Rights group boss charts a new path
Amnesty International’s first- ever South African secretary-general has set out his vision for the direction of the world’s largest human rights organisation.
Durban-born Kumi Naidoo‚ a life-long social justice campaigner‚ says the human rights movement needs to be bigger‚ bolder and more inclusive.
He was outlining his vision for the global human rights organisation’s future in Johannesburg on Thursday.
“Our world is facing complex problems that can only be tackled if we break away from old ideas that human rights are about some forms of injustice that people face‚ but not others. “The patterns of oppression that we’re living through are interconnected‚” he said.
“You cannot talk about the climate change crisis without recognising that it is also an inequality and race issue; you can’t address sexual discrimination without recognising that it is bound up in the economic exclusion of women; and you can’t ignore the fact that people’s civil and political rights are often suppressed exactly when they are trying to demand basic economic justice,” he said.Naidoo was expelled from school at the age of 15 for taking part in an anti-apartheid protest and, in 1986‚ at the age of 21‚ was charged with violating state of emergency regulations. He moved to the UK but returned to South Africa in 1990.
He has since held various leadership roles‚ including executive director of Greenpeace International.
In this position he ruffled feathers‚ cementing his reputation as an activist who championed civil disobedience.
He was reportedly arrested for scaling a Greenlandic oil rig to hand-deliver a petition against drilling in the Arctic in 2011 and later occupied a Russian oil rig in the Barents Sea in the Russian Arctic.
He now takes the helm of Amnesty International‚ the largest human rights movement in the world with a global presence that includes offices in over 70 countries.
“In my first message as secretary-general‚ I want to make clear that Amnesty International is now opening its arms wider than ever before to build a genuinely global community that stretches into all four corners of the world‚ especially in the global south‚” said Naidoo.
“I want us to build a human rights movement that is more inclusive.
“We need to redefine what it means to be a human rights champion in 2018.
“An activist can come from all walks of life – a trade union‚ school‚ faith group‚ government or indeed business,” he said.
“I want young people, especially, to know that we are open to you and need you to challenge us to do better by you.
“It is my abiding belief that young people are not the leaders of tomorrow‚ but the leaders we need here and now.” – DDC..