at the Brandenburg Gate, with poets, musicians and singers coming together to celebrate our common humanity.
"#MirDir has a clear message: We stand for a different Germany. A country that allows more than one perspective. A country that debates and discusses. A country that is built together, not against each other”
A Car-Free Day in Paris
Avaaz members in Paris had the brilliant idea to campaign for a car-free day in the capital as a symbolic gesture in the run-up to the international climate summit at the end of 2015. With the support of the Avaaz team, they launched their campaign, and within hours of the petition going live, City Hall called and promised this “car-free day” would happen in September!
In the hours following the horrific attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in the centre of Paris, Avaaz launched a call for a France that is united and responds to terrorism with love and hope. The campaign was our biggest ever in France, gathering more than 800,000 signatures within a few hours, and we delivered them at the giant Paris solidarity March. #JeSuisCharlie
Saving our seeds from GM
Our community has been on the frontline of the fight against Big Agriculture and in September we stopped Monsanto’s plans to build Latin America’s largest GM seed plant, which would have produced 60,000 tonnes of GM seeds a year. Avaaz worked closely with local residents, activists, and lawyers to put pressure on key Argentinian decision makers, and after a 20-month people-powered battle in the courts and on the streets, the authorities stopped their project!
But, we didn’t stop there -- when Monsanto got an expensive goldstar team to produce a new Environmental Impact Assessment and tried to fight back with a new proposal, pressure from the community got legislation passed that prevented the proposal from going through. They finally put the project in the freezer until 2015 -- and our community, having grown even stronger, will be ready for them should they come back.
“The support from the Avaaz community was important in our fight against Monsanto’s project in the last months, in opening a debate in Argentine society and in influencing authorities to listen to people.”
“At least” 40% cuts to greenhouse gas emissions
After countless delays and prevarication, EU leaders finally agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by "at least" 40% by 2030. Those two little words are vital in the race to save the planet as they set a baseline minimum commitment for how ambitious cuts will be when leaders meet for the Climate Summit in Paris in 2015.
In partnership with other groups, Avaazers helped seal the deal with tens of thousands of messages to leaders, public opinion polls on climate across the continent, a hard-hitting ad in a leading Polish newspaper and a call for action by economists including Thomas Piketty in the Financial Times -- all having real impact.
After years of European climate action falling at the final hurdle, cutting climate emissions is right back at the top of our leader's agenda.
"I would like to thank the millions of people who have joined Avaaz in the effort to increase pressure on world leaders to act now, not tomorrow. Without public support it will be impossible to stop climate change. So please carry on and stay on the alert!"
Beating back Ebola
This is a big deal. This monster could have killed millions -- it threatened the whole world. But the world came together to stop it. What did we do?
First, our community donated $2.5 million to the best aid operations working on the front line. It was the speed and nimbleness of our funds that made them life-saving. Then, over 4,000 of us offered to go to West Africa to use our skills to assist in the fight . Avaaz volunteers played critical roles on the ground — from combating patient-doctor transmission in Ebola Treatment Centers, to building the facilities themselves with over a dozen members being hired to go and work on the ground.
The fact that Ebola is defeated is a huge victory for humanity. But more than that, the commitment of our community to show that people everywhere are willing to risk everything to help others on the other side of the planet in times of crisis is what makes this community truly special. What’s now clearer than ever is that investment in public health in this region is crucial.
The power of 20,000 Russian voices...
Millions of Syrians have been trapped without aid for months with UN aid trucks sitting on the Turkish border, unable to cross as talks at the UN Security Council negotiations went nowhere.
But when over 20,000 Russian citizens backed an Avaaz petition urging their government to back a UN resolution to get aid in, things started to change.
On July 2, Avaaz delivered the petition to Russian diplomats -- the first time Russians had ever called on their government to act on Syria. Then, less than two weeks later it was unanimously passed! The resolution ensured aid could reach thousands of Syrians unhindered and was accompanied by independent UN monitors -- a great breakthrough in helping those in desperate need in Syria.
“Having Russia back this resolution saved thousands of lives. Syrians are still facing tremendous hardship and decisive action from the UN is essential. I'm especially grateful for the Avaaz community in Russia for standing in solidarity with the Syrian people."
Keeping concrete off Greek beaches!
Just days before the EU election, the Greek government tried to sneakily draft a bill that would allow private companies to build on and exploit the country’s beautiful coastlines. Within a matter of hours, Avaaz members mobilised in their thousands to shut the bill down.
In collaboration with WWF, Avaaz delivered the 150,000 strong petition directly to the Ministry of Finance. Our actions created a massive wave in the media that pushed the issue into the centre of the pre-election debate. Amid the outcry and media attention, the Greek government was forced to make a U-turn on the issue by withdrawing the bill completely.
