Making A Public Declaration

This article describes the experience of a small group of people making a public declaration about the war in Iraq. Hopefully this will be useful other people interested in making declarations of their own.

I got the idea of making some sort of declaration when realised I needed to do something to relieve some of the frustration and disgust that I felt at what the USA was proposing to do to the people of Iraq. I felt the need to make a strong, clear, and above all, personal, public statement.

 Our Statement

 My partner Jane, my sister Gael and I got together to draft a statement. After writing it and re-writing it for days, this is what we came up with:

Declaration of Dissent

Concerning War on Iraq

The USA is seeking war with Iraq on any pretext. It has generated a climate of fear, confusion, and disinformation to try to legitimise its case.

In promoting war against Iraq the USA is acting solely in its own interest, specifically to gain control over Iraq’s oil reserves and to use them to manipulate the international community. 

A war against Iraq will destabilise the region, accelerate terrorism, cause economic chaos, and break up the international community.

The USA intends to pursue this war regardless of the immense suffering it will cause the Iraqi  people and regardless of the consequences to the rest of the world.

We refuse to accept that war on Iraq is unavoidable. To do otherwise is a betrayal of the Iraqi people.

We condemn war on the Iraqi people as immoral and inhumane.

We demand that the government rules out any participation by New Zealand in a war against Iraq.

We demand that the New Zealand government devote the utmost effort to a non-military resolution to this crisis.

 This declaration is made by the following private citizens:


This was the version that seemed to work best for us. I think this was because we didn’t make a plea, or try to argue a case, or settle for just stating our beliefs. Instead we condemned what we thought was unacceptable, refused to accept the official view, demanded an alternative. 

You're welcome to copy this declaration if you'd like to, or use it as a model for your own. However part of the reason for doing this is to have your own say. Your statement will have more impact if it is clearly your own work. 

Publicising the Statement

We considered a number of ways of making our declaration public:

·          printing an advertisement in a newspaper

·          erecting a billboard

·          printing t-shirts

·          attaching it to a car

Putting an advertisement in the paper seemed the best option because it was the most public option. The cost was daunting, but it seemed worth it. (And we also reasoned that it might command more attention if people realised we were prepared to lay out that sort of money.)

We may still erect a billboard, although there is the possibility that it might attract unwelcome attention. The option of laminating a sign to the door of a car is only possible if you have an old banger - as I do.

If anyone has any suggestions for other ways to make a declaration like this public, please let us know.

Placing An Advertisement

The suggestions we make in the next sections are a mixture of things we did do, and things we wish we had done. Note that we only have experience with dealing with the Dominion Post, and only this one advertisement.

This is only a guide. Don’t take our word for anything – always check.

Suggestions for Drafting a Statement

·        Be assertive without being strident. State your position unequivocally.

·        Don't try to argue a case. You don't have the space to do it properly.

·        Avoid anything that smacks of conspiracy theories. (For instance, it may be true that the USA has stated it’s intention to dominate the world economically & militarily, but saying so may be too much for some people.)

·        Keep it simple and direct. Don’t try to drag in too many themes or ideas.

·        Center your statement around one central issue (in our case, the plight of the Iraqi people).

Laying Out Your Advertisement

·        Don’t be reluctant to use plenty of whitespace. It will cost more, but it will be more readable. People will be more likely to read it right through to the end.

·        The headline should grab people’s attention (if only by virtue of its size).

·        Vary the font and text size to add emphasis (and to make the most of your space.)

·        If you are drafting your ad on a computer using a word processor, it’s worth trying to format it in the size and shape in which it will appear when printed. (We did this by increasing the page margins until the text was “squeezed” into the right shape.)

·        If you can, print out your ad, cut it out, and see how it actually looks laid on top of a page of the newspaper. If necessary, change the size or the layout and try again.

Size, Position & Cost

Note: This information relates to printing an advert in the "World" section of the Dominion Post in the Saturday edition.  

·        Our ad was 2 columns wide and 10cm deep for a total of 20 column-centimetres. This is about the size of a quarter of an A4 page. (A whole newspaper page would be about the size of 4 A4 pages.)

·        The basic rate was $26 per column-centimeter. At this rate our ad cost $520

·        The cost per column-centimetre will decrease as the ad gets bigger.

·        Look out for discounts – for instance we got a discount for of approximately 15% because we were running another ad of the same size the previous day.

·        Apparently it’s better to have your ad on a odd numbered page, near the top.

·        If you’re going to try to get it printed in a particular position, be prepared to pay a “loading”, or surcharge, which could be as much as 40%. This may only apply to some pages, e.g. the front page of a section. This facility may not be available for all pages in a section.

Dealing with the Newspaper

·        You must book you ad in at least 3 days before the day of publishing. It's worth giving yourself more time than this - it may help you get a better position.

·        The absolute latest deadline for revisions is one day before printing. Allow plenty of time for revision. You may have to review proofs and revise and re-submit your ad a number of times.

·        If you’re not sure of the effect you want, the newspaper will do a mock up from the text you supply. Then you can suggest changes – fonts, text size, layout, etc.

·        If you do know what effect you want, and you have access to a word processor, it is well worth your while drafting a mock-up of your ad to supply to the newspaper.

·        Make it absolutely clear what you want. Doing this may save you the hassle of reviewing and revising proofs a number of times. For example if you supply them with a mock-up and you want them to reproduce it exactly, make that clear. Or if you want your layout reproduced exactly but you don’t care about fonts or text size, say that. 

·        Be aware that the newspaper may not be able to give you exactly what you want. You may have to be prepared to make concessions, e.g. less white-space than you wanted.

·        Since you a posting a classified ad, you will have to supply an address for people to reply to, whether or not you actually want to receive replies. This can be a problem, since you may not want to supply your own postal address (in case of crank replies). An alternative is to supply a PO Box number. However, this can be expensive - it costs $125 to lease a PO Box for the minimum time of one year. The address will be printed at the bottom of the ad.

·        Be aware that the newspaper may wish to add the word "Advertisement" at the top of your advert.


In the area of taking contributions that we ran into slight problems. Because we regarded the declaration as a purely personal statement, in the beginning we didn't really think about finding contributors. We assumed that people would rather pay for something that they had composed themselves. In actual fact, when people heard about what we were doing, they were keen to add their names, and more than willing to make contributions. If we had known this ahead of time, we might have been able to plan for a bigger, more effective ad.

·       Decide ahead of time whether you are going to pay for the ad yourself or to find contributors. If the latter, decide whether you are going to ask for a fixed amount or whatever people can afford. 

·       Canvass for interest. Put the word out amongst friends & family. Once you know how many are interested, you will be able to plan your ad.

·       If people do register interest, make sure they know exactly what is involved - the cost, the text of the ad, the size, where & where it will be printed, etc.

Written by Hugh Ferguson. 
If you have suggestions or comments, please email or write to Hugh, c/o PMA, PO Box 9314, Wellington.

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