Peace is what people share. The more we share with one another, the more of a bond we have.
Bernard Weber is the founder of New7Wonders, an initiative that runs global voting campaigns that aim to unite people from around the world by giving them a common goal and purpose. Back in 1999, Weber became interested in the potential of the internet to bridge geographical gaps and connect people with one another. He began considering the way in which global voting campaigns could get people to work together to make decisions in a way that defied borders, differences and hierarchies. He stated:
I wanted to create a project that reached out to people all over the world — something that would stimulate and motivate them. It was the turn of the millennium and the antique concept of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World came to mind. It got me thinking, ‘What are the wonders of the last 2000 years?’
This initial idea would be the cornerstone of the world’s first-ever global voting campaign, ‘New 7 Wonders of the World,’ which spanned a period of seven years between 2000 and 2007. The goal was to create an inclusive experience to which everyone could contribute, to create what Weber calls “global memory.” Global memory is the idea of compiling memorable lists of seven items that are easy to recollect. “The first telephone numbers were seven digits. There are also seven days of the week. I thought this cannot just be a magic number,” Weber comments.
I came across one piece of research conducted in 1956 by George A. Miller, a professor of psychology at Princeton University in the United States. He was researching the capacity of the human brain to retain information, and he came up with the fact that it is easier to remember an odd number of things. The number seven is the ideal number. We need a little challenge to remember things. If the number of items in the list is shorter, then there is no challenge, so we forget them. If the list is longer, then we don’t have the capacity to remember all the items. I thought it would be interesting to package the New7Wonders campaigns in sevens too so that everyone could remember all of the winners without having to consult Wikipedia. Common knowledge is what unites us.
The New 7 Wonders of the World were officially chosen in 2007. After over one hundred million votes had been gathered, the following sites were announced as the winners: the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, Petra and Chichén Itzá. This campaign was then swiftly followed by the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign, which ran from 2007 to 2011. Momentum grew, and over 500 million votes from all over the world were gathered for this campaign. The result was the following winning selection: Ha Long Bay, Table Mountain, Puerto Princesa Underground River, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, the Amazon Rainforest and Komodo Island.
These campaigns resulted in real economic benefits for all of the chosen sites, particularly in terms of tourism-generated revenue. A study published by the international consultancy firm Curiositas in 2020 demonstrates the positive ‘wonder effect’ that the destinations enjoyed as a result of their selection. The data collected shows the growth in tourism experienced by both the New 7 Wonders of the World and the New 7 Wonders of Nature. This growth was visible both in the percentage increase in international arrivals and in the number of visitors to the selected sites between 2006 and 2018. For example, India saw a 169% increase in international arrivals during this period and a 241% increase in visitors to the Taj Mahal, while Indonesia saw a 91% increase in international arrivals and a 291% increase in visitors to Komodo Island. The Curiositas report states that “all sites interviewed felt that there were no negative impacts from the accolade.”
These figures make it clear how impactful global voting campaigns can be in real terms. Weber has now set his sights on another campaign close to his heart — the 7 Symbols of Peace campaign. On World Peace Day in 2017, Weber announced his global campaign to select the 7 Symbols of Peace. Sitting on a bed in the same Amsterdam hotel room that John Lennon and Yoko Ono had famously used for their bed-in for peace in 1969, Weber introduced his new campaign to the world. This campaign is still ongoing, and the New 7 Symbols of Peace are due to be announced in September 2023.
Unlike previous campaigns carried out by the organization, this campaign is not connected to a specific geographic location. Instead, it aims to harness the power of symbols and global memory to get people to really consider what peace means to them.
Signs and symbols rule the world, not words nor laws.
Every day, we are confronted with hundreds of signs and symbols — many of which appear so commonplace that we barely even notice them. There are signs that tell us when to cross the road, symbols or logos that indicate the brands of the cars whizzing past us, and lines on the ground that tell us where not to park. Many symbols are functional, but others are more abstract and convey a message rather than an instruction — like the Red Cross and Yin and Yang.
The aim of this campaign is to unite people from the seven corners of the earth and help them to engage in peaceful rather than aggressive activities. “The more we do together, the less time we have to fight each other,” Weber comments. “War to me is this hopeless motivation that people have to build arms because they think that they can only defend themselves with arms. These arms are produced and eventually they have to be used, so wars are initiated and orchestrated. Wars are a product of minds. I think what the world is really missing is vision. War is destructive. It is not a vision. But to be constructive you have to have a vision. The aim of this project is to show that we can do things together without borders, without races, without religion, simply as humankind. This is a project to prove that things can be achieved by working together rather than working against each other.”
Stronger And Faster Growth: Leveraging The New 7 Wonders Brand. Global Data Analysis of The New 7 Wonders Brand Impact on Tourism and Economies, A report by Curiositas, 2020.