“The incredible mobilisation by Avaaz went beyond the usual populist cries and deserves to be congratulated.”
Grounding Italy’s F35 Madness
At a time of record unemployment in Italy, Avaaz members were outraged to hear that the government planned to spend €14 billion on F35 fighter jets. In what was to become the biggest campaign yet in Italy for Avaaz, nearly half a million Italians mobilised against elected officials spending limited taxpayers’ money on new fighter jets.
Hundreds of Avaazers attended a sit-in, in opposition to the proposed spending. Over 472,000 signatures were delivered directly to MPs in the Defence Committee with widespread national media coverage. The pressure secured a government fact-finding investigation on weapon systems and military expenditure, resulting in the Lower Chamber approving a resolution binding the Government to half the project’s budget - saving 7 billion Euros!
"I agree with the dissent of citizens who have signed this petition. In such a difficult time for our country, it is also necessary to rationalize expenditure in the defense sector."
Pouring light on the darkness of “secret voting”
Our community won two massive battles for democracy -- ending the shady practice of “secret voting” in both Brazil and Italy. In Brazil, Avaaz members from all over the country made sure senators’ telephones were ringing off the hook, pressing them to end secret voting. Together we succeeded in pushing through a win first in the Lower House and then all the way through the Senate. It's a huge victory for one of the world's largest democracies.
In Italy, Avaazers participated in a stunning naked action to expose the need for open voting. Thousands of members sent direct messages to a key senator in the vote - changing his final position. We defeated the secret ballot and helped expel Berlusconi from parliament.
"My role requires me to be impartial, but it is essential for people like me in the institutions to receive and listen to the voice of the people.”
Forced to marry her rapist
16 year-old Amina killed herself after being forced to marry her rapist. Under Article 475 in Morocco’s penal code, rapists could marry their victims to avoid prosecution. Ten months later, in a follow-up to our first global call on this issue, Avaaz launched a campaign to repeal the law. On the eve of a crucial bill vote, we delivered 1.2 million signatures directly to the head of Parliament. The Moroccan Parliament then voted to repeal the provision so other girls won’t have to endure the same horror as Amina.
“It is a great victory and an important gain thanks to you. Let me congratulate and pay tribute to the Avaaz team and all its members for their major solidarity action.”
Stopping the Internet Apocalypse
At the end of 2013 the European Commission proposed a law that would have wiped out the Internet as we know it -- and we knew we had to stop it. In only a few days we launched a global campaign calling on the EU to ban Big Telcos from turning the Internet from a superhighway for all, into a toll road for the few. And it worked: the draft law was modified to protect net neutrality, the principles by which all websites have to be treated equally. The vast majority of the parliament approved a text that for the first time in the history of the internet protects net neutrality, and will push countries all over the world to do the same. In April 2014 we continued the fight and won it for every citizen in Brazil when the Senate passed the Marco Civil da Internet Bill.
We've won an important battle, but the newly appointed Commission could easily overhaul the telecom package and drop strict Net Neutrality rules when EU governments decide next year -- let's stay alert!
Confronting Horror in Paradise
When a 15-year-old rape survivor in the Maldives was sentenced to be flogged for also allegedly having consensual sex with another man, it put the global spotlight on these so-called paradise islands. Over 2 million Avaaz members signed a petition asking President Mohammed Waheed to intervene in the girl’s case and put an end to the practice of flogging altogether.
Avaaz lobbied at the highest levels of government in the Maldives and launched an advertising campaign targeting the tourism industry by exposing the reality of life for women in this island paradise. And in August the High Court finally dropped the outrageous flogging sentence (read more in The Independent). An Avaaz commissioned poll conducted amongst Maldivians showed that 92% of Maldivians want reform of laws and systems to protect women and 62% want to see a moratorium on flogging. With this progress in hand, Avaaz will continue campaigning to end this war on women in the Maldives.
"The Avaaz contribution was the spearhead of the campaign to overturn the flogging sentence; a petition signed by millions, a country visit, a public opinion survey... all proved irresistible. I hope Avaaz will continue to seek reform in Maldives."
Brazil says NO to Corruption, YES to 21st Century Democracy!
Brazilians are saying enough is enough to rampant corruption. First it was the hugely successful Clean Record Law campaign, to bar politicians convicted of crimes from running for office -- which studies have shown Avaaz played a key role in winning. Now an Avaaz member has created the biggest online petition in Brazilian history -- with over 1.6 million voices demanding that Senators kick out the Senate President, a disgraced politician under a cloud of corruption allegations. He’s still there for now, but we’re close to ending the secret voting process which allowed him to get the Senate top spot.
Even better, the Senate just voted to make it easier and faster for citizens to force politicians to take action. Avaaz was repeatedly cited during the Senate debate, in which they agreed to halve how many people need to sign popular initiative petitions, and they determined that online signatures can count! Now we’re going all out to get the lower house on board.
