New Heights for Online Campaigning

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Issue 262
September/October 2010
Embodied Wisdom

Web Exclusives

New Heights for Online Campaigning

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Cover: Small Yellow Bird by Craigie Aitchinson. Courtesy: Bridgeman Art Library

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You could be one click away from changing the world.

Whales saved, thanks to campaigning. Photograph:

Whales saved, thanks to campaigning. Photograph:

If you ever feel disenfranchised by the UK’s voting system or that your voice never counts in important issues – then think again. The online campaigning group AVAAZ which has taken on corporate giants and governments alike – and won – has announced another successful online campaign that was totally dependent on the public’s support in order to be successful: the biggest petition in history to uphold the 24-year old whaling ban (which several countries were trying to overturn).

The petition was signed by an extraordinary 1.2 million people worldwide and was delivered directly to key delegates at the International Whaling Commission meeting held earlier this year.

The massive petition became a top story on the BBC’s World News service, and Avaaz worked with negotiators and other allies towards its goals of upholding the ban. The Australian environment minister Peter Garrett received the petition on behalf of “like-minded’ governments around the world,” in front of the world's media and said “Thank you very much Avaaz. It is a great pleasure to be here and accept this petition ... I believe the people of the world’s voices need to be heard. I certainly hear them today."

After the meeting which upheld the ban, one European negotiator told Avaaz how important the number of signatories to the petition was in the victory. This is an important victory for whales (although Japan still uses a loophole to send out its whaling fleet to kill a quota of whales for ‘scientific’ purposes), but also for global ‘people-power’ because it demonstrates that international decisions can be shifted by a little bit of well-placed effort from a lot of people everywhere.

Lorna Howarth is Development Director at Artists Project Earth.

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