Avaaz.org (Avaaz) is an international civic organization established in January 2007 that promotes activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, and religious conflicts. Its stated mission is to "ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making." The organization operates in thirteen languages, and states that it has over nine million members in 193 countries.
Etymology and Origin
The name Avaaz (Persian: آواز, Devanagari:आवाज) was derived from the Persian/Hindi/Urdu/Punjabi/Marathi word for 'voice'. In Turkish 'avaz' means 'sound'.
Avaaz.org was co-founded by Res Publica, an American "community of public sector professionals dedicated to promoting good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy", and MoveOn.org, an American non-profit progressive public policy advocacy group and political action committee. Avaaz's first director was the Canadian-British Ricken Patel. Purpose, a not-for-profit company, states on its web site that "Purpose creates 21st century movements. We look for ways that movements can help solve major global problems. To do this, we work with some of the most exciting players in the new green and social economy to help them get to scale faster and some of the world's biggest brands to mobilize their consumers for significant social impact," and goes on to say that its principals co-founded Avaaz.
The organization was also supported by Service Employees International Union, a founding partner, and GetUp!, an Australian non-profit campaigning organization. Avaaz's individual co-founders include Virginia congressman Tom Perriello, Australian progressive entrepreneur David Madden, Jeremy Heimans (co-founders of Purpose.com), Andrea Woodhouse, Tom Pravda, and MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser.
Funding and Organization
"Since 2009, Avaaz has not taken donations from foundations or corporations, nor has it accepted payments of more than $5,000 (£3,100). Instead, it relies simply on the generosity of individual members, who have now raised over $20m (£12.4m)." In 2011 it had around 50 staff.
Avaaz is managed by a team of campaigners working from Switzerland, Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and the United Kingdom. They communicate with members via email, and employ campaigning tactics including online public petitions, videos, and email-your-leader tools. In some cases Avaaz also uses advertisements and commissions legal advice to clarify how best to take forward a campaign, and stages "sit-ins, rallies, phone-ins and media friendly stunts". Examples of stunts include "taking a herd of cardboard pigs to the doors of the World Health Organisation to demand an investigation into the link between swine flu and giant pig farms, creating a three-mile human chain handshake from the Dalai Lama to the doors of the Chinese Embassy in London to request dialogue between the parties."
Suggestions for campaigns come from members, supplemented by guidance from teams of specialists. Once a suggestion has been taken up as having potential, tester emails are sent to 10,000 Avaaz members; if the emails receive a sufficient response, the campaign is opened up to all Avaaz members. Director Ricken Patel said in 2011 "We have no ideology per se. Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!" In 2010 The Economist suggested that "the way Avaaz bunches unlikely causes together may be an asset in a world where campaigns, like race and class, can still segregate people, not reconcile them."
At the 2007 G8 conference, Avaaz.org protested against the "U.S. administration [for its] 'wrecking tactics' and failure to agree to specific, binding global goals" when it came to the mitigation of global warming. At the event, Avaaz.org presented a petition signed by 355,000 people from 193 countries that supported its position. Avaaz is also a co-organizer of the Global Day of Action for Burma along with Burma Campaign UK and Amnesty International. It has registered more than 750,000 signatures to a petition to the Chinese President Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council, urging them to "oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators" and "support genuine reconciliation and democracy". Avaaz delivered this petition to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown on October 15, 2007.
In March 2008, Avaaz launched a global petition to Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tibet, calling for "restraint and respect for human rights" and the opening of "meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama." This petition passed 1 million signatures in seven days, and has now reached more than 1.4 million signatures, making it among the largest and fastest-growing online petitions in history. The petition was delivered in protests and events at Chinese consulates and embassies around the world on March 31, 2008.
The Avaaz video Stop the Clash of Civilizations, created with Agit-Pop Communications, won the YouTube 2007 Award in the "Political" category. It was, at one time, the all-time second most discussed video in the YouTube "News and Politics" section. The video was also the winner of the 1st Annual DoGooderTV Non-Profit Video Awards and the Popular Winner for Best Awareness-Raising Video in the 2007 Progressive Source Awards.