"Avaaz is a great tool for citizens to express their interest. Avaaz played an important role pressuring the MPs to move forward with the discussion of this project, ensuring that the draft was approved in the commissions and now to be voted in plenary."
Saving Fin Whales from Butchery
When an Icelandic tycoon launched his brutal summer hunt to turn endangered fin whales into dog food, Avaaz launched a campaign to stop him shipping the bloody carcasses to Japan. Over 1.1 million of us convinced Dutch politicians to commit to closing Dutch ports. Then we showed up again in Germany when he tried to reroute his shipments through Hamburg. The German Environment Ministry responded to Avaazers' messages right away on Twitter and -- working closely with Greenpeace, together we created the pressure that got the whale meat put right back on a ship to Iceland! The German government has now asked the port to refuse all future whale meat shipments, 200,000 Avaaz members in Germany are now asking the nation's biggest supermarket to stop selling products linked to the whaling company and we're chasing down the whaler's other routes to profit until he realises he has to stop killing fin whales.
“The Avaaz campaign has played an important role in stopping the whalers from profiting -- bringing us closer to ending the hunt for these magnificent and endangered whales.”
Stopping the Global Tax Scam
Each year, greedy companies and wealthy individuals use tricky schemes to hide away an estimated $1 trillion, depriving governments of tax they need to fix our services and our countries. This year we spotted an opportunity to go after the missing money, built a massive petition and linked up with famous singer Baaba Maal and worked closely with Save the Children, ActionAid and other campaign groups to deliver our voices to David Cameron, G8 summit chair. Our letter signed by 21,000 business representatives helped position this as a pro-business, pro-citizen issue, and to shift the positions of Germany and Canada, resulting in an historic agreement that can get governments to work together to stop tax evasion. The 'Lough Erne Declaration' was short on specifics, but gives us huge leverage in chasing governments to block shady tax schemes.
Afghan translators -- fighting for their safety
During the 11 year conflict in Afghanistan, local Afghan interpreters have helped troops and aid workerscommunicate with local people. Many have died or been injured on duty and now the Taliban is hunting down the survivors to kill them. One interpreter, Abdul, started a campaign to get the British government to offer him and all his colleagues asylum. It was soon backed by 80,000 Brits, and Avaaz worked with former generals and current MPs to make this massive in the media. The government has now offered the lifeline of asylum to around half the interpreters and the fight goes on for the rest.
Bangladesh: Hope from the Rubble
When a Bangladeshi garment factory collapsed, killing over a thousand, Avaaz joined forces with labour organisations and targeted two massive retail giants. The aim: to get them to sign an enforceable worker safety plan that could be a model for the world.
Avaaz members blanketed the H&M and GAP Facebook pages. And when our ad targeting H&M’s boss was turned down by a leading newspaper in Sweden a huge debate kicked off there, in the media and online. Senior H&M executives got right on the phone with Avaaz, and 3 days later embraced the agreement, prompting more than 75 other brands to follow in their footsteps! GAP and WalMart aren’t on the list yet, but we’re working on them.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Avaaz played a pivotal role in persuading H&M to embrace the accord."
Hope for Syrian students abroad
The crisis in Syria has had a devastating effect not only on civilians in the country, but also on students studying abroad. In Britain, over 600 Syrian students were struggling to pay their fees and Universities were kicking many out of their courses. A campaign on behalf of the desperate students provided new hope. Backed by 48,000 Avaaz members, and coupled with huge media coverage and advocacy with government officials and universities, the campaign forced universities to waive fees and open access funds. It got private donors to support individual students and led the Government to consider a new safety net for students from foreign universities. Now many of those Syrian students are completing their studies.
"This campaign has been incredible -- I have now had my fees deferred and been able to access much-needed hardship finance so I can finally focus on completing my studies so that in time, I can go back and help rebuild Syria. Thank you Avaaz!"
Stop the Elephant slaughter
Across Africa, elephants are being slaughtered by poachers in record numbers -- their tusks hacked off with chainsaws -- to make luxury items and trinkets in Asia. In response to that horrifying reality, nearly 1.4 million Avaazers and WWF supporters joined Leonardo DiCaprio in a call to the Thai prime minister to end her country’s unregulated ivory market -- the largest in the world. Thousands sent her emails and left so many comments on her Facebook page that it was temporarily shut down. The combined pressure forced her to listen -- pledging to end the unregulated trade. A source in the Thai government said the announcement was a direct result of our campaigns.
