Have you ever sat down at the family dinner table and tried to impress on your carnivorous relative the merits of removing meat from your diet? Have you tried to get your school to start composting? Have you tweeted a world leader with Global Citizen? Or even shared one of our publications in your Instagram stories?
All of these things have one thing in common: they are examples of speaking up for something you believe in. (i.e. your uncle who thinks veganism is for rabbits) to share your position or point of view.
“In a perfect world,” says Liz Agbor-Tabi, vice president of global policy at Global Citizen, “we would have equitable social and economic systems that bring justice to all. But because this is not the perfect world we live in, we need people who can use their voice to demand a different world, a better world. For me, advocacy is the work to make this world a reality. In many ways, this is the world imagined by the UN Global Goals.
Advocacy is at the heart of Global Citizen’s mission. We harness the voices of ordinary people, activists and artists to encourage governments, businesses and philanthropists to commit to supporting the Global Goals. We then follow up to make sure any promises they make are kept.
In 2022, we launched End Extreme Poverty NOW — Our Future Can’t Wait, a campaign that brings together millions of people around the world to demand immediate action from the world’s top political and business leaders in three critical areas on which the world can no longer afford to wait: empowering girls around the world; break down the systemic barriers that keep people trapped in poverty; and take climate action.
The thread that connects these issues is civic space and advocacy. The kind of massive social change we demand can only be brought about through open civic spaces – that is, when citizens and civil society organizations can organize, protest, oppose and raise their voices. their voice without fear of reprisal or intimidation.
This is why championing advocacy is the foundation for creating change. Without the space to demand change, there can be no change.
Around the world, people are advocating for a better world, whether it’s speaking out against gender inequality, standing up for climate justice or giving a megaphone to those whose voices are silenced.
But while it may be safe and legal to do so in some countries, authoritarianism, repressive laws and legal procedures (like SLAPPs) make it dangerous in others.
Every day people are harassed, imprisoned and even killed for speaking out against injustice. But for many of them, advocacy and activism is not a choice; its a question of life or death. Here’s everything you need to know about advocacy, why it should be advocated; and how you can join Global Citizen in taking action to stand up for global advocates.
Advocacy vs Activism: what’s the difference?
At first glance, they may look the same, but there are some subtle differences – and both are necessary.
Advocacy involves influencing decision-makers, demanding better policies and using your voice.
Activism is sometimes seen as a more “direct” action, such as organizing a protest, boycotting a company, investigating an issue and sharing the results, or even getting locked in an oil refinery pipeline.
Does advocacy work?
“Does that even make a difference?” It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves when signing a petition or tweeting to hold a world leader to account. The answer is yes, but usually not in the way and in the time frame that many people think.
From the American civil rights movements and Stonewall to the Arab Spring; from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo; from the right to vote to the right to work; from the end of apartheid to the Fridays for Future mobilizations; protests against Shell and corporate boycotts – throughout history, social change has been brought about by individuals speaking out and people coming together to assert their rights. It’s the power of advocacy and activism working together.
Ultimately, activism and advocacy is about changing people’s minds, a process that is sometimes slow but profoundly powerful and important – and which is at the heart of our mission to end extreme poverty in the world and to eliminate its underlying causes.
Why should advocacy be defended?
Defenders and the right to defend themselves are under attack, in both developed and developing countries.
Zhang Zhan, for example — a citizen journalist who risked everything to report on COVID-19 when she first appeared in Wuhan — is in jail in China for her work reporting on the outbreak. Honduran indigenous activist Berta Cáceres was murdered for her environmental activism. Imoleayo Michael faces jail for participating in the 2020 #EndSARs protests in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, many governments have cracked down on free speech (including Russia and China more recently) and used new technologies as an excuse to pass repressive laws that restrict people’s ability to plead.
3 things Global Citizen is doing to champion advocacy
1. Raise the voice of advocates at our events and festivals
We amplify the voices of defenders, especially from countries in the South and youth movements. Our annual awards ceremony, the Global Citizen Prize, spotlighted activists, including young activists, who work to end extreme poverty in their own communities and drive social change around the world. To learn more about the remarkable winners of the 2022 Global Citizen Award, click here.
Defending civic space will also be a key topic at the Global Citizen Festival in September 2022, where we will feature stories from civil society leaders around the world.
2. Advocacy for advocacy
Through Twitter spaces, our social media, and articles like the one you are reading now, we are working to raise awareness about civic spaces, what they are and why they are so important, and where they are at risk. To learn more about the campaign and how you can take action to support it, click here.
3. Get world leaders to commit to protecting civic spaces
We work to secure specific commitments from Heads of State and Government as well as businesses, to uphold or adhere to commitments to respect and promote civil liberties.
4 advocacy actions you can take now
Global citizens are action takers and impact makers. Our voices inspire action to defend the planet, end poverty and demand equity. We post, tweet, message, vote, sign and call to influence leaders and citizens to take action. Join us and take action today.
1. Download the Global Citizen app — Our app makes it easy to take action to demand equity, end poverty, defend the planet, and more. Download them here.
2. Take a quiz — Find out if civic space is open in your country by taking our quiz here.
3. Sign a petition — Sign this petition demanding that the Bahraini authorities release human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja here.
4. Email the government — Email German ministers and urge them to step up humanitarian aid and support NGOs working on the ground in Afghanistan here.
Head over to our Defend Activists NOW campaign page for more actions you can take to help defend and protect defenders, activists and civic spaces around the world – and check back regularly to see the latest actions you can do business with us.