Avaaz is an American-based nonprofit organization launched in January 2007 that promotes global activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, animal rights, corruption, poverty, and conflict. In 2012, The Guardian referred to Avaaz as "the globe's largest and most powerful online activist network".[1]

FoundedJanuary 2007; 17 years ago (2007-01)
FocusGlobal community and political activism
Area served

Funding, campaigns selection process and management


"Since 2009, Avaaz has not taken donations from foundations or corporations, nor has it accepted payments of more than $5,000 (£3,100)", The Guardian reported. "Instead, it relies simply on the generosity of individual members, who have now raised over $20m (£12.4m)."[2] Prior to 2009, various foundations had funded Avaaz's staff and start-up costs.[3]

Global campaigns selection process


Avaaz global campaigns are managed by a team of campaigners working from over 30 countries, including the UK, India, Lebanon and Brazil. 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 a campaign forward,[2] and stages "sit-ins, rallies, phone-ins and media friendly stunts".[4] Examples of stunts include "taking a herd of cardboard pigs to the doors of the World Health Organization to demand an investigation into the link between swine flu and giant pig farms and 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".[4]

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 polled to 10,000 Avaaz members; if the emails receive a sufficient response, the campaign is opened up to all Avaaz members.[2] 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".[5]



Avaaz claims to unite practical idealists from around the world.[4] Former 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!"[6] In practice, Avaaz often supports causes considered progressive, such as calling for global action on climate change, challenging Monsanto, and building greater global support for refugees.[7][8][9]

During the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, Avaaz set up Internet proxy servers to allow protesters to upload videos onto public websites.[10]

Avaaz supported the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, which led to the military intervention in the country in 2011. It was criticized for its pro-intervention stance in the media and blogs.[11]

Avaaz supported the civil uprising preceding the Syrian Civil War. This included sending $1.5 million of Internet communications equipment to protesters, and training activists. Later it used smuggling routes to send over $2 million of medical equipment into rebel-held areas of Syria. It also smuggled 34 international journalists into Syria.[3][12] Avaaz coordinated the evacuation of wounded British photographer Paul Conroy from Homs. Thirteen Syrian activists died during the evacuation operation.[3][13] Some senior members of other non-governmental organizations working in the Middle East have criticized Avaaz for taking sides in a civil war.[10] As of November 2016, Avaaz continues campaigning for no-fly zones over Syria in general and specifically Aleppo. (Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, has said that establishing a no-fly zone means going to war against Syria and Russia.[14]) It has received criticism from parts of the political blogosphere and has a single digit percentage of its users opposing the petitions, with a number of users ultimately leaving the network. The Avaaz team responded to this criticism by issuing two statements defending their decision to campaign.

In the 2016 United States presidential election, Avaaz campaigned against Donald Trump with the slogan "Defeat Donald Trump", and produced a software tool to simplify overseas voter registration.[15]

Avaaz opposed 21st Century Fox's bid to take over the pan-European broadcasting company Sky plc. As part of this campaign, Avaaz brought Wendy Walsh, a woman who alleges she was sexually harassed at Fox News, to London in May 2017 to testify to British media regulator Ofcom.[16] In September 2017, Avaaz took legal action in the British High Court of Justice, by seeking a judicial review of the regulator Ofcom's decision not to recommend rejection of the takeover.[17] Bloomberg described Avaaz as "the fly in the ointment of Murdoch's Sky bid".[18] When Mr Murdoch withdrew his Sky bid, Ian Burrell commented that it "represents a victory for the civic activist group Avaaz, which has relentlessly campaigned against a takeover which seemed inevitable".[19]

Monsanto subpoena


In January 2018, Monsanto requested Avaaz hand over all documents the organization held in relation to glyphosate.[20] Lawyers for the company said they planned to use the documentation in their defense during an upcoming court case involving two plaintiffs in Missouri who say their cancer was caused by exposure to Monsanto's "Roundup" herbicide.[21][20][22] Avaaz argued that a successful subpoena would result in a "chilling effect" on the group's work.[20]

On September 5, 2018, a New York judge sided with Avaaz. The judge stated that the subpoena "risked 'chilling' free speech and political activity",[23] and argued that Monsanto's request was "anti-democratic".[22]



Some question whether Avaaz's focus on online petitions and email campaigns may encourage laziness, transforming potential activism into clicktivism.[2][24] Malcolm Gladwell says that petition tools do not create "close-knit, disciplined and tenacious" networks of activists.[25][26] In February 2012, Avaaz raised money for the evacuation of Paul Conroy from Syria, a mission that led to the deaths of 13 activists in Syria.[25][27] A New Republic article accused Avaaz of making false claims about their own role in the evacuation.[25][28] Jillian York has accused Avaaz of arrogance and lack of transparency.[29] The Defensor Da Natureza's blog has accused Avaaz of taking credit for the success of the Ficha Limpa anti-corruption bill in Brazil, which Luis Nassif reposted.[30][31]