Confronting hate in Costa Rica
When the homophobic president of the Human Rights Commission in Costa Rica’s Congress invited a doctor to speak to Congress about how to "cure" homosexuality, Costa Rican Avaaz members confronted him. A petition started on the Avaaz community petitions site calling for his resignation went viral online and quickly reached more than 25,000 signers. When the congressman refused to resign, Avaaz delivered the signatures in big, colourful boxes to the president of Congress in front of the media. The president of Congress committed himself and his party not to reappoint the homophobic congressman -- and he was booted from office just weeks later!
Free Sevil Sevimli
Sevil Sevimli, a French -Turkish Erasmus student, was arrested while studying abroad in Istanbul for attending a left-wing concert celebrating the 1st of May. For nearly ten months she endured a judicial nightmare and couldn't return home to Lyon. Enraged by this cruel and arbitrary detention, Sevil's supporters set up an Avaaz petition, and more than 136,000 members backed it. Then Sevil's family got to meet France's Human Rights Ambassador helping build pressure on Turkey to release Sevil for an emotional return to France!
“The petition helped me keep hope alive when I was jail.”
Fulfilling Malala's Dream
When 15-year old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban, the world was outraged. In response, nearly 1 million of us called on the Pakistani government to fulfill her dream of education for all by supporting a national stipend programme to put all of Pakistan’s poor children in school. The UN Education Envoy Gordon Brown delivered our petition directly to Pakistani President Zardari, who signed it himself! On that very day, a month after Malala was shot, the Pakistani government officially launched a stipend programme for 3 million children.
"I believe that if we act together in speaking out, as Avaaz's members have done, we can begin to deliver on our promise of education for Malala.”
Freeing Trapped Migrant Workers
When a construction company lured Indian labourers to Bahrain under false pretenses and then refused to let them leave, the Avaaz community swung into action. The brother of a worker who had tragically killed himself started a campaign on our community petitions site to demand the company let the remaining 100 workers go. 20,000 of us joined the call and engaged the company's business partners to help lay on the pressure. In days, we did what the Indian government couldn't for 7 years: got the construction company to let the workers return home. We even got the company to commit to never imposing travel bans again.
"This wouldn't have happened without Avaaz."
Stopping the Amazon Chainsaws
Earlier this year the Brazilian Congress, under the sway of powerful lobbies and interests, passed a catastrophic forestry bill that would have given loggers and farmers free rein to chop down huge swathes of the Amazon. As part of a powerful partnership with Greenpeace, WWF, key Brazilian organizations, and leading public figures, over 2 million Avaaz members pressured Brazil’s President Dilma to reject the bill and save the Amazon. Our message was driven home during a dramatic day of high level meetings with key ministers, and creative demonstrations in the capital, Brasília. Dilma responded by vetoing some of the most controversial parts of the law.
Protecting the Coral Sea
In Australia, thousands of us helped create the largest network of marine protected areas in the world. When public consultation on a proposed national marine park opened earlier this year, commercial fishing and mining companies went after it with all they had. But hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members signed a letter to the Environment Minister, and almost 30,000 flooded the public record with comments in favour of the proposal. The government was left with little doubt about where the people stood. The Australian public, with the support of citizens from everywhere, gave the government the needed mandate to protect this important stretch of the Coral Sea from mining, oil and gas development.
Blocking Internet Censorship
Drafted in private by a small number of rich countries and corporations, ACTA would have given powerful multinational actors the ability to control and censor the Internet. When details of the backroom treaty spread, more than 2 million Avaaz members signed a petition to the European Parliament demanding that lawmakers stand up for a free and open Internet and reject the ratification of ACTA. The petition, which grew to nearly 3 million signers, was delivered directly to decision-makers in Brussels. When the law was abandoned during the final vote, the European Parliament's press release announcing ACTA's defeat cited the Avaaz petition as a key factor!
"I was very impressed by Avaaz’s massive 2.8 million person petition which was addressed to the European Parliament. Citizens concerns have been taken seriously by the European Parliament."
Climate Talks: Keeping Hope Alive
At critical climate talks in Durban, more than 800,000 of us helped ensure victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. Our team on the ground in South Africa delivered our message day in and day out through hard-hitting actions like this ad in the Financial Times -- released on the final day of tense negotiations. Despite massive pressure by oil-friendly nations like the US and Canada, a deal was struck to save the vital Kyoto Protocol.
"Thanks to the over 800,000 people from around the world – your voices made a vital impact at the end of the talks.”
Guarding the Amazon
Half a million of us joined more than 1,000 indigenous protesters in demanding that Bolivian President Evo Morales halt construction of a highway that would slice through the heart of the Amazon. Avaaz staff met at length with top Bolivian cabinet ministers in a stormy meeting and our widespread solidarity strengthened the hand of the indigenous protesters. The pressure worked! After our campaign, Morales canceled construction, repealed the decision granting permission for the project, and pledged to protect the impacted TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory -- the crown jewel of the Bolivian Amazon -- forever! It was a huge victory; and if Morales ever tries to bring the project back from the dead, we’ll be there to stop him.