Past and Current Campaigns
On 21 September 2009, Avaaz.org staged a 'global wake-up call' to press world leaders to take action on climate.
On 12 December 2009, Avaaz.org organized 3241 candle-lit vigils in 139 countries, again to press those attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 to reach a "Real Deal".
In January 2009, Avaaz.org was also running the following campaigns:
* online petition against the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict * online petition against violence, disease and hunger in Zimbabwe * ad campaign calling for a European peacekeeping force in war-torn Congo * online petition against the 2008 Mumbai attacks * online petition against the Anti-Homosexual Bill in Uganda
In March 2010, Avaaz.org launched the petition Stand Up for Democracy! - stand with Baltasar Garzon (Baltasar Garzon is a Spanish judge).
In May 2010 Avaaz.org joined with 38 Degrees and Take Back Parliament to launch a campaign to reform the first-past-the-post electoral system.
In June 2010, Avaaz.org launched a petition calling for an investigation into the Israeli interception of a Gaza aid flotilla and the end of the Gaza blockade. It initially aimed to receive 200,000 signatories but this was met within 24 hours; a new target of 300,000 was again met within 24 hours, and a third was set at 500,000 signatories.
Avaaz.org is active in campaigning to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from imminent execution in Iran.
Avaaz has also created an online petition to block the creation of Sun TV News Channel in Canada, which it fears will be like its equivalent south of the border, Fox News. The petition has tens of thousands of signatures, including prominent Canadian activists such as Margaret Atwood.
In September 2010 Avaaz launched an online petition against "a draconian and unconstitutional new secrecy Bill" and a Media Tribunal proposed by the African National Congress in South Africa that would muzzle the media and let security agencies operate without accountability. It added that the secrecy measures in the "Protection of Information" Bill and the "Media Appeals Tribunal" proposal threaten press freedom enshrined in the South African Constitution and will block the media from acting in the public interest to expose corruption and abuse of power.
On December 8, 2010, Avaaz launched a gigantic petition supporting WikiLeaks. The primary aim was to stop the crackdown.
Save the bees: an online petition launched in January 2011 to push the US and EU to join the ban of the neonicotinoid pesticides manufactured by Bayer which are highly toxic to honey bees.
Stop conflict chocolate: a campaign to prevent civil war in the Ivory Coast by sending emails to 'leading companies' of the cocoa industry, asking them to stop dealing with Laurent Gbagbo.
Solidarity with the people of Egypt: an online petition launched in January 2011 to express solidarity with the people of Egypt during the 2011 Egyptian protests, in which the Egyptian people sought to peacefully remove the dictatorial regime of President Hosni Mubarak, in order to establish democracy.
Appeal to United Nations Security Council delegates, European Foreign Ministers, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to impose specific actions to stop and prosecute the violence against civilians in the 2011 Libyan uprising and appeal to United Nations Security Council to create a no-fly zone over Libya.
Avaaz activists demonstrating against Murdoch's media imperium
Petition to stop Rupert Murdoch gaining control over BSkyB or any more of the United Kingdom mass media.
Appeal to Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish government to help release Iman al-Obeidi and investigate her case.
Campaign on behalf of the US army private, Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking confidential material to Wikileaks. Avaaz describes Manning as subject to "brutal torture" in a US military prison.
Petition to Prime Minister of India, in support of Anna Hazare, who started fasting to urge the government for strict law against corruption.
"End the War on Drugs!" Petition to end the War on Drugs, May 26, 2011.
Campaign to end discrimination in Bahrain: successful campaign to cancel the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Appeal to the leaders of France, Spain, Germany, the UK and the High Representative of the EU and all UN member states, to endorse the bid for recognition of the State of Palestine and the reaffirmation of the rights of the Palestinian people, July 22, 2011.
In 2008, Canadian minister John Baird labeled Avaaz a "shadowy foreign organization" tied to billionaire activist George Soros. Other conservative Canadians, such as Ezra Levant, have identified Soros as an indirect supporter through MoveOn. Avaaz states the campaign in question was "exclusively run and funded by Canadians, and has been fully reviewed and registered as a legitimate third party by Elections Canada."