Keeping the drumbeat on development

By Oxfam

Oxfam's Make Trade Fair team counted more than 17.8 million signatures for the Big Noise petition this December, blowing away a previous year-end goal of 10 million signatures. The petition calls on the world's decision-makers to change the rules of trade so they help, not hurt, poor communities.

On Dec. 12, the eve of the World Trade Organization's week-longMinisterial meeting, a delegation of celebrities including Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, singer Angelique Kidjou, from Benin, and Chinese rockstar Anthony Wong handed over the petition to Pascal Lamy, Director General of the WTO.

The group of celebrities reflect the diverse originsof Big Noise signatures, which have poured in from around the world, with large numbers coming from developing countries such as India, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Zambia.

Rich countries have made a significant contribution as well. Through a variety of grassroots methods, in almost every state in the country, Oxfam America helped gather about 220,000 signatures within the US.

What a Big Noise looks like

Organizers in California, Kansas, Chicago, Virginia, and Boston gathered signatures as part of their work promoting a cap on US agriculture subsidies, which could help reduce poverty for millions of small-scale farmers.

About 1,000 volunteers gathered signatures while talking with audience members at Coldplay, REM, Youssou N'Dour and Habib Koité concerts, and conferences and expos such as the Green Festival and Fair Trade Futures conference.

Student activists at universities around the country, including Oxfam America-trained CHANGE leaders established fair trade clubs on their campuses, participated in a traveling fair trade Road Show, and staged talks and teach-ins this fall and during the Global Week of Action in April.

And roughly 85,000 online activists signed up to the Big Noise, either by logging onto and through e-mail actions from Oxfam.

These efforts supported trade campaigns around the world.

Why it matters

Just this month, actor Colin Firth met with European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in Brussels. He, along with Oxfam campaigners and a Chinese dragon, reminded the commissioner of the upcoming World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong, where development represents a key issue on the agenda. More than 70 journalists turned up for the event.

Firth said: "What is an actor doing here? There are millions of people more qualified than me—the 10 million names on the Big Noise petition ... I'm here as a name, a European, and a consumer. These are the voices I give to Mr. Mandelson to take to Hong Kong."

And in West Africa, where small-scale farmers have been devastated by US overproduction of cotton crops, campaigners reported gathering more than 2.7 million signatures for the Big Noise—an extraordinary achievement.

Oxfam will keep a steady drumbeat going throughout the WTO meeting Dec. 13 to 18.

"For millions of people, trade is a life or death issue. This is the first opportunity many have been given to voice their concerns," said Brian Rawson, Trade Campaign Organizer at Oxfam America.

The Make Trade Fair team also plans on presenting the petition to US decision-makers gathered in Hong Kong.

"The delivery of the Big Noise in Hong Kong will bring the collective power of these voices right into the negotiating halls of the WTO."

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