Cluster Clamp Down
In 2008, Avaaz fought to ban cluster munitions -- toy-like explosives that kill curious children long after conflicts end. Cluster bomb survivor Branislav Kapetanovic sent a video appeal to Avaaz members prompting 164,272 email messages to government leaders urging a global ban free of loopholes and delays. More than 100 nations signed a strong treaty, and advocates at the talks told us that Avaaz members had made a real difference.
Three years later when cynical arms-producing nations tried to subvert the ban, we were ready. We partnered with our friends at the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) and more than half a million of us stood with the victims of cluster bombs and told governments to vote their conscience. They did; the ban was upheld, and our contribution was decisive, according to our partners at the CMC.
Battling Hate in Uganda
In 2010 the Ugandan government considered a bill that would sentence gay Ugandans to death. Avaaz members worked with church leaders and human rights activists to deliver an unprecedented show of public opposition to this atrocious law, delivering a 450,000-strong petition to the Speaker of Uganda’s parliament. The delivery made global headlines, and the bill quietly disappeared.
But the Ugandan parliament attempted to bring the anti-gay bill to the floor once more in April 2011. Avaaz immediately shifted into action, and signatures grew from 450,000 to an astonishing 1.6 million in just a few days. On top of the petition, tens of thousands of us called our governments and, once again, made the story major international news. The intense global pressure pushed the speaker of the Ugandan Parliament to block the bill from coming to a vote in an emergency session, and it was wiped from the books. And when homophobic lawmakers brought the bill back again in 2012, we were ready, launching this ad to support yet another call from more than a million members of our community.
Breaking Syria's Blackout
Since the early days of the peaceful uprising in Syria, the Avaaz community has stood with the people of Syria in the face of a brutal assault from their own government. Thousands of us took action to help equip brave Syrians with satellite modems and camera phones to videotape the Assad regime's crackdowns on innocent civilians. Before international media was able to get into the country, Time Magazine credited Avaaz with “organiz[ing] a steady stream of video footage from inside Syria that has helped form the Western picture of the brutality unfolding on the ground.”
And when the situation turned dire, our community helped funnel millions of dollars in food, medicine and humanitarian relief to those so desperately in need. Today, we continue to pressure governments around the world to take the decisive steps needed to bring about a free and peaceful Syria.
Cleaning Out Corruption in India
Corruption has gone viral in India, infecting all parts of the country’s democracy. But a massive movement has sprung up to tackle this sickness head on. In just 36 hours, 500,000 Indians signed Avaaz’s petition to support the anti-corruption movement. Pushed by people power, the government agreed to all the movement’s demands, but has so far failed to implement this promise. The Times of India called Avaaz “a key player” in the anti-corruption movement.
Free Speech for Italy
Facing growing unpopularity and statutory rape charges, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi tried to silence his critics by jamming a ludicrous censorship law through parliament. Italian Avaaz members fought back -- spearheading a 70,000-strong petition and placing thousands of phones calls to parliament just before the vote. Berlusconi lost. Italian democracy won.
Lives Saved in Libya
As the Arab Spring took off in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi threatened to exterminate the entire city of Benghazi. Avaaz members banded together to stop him. On the eve of the key UN Security Council vote, Avaaz sent one million messages calling for asset freezes and protective action. A massacre was prevented. The US ambassador to the UN, one of the last holdouts, publicly thanked us for our campaign.
"@Avaaz petitioners: Thank you. UN Security Council condemned violence in #Libya, called for protection of civilians"
An Angel in Spain
Partnering with the tireless Indignados, Spanish Avaazers won the world’s attention with theatrical stunts and a 100,000-strong petition calling for politicians with a history of corruption to be barred from elections. Our hard-work triggered a much-needed national debate on official graft and won Avaaz the title “Angel of the Day” from a Spanish paper.
No F1 in Brutal Bahrain
The repressive Bahrain leadership thought they could get away with a brutal crackdown on democracy protesters and still host the prestigious Formula 1 Grand Prix. But 500,000 Avaaz members said no, raising the alarm and calling on F1 to pull out and stand with the protesters being gunned down on the street.
A social media firestorm ensued with over 20,000 Facebook and Twitter messages pasted all over F1 team sites. We then reached out to legendary driver, Damon Hill, who agreed to stand with us.The Avaaz campaign was cited in thousands of articles worldwide (NYT, AFP, Reuters, ESPN) and our spokespeople were interviewed on CNN, BBC and many major networks. F1 tried to cover up the brutality in Bahrain by producing a sham report, but Avaaz was leaked the real report and released it to the media. The story kept raging until eventually the F1 teams pulled out of the Bahrain race, leaving F1 chiefs with no other choice but to cancel. Click here to watch Avaaz's campaign animation.
