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Action/2015: The people power of the past year can give us all reason to be hopeful

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Children gather in West Bengal, India for the action2015 Light the Way event on 24th September, 2015.

Elephants, a skydiver, One Direction, an invented currency, Malala and a lot of people marching – these are just some of the things that mark 2015 for me.

It may sound pretty random but they are all linked by a huge global campaign called action/2015. It’s a campaign that for the past 12 months has brought people around the world to campaign against poverty, inequality and climate change and for a better world. The beauty of the campaign has stemmed from its flexible and innovative model which has meant that people from Malawi to Mexico, India to Ireland could shape the campaign to suit their own objectives and context.

For the last year I’ve been leading the action/2015 campaign on behalf of Save the Children. The campaign came into existence because of the opportunity 2015 represented to shape a better world thanks to two historic agreements.

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Supporters on Milnerton Beach in Cape Town, South Africa ahead of the Light the Way event for action2015.

The first was at the UN General Assembly in September when the world committed to 17 global goals for sustainable development. If these goals are implemented they could end poverty, fight inequality and fix climate change. The second, on which the ink is barely dry, was the Paris climate deal which saw 195 countries sign up to a vital agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the impacts of climate change.

Neither agreement is perfect but together they represent a huge opportunity to change the world for the better. Both would have been much weaker without the actions of millions of people around the world who have taken part in marches, rallies, online actions and much more to pressure their leaders into action.

Action/2015 was a part of that movement. In just a year it has grown to be the biggest campaign of its kind. 80% of its members are based not in Northern capitals but in the villages, towns and cities across the world where the impacts of poverty are most strongly felt. It brought together climate, development and human rights activists to campaign together from some of the most developed places to some of the toughest parts of the world like Somalia. It inspired over 30 million actions across 150 countries and importantly, for Save the Children, gave young people a platform to be heard.

Of course it hasn’t been all plain sailing – building a movement pretty much from scratch in a year and getting people to take action around essentially two bits of paper was pretty hard. But thanks to partnership, dedication and a huge amount of effort we pulled it off.

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Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie pledging his support for action2015, ahead of the Finance for Development summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Some of the best moments of the campaign came through those partnerships. Partnerships with celebrities like One Direction who contacted their millions of fans asking them to share their hopes for the future. And the inspirational Malala who launched the campaign last year when she accepted her Nobel Peace Prize. Partnerships with organisations from around the world from young activists in Togo for whom action/2015 provided invaluable campaigning material or the campaigners in India who pulled off incredible feats – like inspiring 13 million people to take action. And partnerships with other campaigns like the Global Goals campaign led by the film director Richard Curtis, that helped to get word about the Sustainable Development Goals to almost half the world’s population in just 7 days.

Incredible foundations have been built but 2015 was just the first step. Neither of these two historic agreements are 100% legally binding. So, the only way the promises made this year are going to be delivered is if people around the world keep up the pressure on their leaders. We need to make sure that everyone around the world knows about the agreements and is able to hold their leaders to account. We need to continue campaigning together – not falling back into organisational silos – but continuing with a new way of doing campaigning.

As the year draws to a close people globally will be reflecting on the past 12 months and looking ahead to 2016 and beyond. In many ways 2015 has been marked by tragedy – the horrific Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks and acts of terrorism around the world from Lebanon to Nigeria, the refugee crisis so tragically symbolised by the body of little Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish shore, the devastation wreaked by the Nepalese earthquake.

But it has also been marked by people around the world uniting to take a stand from #jesuischarlie to #refugeeswelcome. The agreements made in 2015 won’t solve the problems we have been so vividly confronted with this year but they provide a platform for building a more just, fairer, and sustainable world in which everyone’s futures are brighter. The people power of the past year can give us all reason to be hopeful.

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