On September 15th, 2020, NOW! held its first Freedom Marathon: 14-hours of non-stop events, discussions, panels, artistic performances, and actions!
In a year marked by relentless democratic unrest, shaking the very foundations of our societies and criss-crossing the planet, from Hong Kong to Belarus, from Chile to Lebanon, this 14-hour digital event was meant to bring a dim of light to freedom fighters across the world. Instead, it lit up a fire. Throughout the event, we discussed what we can learn from past struggles, found synergies between the fights for rights and democracy across countries and continents, and started creating a common global front to protect democracy.
The event featured leading activists, politicians, government officials, artists and journalists from Hong Kong, Syria, Palestine, Colombia, Taiwan, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Tibet.
Yes we know, it sounds amazing, and it was! In case you missed it, you can watch some of the sessions here.
What are some key takeaways?
- People from all over the world can support each other, for real. Activists, whether living in democratic countries or not, described how energized and hopeful they felt when seeing that people from all over the world supported them. In addition, activists from Italy to Hong Kong explained how their struggles were interlinked, with for example China’s authoritarianism expansionism reaching far beyond its peninsula, and impacting democracy abroad. Fridays For Freedom, the action launched by NOW! to support the brave Hong Kongers was often named as a best practice in the field.
- Different democracy struggles can learn from one another, find commonalities, and cooperate to maximise their chance to succeed. While this need surfaced across various sessions, it became particularly clear during the broadcast of a documentary on global activism: as the story progressed on covering the life of three different activists, a pro-democracy fighter in Hong Kong, a climate activist in Uganda, and a freedom protester in Chile, the audience kept on pointing out how techniques and methodologies used in one struggle could be useful for the others. As one faction might have advanced very well its cause online, another might have learnt all the tricks to elude police controls on the ground: lots can be learned and shared. It’s a very simple lesson, but one that could change the tide for many. In addition, all struggles to stop corruption, stop climate change or protect democracies are deeply interlinked as those issues too often cross borders.
- Finally, it is time to start addressing the root causes of global democratic backsliding. The international community must act upon and protect the democracies around the world. That’s why at NOW!, we are pushing for the creation of an international coalition of major democracies (the D-10) to safeguard democracy and support those at the forefront of the democratic battle. Together, countries will be able to coordinate responses and implement measures to protect democracy around the world.
This event marks a decisive moment for NOW!’s Wave of Freedom campaign, and for the movement as a whole.
- Our focus will increasingly shift towards lobbying governments while leveraging that grassroots public pressure we created with Fridays For Freedom to create the D-10, that league of democracies we desperately need!
- We will continue to focus on Hong Kong, while expanding our scope to other ongoing key democratic struggles: from Belarus to Bulgaria!
- NOW! will soon start the work of creating a long term vision and agenda for what the world of tomorrow should look like, what type of global governance we hope to achieve, and how. As such, we will start a listening phase to identify those progressive campaigns that we should advance in the coming years. Stay tuned!
After having heard from leaders such as Mmusi Maimane of South Africa and Audrey Tang of Taiwan, witnessed the art of Badiucao from China and Joey Tai from Hong Kong, and listened to moving accounts from Majed Abusalama from Palestine and Asaad Hanna from Syria, our team and members have even more energy than before (if possible) to advance the common cause for freedom and democracy.
We want to thank all speakers for their amazing participation: Camila Zuluaga, Fatima Zaman, Majed Abusalama, Tashi Phuntsok, Asaad Hanna, Audrey Tang, Mirta Baselovic, Amb. Prof. Dr. Jhy-Wey Shieh, Karol Arambula, Abdalaziz Alhamza, Perla Joe Maalouli, Joe Tay, Julie Ward, Joey Siu, Yasmine Ouirhrane, Mmusi Maimane.
Most importantly though, we want to thank the participants and volunteers that made this event truly special. Remember, “We are stronger together than we are alone.” Together, let’s change the world!
The NOW! team