On 29 November the UN voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as the world's 194th state. It was a huge victory for the Palestinian people and for peace -- and our community played a crucial role in making it happen. Nearly 1.8 million of us signed the petition calling for statehood, many then donated to fund polls showing that 79% of people backed statehood in key European states. On the streets, a massive 4-storey flag was raised outside the EU Commission in Brussels. In the corridors of power, Avaaz staff and members made the case to government ministers and MPs and thousands sent messages via email, Facebook and Twitter.
In the final hours before the vote, the switchboards of foreign ministries and heads of state were deluged with calls from Avaaz members. The final UN count: 138 Yes, 41 Abstentions and just 9 Nos. Our voices were heard and history was made.
"Avaaz and its members across the world have played a crucial role in persuading governments to support the Palestinian people's bid for a state and for freedom and peace... their solidarity and support will be remembered and cherished across Palestine."
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.”
Migrant Workers’ Rights in Bahrain
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."
Beating the Murdoch Mafia
For too long, Rupert Murdoch and his rogue media empire have enjoyed undue influence over our politicians. In 2011 the Murdoch mafia tried to tighten his stranglehold on the UK press by taking over BSkyB. Most said it was a done deal which could not be stopped. We disagreed, launching a tireless campaign involving 1 million online actions, 30,000 phone calls to MPs and a critical 40,000 submissions into the Government consultation on the BSkyB deal. Our actions helped slow down Government approval of the sale until the hacking scandal emerged, which killed it. Internal Government emails later revealed that regulators and Murdoch lobbyists had been scrambling to beat back our campaign but to no avail. Having helped stop the sale, we campaigned to ensure that no media baron is ever again allowed to own too much of the press, a call that has now been echoed in the Leveson Report on UK media reforms.
"Avaaz members in the UK and throughout the world lead the campaign to make politicians listen to the victims of phone hacking. Now everyone knows that Rupert Murdoch just got too powerful ... You spoke out. You made a difference. Thank you."
Amazon Chainsaw Massacre
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.
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.
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.”
Saving the Internet
In just 3 weeks, over 3 million of us worldwide signed a petition opposing a scandalous bill that would have given the US government the right to shut down any website -- targeting sites like YouTube, WikiLeaks and even Avaaz! We worked with other organisations such as DemandProgress, and President Obama’s team responded. Avaaz organised a 1 hour meeting with top White House officials to deliver the petition. The White House subsequently condemned the bill and key backers withdrew their support. As of right now, the Internet censorship bill is dead in the water. When we started, everyone told us the bill could not be stopped, now it’s been ditched by both parties -- a huge win for internet freedom and for people power!
"We appreciated meeting with Avaaz at the White House to hear the concerns of the more than 1 million who signed an Avaaz petition about online piracy and an open internet. Thank you for your ... commitment to bring more voices to the democratic process."
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.”
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.
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.
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. But finally, after years of abhorrent waste, a group of former presidents formed The Global Commission on Drugs, speaking out for reform. When the politicians claimed they couldn’t find public support for such change Avaaz took action, with over 600,000 members calling for an end to the war on drugs in just one week!
Avaazers helped break the taboo -- resulting in over 2,000 media articles written, and a campaign in which the ex-presidents repeatedly turned to our community for help, using the signatures of Avaaz members as proof of the public demand for an end to the war. Thanks to our community a real and desperately needed debate has finally begun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just four days later, Hilton agreed to train all of its 180,000 international employees how to spot and prevent sex slavery. Hilton listened and acted -- now they’re leading the hotel industry in this field.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Blockade Running in Burma
Cyclone Nargis killed close to 200,000 Burmese. The ruling generals made matters worse: blocking all international aid workers from getting medicine, food, and other emergency supplies into the country. The blockade was killing people so we contacted friends in Burmese monk networks to see how our community could help.
In just ten days, over 25,000 people from 125 countries donated $2 million to support the monks' relief efforts -- effectively distributing aid to those who needed it the most. We sent more money than most individual governments and we did so through fast-acting local networks.
"While the world was focused on the military junta's reluctance to allow foreign aid, Burmese citizens and monks were busy carrying out relief efforts that many now credit with preventing mass starvation."
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.