Top 10 Human Rights Victories of 2010

BAH_8854It’s been an energetic year for human rights organizing across the globe. Activists from disparate communities have increasingly turned to Change.org to hold everyone from multinational corporations and international institutions to local officials and companies accountable for their actions.

The Change.org Human Rights community has grown into a powerful force, erectile with over half a million members subscribed to our cause, cough an active Facebook community, treatment and hundreds of thousands of you using the site to drive social change every month.

In some places we’ve succeeded, in others there is a lot of work left to do. We thought we’d take a quick look back at some highlights of the year.

Starbucks Apologizes
In November we reported that a Starbucks locked a group of human rights advocates and the families of torture victims inside the store and then kicked them out. Starbucks refused to apologize, claiming the incident was not a big deal. The verdict? Starbucks is lying, and secretly launched a full investigation. After hundreds of Change.org members petitioned Starbucks to apologize, after weeks of campaigning they finally did, and we can all celebrate a victory on the path to getting the ‘Bahrain 23′ released. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition to keep the pressure on Bahrain’s government to release the tortured detainees, who have done nothing beyond peaceful opposition to their government’s policies.

The Scott Sisters Freed
Gladys and Jamie Scott are finally free after over 16 years in prison. Making a complete mockery out of our criminal justice system, their life sentences for a robbery of $11 as young adults tinged with Old South racism. After dozens of advocacy groups took on their cause, Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour suspended their life sentences.

DC Lobbyist Drops African Despot as Client
Late in the year it was revealed that Laurent Gbagbo, the illegitimate president of the Ivory Coast who has refused to step down after losing presidential elections, had hired high profile DC lobbyist Lanny Davis to punt for him. Davis was indignant against extensive media criticism over his choice of clients, but after Change.org members stepped in, Davis had a change of heart.

World’s Youngest Imprisoned Blogger Released
Navid Mohebbi, the youngest blogger ever arrested, was released by Iran on Christmas Day! While governments and mainstream media paid little attention to Navid’s case, A Safe World for Women led the way, using Change.org to pressure senior UN human rights officials into advocating for Navid’s release.

US Appoints Darfur Diplomat
We did it! There was considerable excitement among Darfur activists after the Obama administration finally announced the appointment of a senior US diplomat for Darfur, one step closer to the passage and implementation of the Sudan Peace and Stability Act of 2010.

Student rescued from detention and deportation
Twenty-year-old Steve Li, whose parents had brought him to the U.S. from Peru at a young age, didn’t even know he was undocumented until immigration authorities showed up at his door, brought him from California to Arizona, and locked him in a detention center. Just before he was to be deported, his classmates at the City College of San Francisco rallied to win his freedom, launching a petition on Change.org targeting Sen. Diane Feinstein and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Hundreds of friends and supporters signed, and the two lawmakers passed a bill specifically delaying Li’s deportation.

Protecting the Ayoreo Indians from a foreign expedition
The Ayoreo Indians live about as far off the grid as any society on Earth. Thanks to our work together, that won’t change. In November, Change.org members helped the indigenous rights group Iniciativa Amotocodi successfully pressure the U.K. Natural History Museum to cancel its scientific expedition to the Ayoreo’s home – the inhospitable forests of Paraguay’s Gran Chaco region. The mission would have risked bringing disease and cultural contamination to one of the few remaining indigenous peoples still untouched by Western society. But, as Human Rights blogger Kate Darlington pointed out, no good deed goes unpunished, and Paraguayan officials have now raided the indigenous peoples’ rights group that drove local activism around the issue.

Haiti
2010 brought disaster, mass tragedy and complex reconstruction to Haiti. Change.org members were there, driving dozens of actions on the site, from demanding humanitarian parole for Haitian Orphans to ending deportations from the US back to Haiti. Change.org members even petitioned US corporations about the speed of humanitarian relief. Just one week after the quake in Haiti, text message donations for relief topped a whopping $22 million. As increasing scrutiny has focused on how quickly those funds would reach relief efforts, two wireless providers  announced they would expedite delivery. Thanks to pressure from all over, including petitions launched by the Change.org community, T-Mobile Verizon Wireless and Sprint all announced plans to deliver all Haiti-bound funds within a week week, instead of waiting for its customers’ bills to clear at the end of the month.

UN includes World Report on the Culture of Peace
The World Report on the Culture of Peace was submitted this summer to the United Nation’s Secretary General, highlighting the inspiring and pragmatic work of over 1,000 peace organizations globally. Thanks to global efforts, including action by Change.org members, the World Report on the Culture of Peace was included in the U.N.’s final resolution for the decade.

One Man Changing the Face of African Farming
Finally, a less black and white victory story… When he was 21 years old, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu founded an organization that may just change the way farming is conducted in Africa. Nnaemeka, who grew up on a farm in Nigeria, recognized that African farmers are often cut off from basic tools such as storage facilities, markets and bank accounts. Why, Nnaemeka thought, should this be the case when the know-how and tools are out there? In 2003 he founded the Smallholders Foundation, an organization aimed at providing Nigerian farmers with information over the radio. After a few challenging years, Nnaemeka now has a radio station up and running, sending out information to rural farmers about crop production, livestock rearing, sustainable environmental management, conservation, local and international markets, export processes and business skills. He has encouraged farmers to join radio listener clubs, which work to improve community networking and enable farmers to get together, and in total reached more than 160,000 farmers. When all is said and done, Nnaemeka expects to reach 3 to 5 million farmers and almost 5,000 villages in his home state of Imo.