For 65 years War on Want has been winning justice alongside our members and partners around the world.
Here are some of our most recent victories. You can also read more about our history.
In the wake of the horrific Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, War on Want channelled support to affected garment workers through our longstanding partner, the National Garment Workers’ Federation. With them, we raised a 100,000-strong petition calling on fashion retailers to sign up to the new Bangladesh Safety Accord, and drove over 150 companies to join the initiative.
The Accord represents a major step forward in ensuring that there must never again be another disaster like Rana Plaza: more than 1,500 factories have now undergone safety inspections in Bangladesh, and any considered to represent an immediate threat to life have been closed.
Our partnership with the National Union of Plantation, Agricultural and Allied Workers (NUPAAW) in Zambia secured a stunning wage increase of up to 66% for agricultural workers. War on Want’s partner Sikhula Sonke, a women-led trade union of farm workers in South Africa, won a 50% increase in the minimum wage for casual farm labourers as part of the prolonged strike action taken in 2012.
Workers in China won an important victory in the long struggle for workers’ rights when our partner Labour Action China successfully secured £234,000 in a collective claim for compensation for silicosis victims from the company Lucky Gems and Jewellery. Our joint report, Breathless for Blue Jeans, turned the spotlight on the Chinese factories still producing distressed denim for the international market, despite voluntary bans on sandblasting that causes deadly silicosis among garment workers too.
In 2012, War on Want partner organisations in both Kenya and Zambia won the legal right for market traders and street vendors to work without fear of eviction or harassment by the police. This victory is of huge significance to the millions of women and men forced to eke out a living in the informal economy of those countries, and the millions more family members whom they support.
War on Want is actively engaged in the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, in the fight for justice in Palestine. As a result of our campaign pressure, the Gates Foundation sold down its entire shareholding in G4S, further isolating a company which has long provided services for the Israeli prison service, including in prisons where Palestinian children are held and tortured. War on Want also helped mount the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival in London during Christmas 2013, when a replica of Israel’s Apartheid Wall was erected across the courtyard of the historic St James’s Church, Piccadilly as the backdrop to a fortnight of performances in solidarity with Palestinians living in Bethlehem and elsewhere.
War on Want has led urgent actions to protect the lives and freedom of human rights activists in several countries. We have mounted campaigns to defend the lives of activists in Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa, including calls to bring to justice all those responsible for violence against our partners. As a result of an international campaign led by War on Want, we secured the release of two leading figures from our Palestinian partner organisation Stop the Wall who had been incarcerated by the Israeli authorities for continuing their peaceful resistance to the Occupation, a reminder of the heavy price paid by so many Palestinian activists in their struggle for freedom.
In February 2014, War on Want’s Executive Director was a member of the first ever UK parliamentary delegation to occupied Western Sahara, meeting with Saharawi human rights activists and other civil society leaders who had spent long periods in secret detention as a result of their protests against Moroccan military rule. Our visit was widely covered in the local media, and the parliamentary debate we organised on our return was packed. War on Want remains committed to the struggle for Saharawi self-determination, and will continue to press for a proper human rights monitoring mandate for the UN peacekeeping force in the occupied zone.
As part of our campaign against the UK’s adoption of a new generation of drones technology, we co-organised the first ever national demonstration against drones at their command centre at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Our Killer Drones report showed how the UK’s next generation of drones are being built in conjunction with Israeli weapons company Elbit, and that the UK government is therefore complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, on whom the drones have been ‘field tested’.
War on Want has played a lead role in the campaign against the dangerous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and we have already managed to block negotiations on one of the most controversial aspects of that deal. Working with our trade union affiliates and online campaigns group 38 Degrees, we helped secure over one million signatures on the European Citizens’ Initiative against TTIP in the record time of two months. Our introductory booklet on TTIP, published with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, is now available in 14 European languages and has been distributed in tens of thousands of copies worldwide.
The long battle for a Robin Hood tax – originally launched by War on Want as the Tobin tax campaign in 1998 – won a major victory in May 2014 when 11 European countries (including France, Germany, Spain and Italy) confirmed they would introduce a financial transactions tax together. This success sets a strong precedent for the introduction of further taxes on bank profiteers in future, and will raise billions of euros for public expenditure each year.
Our work with trade union Unite and US pressure group Change to Win successfully highlighted the £1 billion tax dodge by Boots the Chemist since being bought up by venture capitalists in 2007. Following the international media exposure of its aggressive tax avoidance practices, Boots increased its tax payment to the UK exchequer by 40% in 2014.
Our campaign to stop the exploitation of workers in supermarket supply chains scored a double victory when the UK government agreed to set up a Groceries Code Adjudicator in 2013 to police supermarkets’ relations with their suppliers in the UK and around the world. Following a final burst of public pressure, the government also agreed to grant the Adjudicator powers to fine those supermarkets that continue to abuse their power over global supply chains.
Together with our sister organisations in the Dismantle Corporate Power coalition, War on Want secured another victory when the UN Human Rights Council agreed in June 2014 to launch negotiations towards a legally binding international framework on business and human rights. The UK, US and other Western governments tried to defeat the resolution just as they have done all previous attempts to hold transnational corporations to account at the UN level, but they were outvoted.