UK director (interim), One Campaign
Saturday 25 March 2017 10.00 GMT
Protesting is back. People have woken up to the undeniable fact that power ultimately lies with them. We can’t change what’s already happened, but we can organise to ensure that the huge progress we have made tackling some of the world’s greatest problems is not lost.
We are returning to the traditional and most effective form of protest – marching, with placards, bull-horns and a collective, defiant voice.
The fragmenting of political systems across the globe has worrying implications for democracy. But it has also sparked greater determination. A visible, protesting public is one of the most effective ways to hold political leaders to account and push the agendas that matter.
In Romania, it’s estimated that 500,000 people recently took to the streets to protest about corruption. A friend, Bea, who took part in the protests, described them as driven by anger, but that people were left with a sense of community, hope and solidarity. Those protesting included families, professionals, creatives, journalists, students and more. They exchanged tea, snacks and water. Reminiscent of the days of Jubilee 2000, a human chain of 30,000 people was formed around parliament.
Activism must become as much a part of our civic duty as paying council tax or dividing rubbish for recycling
Bea believes the protests have produced a mindshift, people now understanding that we can only drive positive change together. That in itself is an incredible outcome.
Anyone who has been on a protest can attest to the exhilaration that people power provides. This renewed protest zeitgeist offers a golden opportunity to reawaken those causes. But how can this new found vigour have the most impact?
It would intensify impact if we link protests to the UN’s sustainable development goals, aiming to make the world a safer, fairer, cleaner and more peaceful place by 2030. In 2015, 193 countries signed up to the SDGs and it’s up to the people to hold their governments to account to achieve them.
Reminding our leaders of their duties requires everyone who cares to take action. With renewed purpose, activism must become as much a part of our civic duty as paying council tax or dividing rubbish up for recycling.
We at One campaign are marching all the way to 2030, armed with pens and placards, bull horns, biros and banners. We urge you join us to capitalise on the re-energised protest movement and join fellow global citizens to push for the SDGs to do as they are intended – make us all safer and the world a fairer place.
Five tips for making the most impact
- Clarity of message and a clear end goal are crucial. Think of Make Poverty History – a simple, clear ask.
- Balance political and news agenda opportunity with public zeitgeist – for example, the UK’s anti-corruption summit and perfect timing of the Panama Papers.
- Make it as easy as possible for people to get involved; they’re busy, they have other things going on, but with the right information and support they will join in.
- Make sure your protest targets know what’s happening and why. There’s no point in thousands of people taking to the streets if the targets don’t hear about it. That just making noise, not making change.
- Know that change is possible. We were was part of the campaign that secured legislation to enshrine in law that 0.7% of UK gross national income
goes to overseas aid – the UN’s aid spending target.
There’s a saying: if you want to build a ship, don’t ask people to collect wood and assign them tasks, but teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
It’s the same same principle for campaigning – if people care about an issue, they will take action.