Real News for Canada
Conservative officials and businessmen in Canada had been working to launch a Murdoch-style propaganda TV network -- but when they moved to strike national journalism standards against false or misleading broadcasts, they brought down a firestorm of opposition. More than a 100,000 Canadian Avaazers signed in opposition, and the outrageous proposal to undermine balanced reporting was withdrawn.
Recovering Mubarak's Billions
When Hosni Mubarak left power in Egypt, he tried to take his stolen billions with him. Within days, half a million Avaaz members petitioned G20 finance ministers to immediately freeze his assets.
As the ministers met in Paris, we delivered our message with an enormous “protest pyramid” opposite the Eiffel Tower. Weeks later the EU and others froze Mubarak and his aides’ assets. Avaaz is now working recover stolen assets from other fallen tyrants and improve the EU Sanctions system which is packed full of dictator-friendly loopholes.
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.
Worldwide Solidarity for Egypt
In the darkest hours of their struggle for liberation from the Mubarak regime, 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 its most violent and uncertain hours.
South Africa confronts ‘Corrective Rape’
There’s a sickening practise in South Africa: the rape of lesbian women to ‘turn them straight’. When a local group first launched a petition demanding that their government address 'corrective rape', they were ignored. But when their petition reached 170,000 signatures, our community -- along with other activist groups -- got involved. The government noticed, and now, with nearly a million of us signed on and massive media attention, the government has committed to take preventative action against these awful crimes.
Keeping EU Food Safe and GMO Free
Over 1 million people from every country in the EU took part in the first-ever European Citizens' Initiative -- a process allowing people to 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 sent a clear message to officials that Europe would not be force-fed unsafe food.
Hilton Agrees to Stop Sex Slavery
For years Hilton Hotels turned a blind eye to the international rape trade. They didn’t think that they had a responsibility to fully protect the women and children in their hotels. More than 317,000 Avaaz members thought otherwise and warned Hilton’s CEO that unless he changed course, we’d run hard-hitting ads in his hometown. Four days later, Hilton agreed to train all of its 180,000 employees how to spot and prevent sex slavery. Hilton listened and acted -- now they’re leading the hotel industry in this field.
Millions for climate action
2007 - 2010
Since our first climate campaign kicked off in 2007, Avaaz has delivered millions of climate petition signatures to key leaders including the environment ministers of all the G8 countries and leaders in Brazil, Germany and Japan.
Giant postcards inviting world leaders to attend the climate summit were handed over to the British Prime Minister and other delegations at the 2009 G8 summit in L'Aquila. And there were extraordinary scenes in Copenhagen as youth from around the world staged a sit-in to deliver a petition -- reading out loud the names of 15 million people who had signed demanding a fair, ambitious and binding climate deal.
Flood Relief for Pakistan
A fifth of Pakistan was underwater, millions were homeless and in desperate need of help. Avaaz members did not hesitate. Together we raised $300,000 in just three days. But we didn’t stop there: In total nearly $1 million was given directly to trusted local partners. And every single penny we raised went to Pakistanis in need of assistance.
Brazil: "Ficha Limpa"
Ficha Limpa, the “clean record” law, was a bold proposal to ban anyone previously convicted of crimes of corruption from running for office in Brazil. Although many said that it would never pass, Avaaz members rallied to create the largest online campaign in Brazilian history, culminating in a petition of 2 million signatures, over 500,000 online actions, and tens of thousands of phone calls.
This united action allowed us to fight back as corrupt congressmen repeatedly tried to kill the bill through any means possible -- we prevailed in each and every attempt. Not only did we see it pass Congress, we watched as over 330 candidates for office faced disqualification because of their amoral conduct. Now we’ll fight to protect ficha limpa against the forces of corruption. If they come after it, we’ll be ready.
"I have never been as proud of the Brazilian people as I am today! Congratulations to all that have signed. Today I feel like an actual citizen with political power."
Italy: Legge Bavaglio
The “Legge Bavaglio,” or gag law, tried to strip the Italian legal system of the ability to tackle crime and corruption. It could have silenced editors and journalists, placing draconian penalties on those who dared to hold politicians accountable. But the voices of 340,000 Italian Avaazers stopped this shameful law from passing, shifting the parliamentary agenda -- for the first time in history -- through people powered action.
"A channel has been opened between politics and people, a distance that seemed to be unbridgeable for a moment has been bridged."
Protecting the Whales
In 2010, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) unveiled a proposal to legalise the slaughter and sale of whales, effectively overturning the decades-old ban on whaling. Together, Avaaz members built a massive campaign to stop the proposal -- signed by an extraordinary 1.3 million of us worldwide. The petition was delivered to the IWC meeting in front of the world’s media. The proposal collapsed and the whaling ban was upheld
It was a huge victory for whales, but Japan and others continue to exploit IWC loopholes. To win permanently, we’ll need to work together to strengthen and reform the Commission, and mobilise in countries with pro-whaling governments.
