Proof of the web’s capacity to bring people together in powerful forms of political action.
Bees pollinate two-thirds of our food. Their tireless work is vital to all eco-systems. Scientists fear they are dying at an alarming rate. Yet until very recently European states still allowed the production and use of bee-killing pesticides in farming. In April 2013, the European Commission, in the teeth of opposition from some of Europe’s largest chemicals companies, decided to ban these pesticides. The politicians would never have taken that step without a two-year campaign, involving scientists, beekeepers and concerned citizens, who gathered a petition with 2.6 million signatures. That movement was organised by what has become the world’s most potent online global campaigning organisation: Avaaz.
Avaaz, a word which in several languages means ‘voice’, was only launched in 2007, but in little over five years it has grown to have more than 25 million members, in 181 countries, who have taken part in more than 143,000 actions to bring about change – from lobbying the International Whaling Commission at its annual meeting in Morocco, to protecting the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and pressing the Maldives to stop its violent punishment of women who suffer rape.
Avaaz’s power to engage partly stems from its own highly collaborative form of organisation: a small core team works with thousands of active volunteers who suggest and lead campaigns. The organisation’s overall priorities are set by an annual poll of members: in 2013 their overriding priorities were human rights and exposing political corruption. The entire organisation is funded by its members. At a time when online campaigning is often dismissed as no more than “slacktivism”, Avaaz is proof of the web’s capacity to bring people together in new, more imaginative and powerful forms of political action.
As the first global initiative of its kind to reach significant scale, Avaaz has inspired many others: 38 Degrees, the now well-established UK online activism organisation, cited Avaaz as a direct influence on their formation. Less directly, its establishment in the public mind that digital activism can have a great impact, supports the efforts of innumerable individuals and groups campaigning online, such as those celebrated at “The Bobs".
Image @ http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014