In 2008, Canadian conservative minister John Baird labeled Avaaz a "shadowy foreign organization" tied to billionaire George Soros.[32]

Another Canadian, conservative media personality Ezra Levant,[33] tried to make a link between Soros and Avaaz.org as an indirect supporter through MoveOn, but the article was later retracted as baseless and an apology was offered to Soros.[34][35][36]



See also



  1. ^ Pilkington, Ed (2 March 2012). "Avaaz faces questions over role at centre of Syrian protest movement". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2012..
  2. ^ a b c d Kingsley, Patrick (20 July 2011). "Avaaz: activism or 'slacktivism'?". The Guardian.
  3. ^ a b c "Profile: Global campaign group Avaaz". BBC News. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Bentley, Sarah (9 February 2011). "The Times profile of Avaaz and Ricken Patel". The Times.
  5. ^ "A town crier in the global village". The Economist. 2 September 2010.
  6. ^ Pilkington, Ed (25 April 2011). "Avaaz – the online activist network that is targeting Rupert Murdoch's bid". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Foderaro, Lisa (21 September 2014). "Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  8. ^ Hopkinson, Jenny; Paravicini, Giulia (6 August 2016). "How grassroots lobbying push blindsided Monsanto". Politico. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  9. ^ de Grujil, Karin (30 March 2016). "UN Secretary General says more help needed for Syrian refugees". UNHCR. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  10. ^ a b Walt, Vivienne (15 March 2012). "How a New York City-Based Activist Group Became a Player in Syria". Time. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  11. ^ Hilary, John (10 March 2011). "Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  12. ^ Pilkington, Ed (2 March 2012). "Avaaz faces questions over role at centre of Syrian protest movement". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  13. ^ Amos, Deborah (14 March 2012). "Aid Group's Role In Syria Pushes Limits". National Public Radio. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  14. ^ "No-fly zone would 'require war with Syria and Russia' – top US general".[dead YouTube link]
  15. ^ Overly, Steven (16 September 2016). "Online activists say this group could swing the presidential election". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  16. ^ "'Block Fox bid for Sky', says ex-guest claiming harassment". BBC. 8 May 2017.
  17. ^ Mitchell, Robert (29 September 2017). "Group Opposed to Fox-Sky Takeover Files Legal Challenge Against British Regulator". Variety. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  18. ^ Hellier, David (14 September 2017). "The Fly in the Ointment of Murdoch's Sky Bid". Bloomberg. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  19. ^ Ian, Burrell (17 December 2017). "Fox Disney deal positions House of Mouse as major UK news player". iNews. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  20. ^ a b c Neslen, Arthur (23 February 2018). "Monsanto demands Avaaz hands over all of its campaign data". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  21. ^ Varshney, Vibha. "US court quashes Monsanto's 'undemocratic' plea to Avaaz to hand over internal documents". DownToEarth.org. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  22. ^ a b Maurin, Jost (7 September 2018). "Sieg gegen Monsanto". Die Tageszeitung: Taz. taz.de. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  23. ^ Newsham, Jack. "Monsanto Can't Round Up Chemical Docs From Advocacy Org". Law360. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  24. ^ Evgeny Morozov (19 May 2009). "Foreign Policy: Brave New World Of Slacktivism". NPR.
  25. ^ a b c Butler, Robert (25 December 2013). "The man behind Avaaz". 1843 (May/June 2013). Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  26. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (4 October 2010). "Small Change". The New Yorker.
  27. ^ Beaumont, Peter (28 February 2012). "Syrian activists killed in Paul Conroy rescue mission". The Guardian.
  28. ^ van Zuylen-Wood, Simon (27 May 2012). "The Great Escape: Has One NGO Been Lying About Its Role in Syria?". The New Republic. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  29. ^ York, Jillian (29 May 2012). "On Avaaz". Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  30. ^ "Petições da Avaaz rendem milhões de dólares. As campanhas são sérias ou é golpe na internet?". Defensor da Natureza. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  31. ^ Nassif, Luis (20 November 2011). "Avaaz, golpe ou verdade?". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  32. ^ Libin, Kevin (20 September 2010). "Kevin Libin: The third party no one talks about". National Post. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012.
  33. ^ Chase, Steven (17 September 2010). "Billionaire Soros threatening to sue Sun Media". The Globe and Mail.
  34. ^ Lilley, Brian (1 September 2010). "Anti-Sun TV News campaign in U.S." Toronto Sun. Avaaz is backed by MoveOn.org a lobby group that has taken millions of dollars from currency speculator George Soros.
  35. ^ kadyomalley (6 October 2008). "Avaaz.ca vs. Baird: The Shadowy Foreign Organization strikes back!".
  36. ^ "Retraction and apology to George Soros". Toronto Sun. 18 September 2010.