Saving the Oceans
The UK announced its plan to double the total global area of protected ocean with a massive new conservation zone bigger than Germany and Italy combined. In the public comment period before the decision, Avaaz members contributed more than 85% of the responses, urging a ban on commercial fishing and support for the island peoples' rights.
The UK Foreign Ministry cited the "over 221,000 responses co-ordinated by Avaaz ... from 223 countries" in its announcement. It was a major step forward, but continued pressure is needed to ensure a just outcome for Chagossian Islanders and Mauritius -- and to further protect oceans from overfishing.
At risk from poaching and habitat loss, elephants weren’t even on the endangered species list. But more than 500,000 of us worldwide took a stand alongside the African Elephant Coalition. After a close, nail-biting vote and final push with partners on the ground, we won protection for elephants at a UN Endangered Species session.
"The petition, no doubt, made a difference and helped achieve the right result for elephants everywhere."
Build Settlements, Destroy Peace
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu derailed US-led peace talks when he announced plans to build more housing settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Avaaz responded by channeling the world’s stance against settlement construction and for a just two-state solution. An Avaaz opinion poll and media actions helped bolster President Obama's position ahead of a crucial meeting between the two heads of state. Here's a video.
Uganda Anti-Gay Bill
In an unprecedented show of public opposition to the proposed law that would sentence gay Ugandans to death, Avaaz worked with church leaders and human rights activists to deliver a 450,000-strong petition to the Speaker of Uganda's parliament. The delivery -- involving an hour-long meeting and a press conference -- made national and global headlines including the Daily Monitor, BBC and VOA.
Parliament had been expected to debate the bill in February 2010. But in the face of local and global pressure, formal discussion still hasn't begun. Some say the bill may be left to die in committee, potentially a quiet but extraordinary victory for human rights.
Avaaz continues to work closely with allies to monitor the bill -- and stands ready to take action once more if it regains momentum.
The huge earthquake that struck Haiti left the country in ruins. Thousands of us contributed more than $1.3 million for relief and recovery -- directing the funds to outstanding local groups for life-saving food kits, shelter and medicine.
But the crisis demanded more action. In the weeks that followed, hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members signed a global petition that helped secure the cancellation of $1 billion in debt Haiti owed to rich countries. Watch the story of our response.
Our leaders didn't make history -- but the world's people did. A year of unprecedented action on climate change reached unimagined heights, with thousands of vigils, rallies and protests, hundreds of thousands of phone calls, millions of petition signatures, and more.
While politicians failed to deliver a desperately needed deal to stop runaway climate change, the world’s citizens built a movement that can win the fight to save our planet. Click to see the pictures, videos, and messages from around the world after the summit -- and stay tuned to Avaaz for the next steps we’ll all need to take to combat climate change.
Feeding the World
With food prices soaring, Sierra Leonean foreign minister Zainab Bangura recorded a video appeal to Avaaz’s global membership asking for help in pressing governments into action. More than 360,000 members responded, signing a petition that was delivered to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at an emergency food summit in Rome.
Responding to global pressure, donor governments pledged billions in emergency food aid and joined a process to reconsider agricultural policy. In July 2010, the G8 pledged to "ensure the compatibility of policies for the sustainable production and use of biofuels with food security." It was an important steps but more pressure is needed to make this pledge a reality.
The Global Climate Wake-Up Call
In 2009, Avaaz members and partners joined together to issue a deafening climate wake-up call to world leaders. At more than 2,600 events in 135 countries we called for changes to climate policy, demanding that leaders take the health of our planet seriously.
From signs and chants to creative demonstrations, we came together to make sure the world knew that time was ticking, the alarm was sounding, and action was necessary. The media couldn’t ignore our call, and neither could world leaders.Words can't describe it -- but this video gets close.
Torture, Guantanamo, and the USA
Inspired by global calls to end torture, Avaaz launched a billboard campaign in the Washington, D.C. subway system. Backed by thousands of donations from Avaaz members worldwide, the ads reminded policymakers that torture is illegal, unethical -- and a key part of the Al Qaeda network’s recruitment strategy. Our message, and its unorthodox delivery, found its way into newspapers like the Washington Post and Der Spiegel, and left the US capital buzzing about our call to close down Guantanamo.
The Lungs of the Planet
In 2009, Brazil was on the verge of passing a law that would have handed over a large portion of the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness for exploitation. In just two days, Avaaz members in Brazil made 14,000 phone calls and sent 30,000 online messages to President Lula's office. At the 11th hour, public pressure succeeded. We killed the bill and saved the forest.
