From the streets of Cairo to the port of Oakland, 2011 was a game-changer. After that extraordinary year, what comes next?
It would be easy to be pessimistic, but as John Chipman, director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, points out: we should prepare not only for the things that might go wrong, but "for things that could go right".
And so, in this spirit of optimistic preparedness, here are just a few of the many good things that the coming year may bring.
Russians make their voices heard
When Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced he would run for president in March 2012, his victory seemed all but assured. For years, his repressive style of governance has silenced or crushed any opposition. Now the tide is turning. After dodgy parliamentary elections in December, Russians took to the streets in protest and activists have vowed to keep up the pressure until the elections. Russia's long era of apathy may finally be over.
India puts an end to polio
India could soon be free of polio, thanks to a mass vaccination programme involving over a million volunteers. If no more confirmed cases arise before 13 January 2012, the country will have completed its first year without a new victim. This is a huge achievement for a campaign that initially faced stiff resistance, and a testament to the tireless work of local and global campaigners, health professionals and the Indian government. It is also a major step in the journey towards global eradication of the disease. Next let's get rid of polio in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the disease is rife.
Could malaria and Aids be next?
Meanwhile, scientists are due to start human trials of a malaria vaccine that, if proven effective, could save some 650,000 lives every year. In addition, despite funding setbacks, researchers will build on another exciting breakthrough in the fight against Aids.
Another Arab spring
For the first time in their history, the people of Egypt and Libya will elect their leaders at the ballot box. As the citizens of Tunisia have already shown, this can happen in a peaceful, free and fair manner. Whether Egypt's military rulers will allow that remains to be seen. But thanks to the solidarity of activists across the globe, they will be in no doubt that the whole world is watching.
Will this be the year, also, that Syrians free themselves from Bashar al-Assad? Could other repressive regimes across the region fall? It's a tougher ask, but they said it couldn't happen in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya ...
Rio+20 revives the environmental movement
Twenty years after the first, history-making Rio Earth Summit, the world's leaders will again meet in Brazil, on 20-22 June, to discuss how the world can develop in a more sustainable way. Opponents will continue to use the global economic crisis as an excuse for delaying or blocking action. But the partial success of the Durban summit shows that we concerned citizens have the means to defeat them. (See Avaaz's amazing Save the Planet action, directed at the Durban delegates last month.) With instability likely to continue in Iran and parts of the Middle East, rising oil prices will add urgency to the case for alternative energy.
More US states abolish the death penalty
While 34 states can still, in theory, carry out judicial killings, the tide of public opinion is gradually turning against this barbarous practice. After the international outcry over the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, campaigners in the states of Maryland, Kansas, Connecticut and Ohio are all gearing up for fresh campaigns in 2012 to get the death penalty outlawed. In California voters are likely to have a chance to decide in early November.
The year of the 99%
The people of the Occupy movements have vowed to continue their action in the coming year, and have already forced important issues onto the agenda across the developed world, particularly in countries where voters will go to the polls this year. Urgent questions about income inequality and corporate capture will loom large in the US presidential race – indeed the Iowa Republican primary has already seen some 99% protests.
French voters will ask similar searching questions when they decide between President Nicholas Sarkozy or his Socialist challenger, François Hollande, in May. And the most powerful countries across the globe will be pushed to reform the financial sector in a people-friendly way when the G20 meets in Mexico in June.
Major international sporting events strengthen the global community
Let's be positive about the year's major sporting events, like the Olympics, Euro 2012, and the African Cup of Nations. Sure, it's an odd mix of patriotic fervour, bad politics and big business, especially when this month's African football feast is co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, the holders of some of Africa's worst records on human rights. But these global meetings of the young and energetic can be times of hope and opportunity.
We can work to get change from Orange, sponsors of the African Cup of Nations, or to continue to pressure FIFA to clean up its act. And let's not forget it's also a chance to enjoy some extraordinary displays of talent, skill and artistry, and to be part of something with citizens from all over the world.
Avaaz continues to grow, also to deepen
Our amazing community continues to grow. We hit 10 million members last year and this year we're poised to double again. Together, we've won some amazing victories. Let's achieve even more in the year to come.
Here's a message from Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel looking forward to the challenges of 2012 and suggesting how you can help Avaaz's work.