Some ideas are just so good that once you hear them explained, you wonder, Why hasn’t anyone done this already? Avaaz is just such an idea, a new MoveOn-style group that will mobilize members all over the world to take action on global issues. Avaaz — the word means “voice” in Urdu, Hindi, Farsi and several other languages — launches its first campaign today, with a petition and TV adon climate change. The TV spot — the first genuinely global political TV ad — shows world leaders snoozing in their bedrooms, while climate disaster rages outside; it begins airing in Washington, D.C. today, and over the next few weeks will show in Paris, Berlin and Delhi. Avaaz begins with 900,000 members (combining the international lists of its two founding organizations, MoveOn and Res Publica, another global citizens’ group), and will operate on four continents. The petition urges the global leaders to “set binding global targets” for carbon emissions.
Today I met two of the creative minds behind this project, executive director Ricken Patel and campaign director Tom Perriello (the only American on the team). Patel explains that Avaaz emerged out of “a sense that a real global consciousness is emerging.” Founders are also excited by the idea of using technology to mobilize a global citizenry, with not only the Internet, but text-messaging proving to be a startlingly effective means of political communication, especially in the Third World. Of the team behind Avaaz, Perriello observes, “Most of us have policy or diplomacy backgrounds, as well as activist, so the hope is that we will be doing these things at key diplomatic moments.” For instance, the climate change campaign is launching just in time for the G8 meeting.
Avaaz also expects to take up Middle East politics (war in Iraq, the need for an Israel-Palestine peace process, potential war with Iran, and Guantanamo), and global poverty. Like climate change, these are issues on which world leaders seem way out of step with most citizens, who are craving sensible solutions. “There is such a huge gap,” says Patel, “between the world most people want, and the world we’ve got.” Avaaz ambitiously aspires to narrow that gap.