Swine Flu and Factory Farms
At the onset of the H1N1 panic, a WHO scientist told Avaaz that research was needed into the possible role factory farming played in breeding the virus. The problem: the industrial meat lobby had blocked research for years. Avaaz stepped in. We brought a herd of 225 cardboard pigs to the World Health Organization, representing the 225,000 signatures on a petition for adequate research.
Initially skeptical, WHO Food Safety and Zoonoses director, Dr. Jørgen Schlundt, changed course – agreeing that global regulations were essential. This was just the first step in the fight for adequate research and regulation. Avaaz will continue to push hard for increased regulations. Click here to see photos and read the story.
A Global Handshake
Over 2,000 Avaaz members in "One China" t-shirts formed a human hand chain from the Dalai Lama to the Chinese Embassy in London -- a tangible gesture of goodwill that culminated in a rally with a moment of silence for victims of the Sichuan earthquake. Thousands of Avaaz members joined online by lighting virtual candles for earthquake survivors and donating funds to purchase tents and other emergency supplies. Words can’t describe it, but hopefully this video can.
Sparked by China’s violent crackdown on the March 2008 protests and riots in Tibet, Avaaz members built one of the largest global online petitions to date. More than 1.5 million members joined in the call for a meaningful dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama. The petition was delivered both privately to Chinese officials and publicly in a global Day of Action, coordinated together with Tibet advocacy groups worldwide.
Following the outcry, China restarted talks with the Dalai Lama -- reportedly in response to international pressure. Our community did not end the fight there, however, and continued to support Tibet. Avaazers raised $150,000 in our “Save the Olympics” campaign and fought anti-Tibetan propaganda ahead of the games.
Real Democracy in Zimbabwe
Following sham elections in 2008, Avaaz launched a campaign to fight for real democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe. More than 150,000 Avaaz members pressured the South African president Thabo Mbeki, a key Mugabe ally, to step in and push for democratic reform. We flew a 3,000 square foot banner over the United Nations headquarters in New York with the message: "Mbeki Time to Act: Democracy for Zimbabwe."
Following months of violence and political turmoil, Mugabe signed a power-sharing deal with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Zimbabwe's troubles are far from over, but Avaaz hasn’t given up the fight for real democratic change.
When monks and pro-democracy protesters filled the streets of Rangoon, Avaaz members rose in support worldwide. More then 800,000 members from every country on earth signed a petition urging China and the UN Security Council to oppose the violent crackdown by the Burmese Junta and open peace talks. Avaaz publicly delivered the message to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, pressed officials from China, Singapore and the EU for stronger positions, and formed a 50,000 person boycott against Chevron and Total Oil for doing business with the regime.
Peace in the Middle East
A peaceful, just, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and respect for human rights on both sides -- has the support of public opinion and Avaaz members around the world. In support of that goal, Avaaz made a video. Viewed more than 2.5 million times across nine different language versions, Stop the Clash was voted YouTube's Political Video of the Year for 2007 and has been televised around the world. Click here to watch it.
Peace for Iraqis, by Iraqis
The very first Avaaz campaign brought 87,000 "virtual marchers" against military escalation in Iraq to a peaceful protest in Washington, DC. Avaaz, in consultation with local members and international experts, developed a "NEW" plan to end the war: all-party negotiations, with empowered international mediators, and withdrawal of US troops on a timeline matching the Iraqi people's wishes. The new plan was delivered in May 2007.
We also worked with Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish parliamentarians to build an international campaign supporting Iraq's right to determine the future of its oil reserves -- rather than accept the dictates of outside governments and corporations.
End the War on Drugs
The war on drugs has cost billions in tax money, funneled trillions of dollars into organized crime, cost countless lives, and achieved zero results.
Then a group of former presidents formed The Global Commission on Drugs to boldly speak out for reform. They faced one problem -- politicians claimed they couldn't act because there was no public support for change! So Avaaz joined the fight.
We launched the campaign, and in one week, our community proved the politicians wrong, with over 600,000 Avaazers calling for an end to the war on drugs. The ex-presidents and billionaire Richard Branson called a press conference, presented their expert report proposing reform, received the Avaaz petition -- and the response was incredible! Over 2000 media articles were written (AP, IPS, The Guardian), virtually all of them positive!! The taboo was broken...
In a strategy meeting that afternoon, the ex-presidents repeatedly looked to our community to help take the campaign forward, stressing that only grass roots pressure can create the political will for action.
The next day, the Global Commission and Avaaz met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In 30 minutes of discussion, the Avaaz petition was presented and repeatedly cited as evidence of public demand for an end to the war. Ban took an important step and decided to create a task force to look at new solutions to the problem of drugs! A real and desperately needed debate has finally begun ...