2015: It's time activists unite to hold leaders accountable

A man holds a megaphone. On Jan. 15, “action/2015” will officially launch. The movement is made up of thousands of organizations from around the world that calls for concrete action to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change. Photo by: looking4poetry / CC BY-NC-ND

This week a new movement is mustering and it needs you to join with it — unless you think the state of the world right now is fine as it is?

Called action/2015, it’s a global groundswell of active, informed citizens coming together to demand world leaders do their jobs better — plain and simple.

People inside the development “bubble” already know the year 2015 is historic — because of the unprecedented number of summits that flows from the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s pledging conference for lifesaving vaccines in January, to the G-7 Summit and 24th African Union Summit in June, to the Addis meeting in July on financing development. This is quickly followed by the September summit on the new global goals for the next 15 years, to the crucial climate conference in December in Paris. Phew!

Then there are also pivotal elections in many countries, from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, Tanzania to Canada. Some 40 percent of the citizens of Africa live in countries that will vote in 2015. It truly is a year of choices — for making sure we avoid a future of fear and we achieve the world we want.

Outside the development community, few may have heard of any of these meetings. They’re all significant and they’re all interrelated — the outcome of one has an impact on the others. If we secure decent financial commitments, improved policies and a real accountability mechanism — with which we can hold leaders to task — then we could witness tremendous progress in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger, disease, corruption and climate change. This could go right to the heart and structural causes of these challenges. That’s a big claim.

We cannot miss the opportunity of 2015, or we could see a far worse world unfold. For young people growing up in the developing world (or anywhere else for that matter), if there are no jobs or the land available to them is wasted, imagine the potential appeal of extremism offering a vent for their frustrated dreams. How much better for humanity if instead they grow into a world of opportunity?

The drama of this year is real. Grand global summits and promises come and go and real people often don’t feel their effects. Not for decades have we seen a global political calendar like this. The challenge is to help everyday citizens realize they aren’t bystanders in their own history — but leading players.

This movement has already garnered the support of high-level campaigners including Malala Yousafzai and Bill Gates — but it is the people from D.C. to Dar es Salaam, from Cape Town to Kolkata who will make the difference.

This action/2015 network is formed of groups such as Avaaz, ONE, Save the Children, Civicus, UNICEF and more than a thousand other organizations so far. This week, representatives of these groups, together with young people born in the year 2000, will meet with leaders the world over to demand they rise to the historic opportunity that 2015 offers. By the time these teens turn 30, in 15 years’ time, we could have achieved great things together.

Our aim is to guarantee that inspiring sustainable development goals are agreed through these summits. Above all, world leaders must ensure these goals are properly financed and backed by decent data, so citizens can help track promises and hold those who fall short accountable.

The grim news cycle across the globe seems stuck in risks breeding pessimism, anxiety and apathy — but there is evidence to back a more positive take. Since 2000, we’ve worked alongside developing countries to reduce the number of children under 5 dying each year by more than 3 million per year.

We could achieve even more in the next 15 years: We could virtually eliminate extreme poverty in every developing country not in conflict; we could practically eliminate deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; we could ensure farmers across drought-prone regions can fight climate change; and we could help every girl through school.

READ: A global movement for change

But none of this will just unfold by itself — it requires sustained and strengthened political commitment.

Underlying the demands of all members of action/2015 is the same call shared by concerned citizens the world over — that leaders be held accountable. Whether it’s an incompetent local official or the corrupt oil minister who needs disrupting, citizens are demanding better from those who claim to be in charge. The powerful need to be reminded — they work for us. But an accountability movement needs to be able to count what matters.

Together with a comrade, I once came up with the slogan “Drop the Debt” for a previous generation’s activism. I sometimes wonder if the new slogan for this generation is “Demand the Data.” Open information is what really tells us who is doing what, where and when, so we can “follow the money” and see whether commitments are being kept across economic, social, environmental and human rights related goals. Many who share this thinking will be working hard this year on a data revolution to underpin this new movement.

action/2015 is intentionally very broad to help grow the widest movement for accountability. It will be about pressing leaders to make better promises in more specific ways, and innovating means by which people can make sure leaders deliver on their promises.

Making a better, safer world requires the activism of everyone who cares. So, global citizens: Let’s roll up our sleeves and get ready to raise our voices as one, and take direct action in 2015.

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About the author

  • Jamie Drummond

    Jamie Drummond is an advocacy entrepreneur who co-founded ONE with Bono and other activists. ONE is a global organization with over 9 million members campaigning against extreme poverty, for the transformation of developing economies, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Jamie was the global strategist for Drop the Debt, helping to cancel $110 billion of mainly African debt. He is now working with a range of public, private, and civic sector partners to design a campaign strategy for an SDG super year of activism in 2020 to launch a decade of delivery for the Global Goals through to 2030.