Founded 2007
Focus Progressive NGO
Origins New York
Area served
Method Petition, demonstrations, supporting independent press in conflict areas
Key people
Ricken Patel (ED), 100+ employees and several freelancers
Website www.avaaz.org

Avaaz is a U.S. based civic organization launched in January 2007 that promotes global activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, animal rights, corruption, poverty, and conflict. The Guardian considers it "the globe's largest and most powerful online activist network".[1] The name chosen for the community is a loanword from Persian meaning "Voice" or "Song". The word with similar meaning also appears in other languages which have had long historical contact with Persian, particularly in Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Turkish, Dari, some dialects of Arabic and Pashto.



Avaaz.org was co-founded by Res Publica, a "community of public sector professionals dedicated to promoting good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy",[2] and MoveOn.org, an American non-profit progressive public policy advocacy group.[3][4] It was also supported by Service Employees International Union, a founding partner.


Avaaz's individual co-founders include Ricken Patel, Tom Pravda, former Virginia congressman Tom Perriello, MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser, Australian progressive entrepreneur David Madden, Jeremy Heimans (co-founders of Purpose.com), and Andrea Woodhouse.[3] The board consists of Ricken Patel (president), Tom Pravda (secretary), Eli Pariser (board chairman), and Ben Brandzel (treasurer).[5]


Avaaz's founding president and executive director is the Canadian-British Ricken Patel.[4] He studied PPE (politics, philosophy, economics) at Balliol College, Oxford University. He received a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. He worked for the International Crisis Group around the world, including in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan and Afghanistan, where he says "he learnt how to bring rebel forces to the negotiation table, to monitor elections (covertly), to restore public faith in once corrupt political systems and to spot when foreign forces were being manipulated." He returned to the US and volunteered for MoveOn.org, where he learned how to use online tools for activism.[6]

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)."[7] Prior to 2009 various foundations had funded Avaaz's staff and start-up costs.[8]

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,[7] and stages "sit-ins, rallies, phone-ins and media friendly stunts".[6] 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 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".[6]

Suggestions for campaigns come from members, supplemented by guidance from teams of specialists. Once a suggestion has been taken up as having potential, tester email are polled to 10,000 Avaaz members; if the emails receive a sufficient response, the campaign is opened up to all Avaaz members.[7] 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."[9]


Avaaz claims to unite practical idealists from around the world.[6] 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!"[10]

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.[11][12][13]

During the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests Avaaz setup internet proxy servers to allow protesters to upload videos onto public websites.[14]

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.[15]

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.[8][16] Avaaz coordinated the evacuation of wounded British photographer Paul Conroy from Homs. Thirteen Syrian activists died during the evacuation operation.[8][17] Some senior members of other non-governmental organizations working in the middle east have criticized Avaaz for taking sides in a civil war.[14] As of November 2016, Avaaz continues campaigning for no-fly zones over Syria in general and specifically Aleppo. 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.[18]


Some question whether Avaaz's focus on online petitions and email campaigns may encourage laziness, transforming potential activism into clicktivism.[7][19] Malcolm Gladwell says that petition tools do not create "close-knit, disciplined and tenacious" networks of activists.[20][21] 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.[20][22] A New Republic article accused Avaaz of making false claims about their own role in the evacuation.[20][23] Jillian York has accused Avaaz of lack of transparency and arrogance.[24] 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.[25][26] The Art of Annihilation blog has also published an investigative report.[27]

In 2008, Canadian conservative minister John Baird labeled Avaaz a "shadowy foreign organization" tied to billionaire George Soros.[28]

Another conservative Canadian, Ezra Levant,[29] 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.[30][31][32]

See also


  1. Pilkington, Ed (March 2, 2012). "Avaaz faces questions over role at centre of Syrian protest movement". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  2. "Res Publica: Bürger machen Politik". Archived from the original on 2011-07-28.
  3. 1 2 "About Us". Archived from the original on 2008-01-10. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  4. 1 2 "Wakey-wakey". The Economist. 2007-02-15.
  5. "Presenting the "progressive" (Guardian approved) group, Avaaz astroturfing for Hamas". UK Media Watch. 2011-10-19. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Sarah Bentley (2011-02-09). "The Times profile of Avaaz and Ricken Patel". The Times.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Patrick Kingsley (2011-07-20). "Avaaz: activism or 'slacktivism'?". The Guardian.
  8. 1 2 3 "Profile: Global campaign group Avaaz". BBC News. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  9. "A town crier in the global village". The Economist. 2010-09-02.
  10. Ed Pilkington (2011-04-25). "Avaaz – the online activist network that is targeting Rupert Murdoch's bid". The Guardian.
  11. Lisa Foderaro (21 September 2014). "Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets". New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  12. Jenny Hopkinson and Giulia Paravicini (6 August 2016). "How grassroots lobbying push blindsided Monsanto". Politico. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  13. Karin de Grujil (30 March 2016). "UN Secretary General says more help needed for Syrian refugees". UNHCR. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  14. 1 2 Vivienne Walt (15 March 2012). "How a New York City-Based Activist Group Became a Player in Syria". Time. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  15. Hilary, John (10 March 2011). "Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  16. Ed Pilkington (2 March 2012). "Avaaz faces questions over role at centre of Syrian protest movement". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  17. Deborah Amos (14 March 2012). "Aid Group's Role In Syria Pushes Limits". National Public Radio. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  18. Steven Overly (16 September 2016). "Online activists say this group could swing the presidential election". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  19. Evgeny Morozov (2009-05-19). "Foreign Policy: Brave New World Of Slacktivism". NPR.
  20. 1 2 3 "THE MAN BEHIND AVAAZ". More Intelligent Life/The Economist.
  21. Malcolm Gladwell (4 October 2010). "Small Change". The New Yorker.
  22. Peter Beaumont. "Syrian activists killed in Paul Conroy rescue mission". the Guardian.
  23. van Zuylen-Wood, Simon. "The Great Escape: Has One NGO Been Lying About Its Role in Syria?". Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  24. York, Jillian. "On Avaaz". Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  25. "Petições da Avaaz rendem milhões de dólares. As campanhas são sérias ou é golpe na internet?". Defensor da Natureza. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  26. Nassif, Luis. "Avaaz, golpe ou verdade?". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  27. "investigative-report-on-avaaz". Cory Morningstar.
  28. Kevin Libin (2010-09-20). "Kevin Libin: The third party no one talks about". National Post. Archived from the original on 2011-09-08.
  29. Steven Chase (2010-09-17). "Billionaire Soros threatening to sue Sun Media". The Globe and Mail.
  30. Brian Lilley, QMI Agency Parliamentary Bureau (2010-09-01). "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.
  31. kadyomalley (2008-10-06). "Avaaz.ca vs. Baird: The Shadowy Foreign Organization strikes back!".
  32. "Retraction and apology to George Soros". Toronto Sun. 2010-09-18.

External links

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