Kumi Naidoo at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in 2011
|Occupation||International Executive Director of Greenpeace|
Kumi Naidoo (born 1965) is a South African human rights activist and the International Executive Director of international environmentalist group Greenpeace. He is the first African to head the organization. After battling apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s through the Helping Hands Youth Organisation, Naidoo led global campaigns to end poverty and protect human rights. He has served as the secretary-general of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. He was Secretary General of Civicus, an international alliance for citizen participation, from 1998 to 2008. Recently, he has led the Global Call for Climate Action (Tcktcktck.org), which brings together environmental, aid, religious and human rights groups, labor unions, scientists and others and has organized mass demonstrations around climate negotiations.
Born in Durban, South Africa, Naidoo became involved in anti-apartheid activities when he was 15, resulting in his expulsion from high school. He was involved in neighborhood organizing, youth work in his community, and mass mobilizations against the apartheid regime. During the apartheid government, Naidoo was arrested several times and was charged for violating provisions against mass mobilisation, civil disobedience and for violating the state of emergency. This led him to having to go underground before finally deciding to live in exile in England. During this time he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and earned a doctorate (D.Phil.) in political sociology.
Post Apartheid work
After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, Kumi Naidoo returned to South Africa to work on the legalisation of the African National Congress, to lead the adult literacy campaigns and voter education efforts; and was the founding executive director of the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO). From 1998 to 2008, he was the Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of Johannesburg-based Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which is dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world and he was the founding chairperson of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.
Leading Greenpeace International
Kumi Naidoo joined Greenpeace in 2009, persuaded by his daughter and attracted by Greenpeace’s commitment to direct action and civil disobedience. Naidoo saw his role as the executive director of Greenpeace as that of an alliance builder and an agent of change. Naidoo is somewhat notorious for his involvement in acts of peaceful civil disobedience in the Arctic Ocean against Shell and Gazprom who are currently planning to drill in the Arctic’s melting ice. In August 2012, Kumi Naidoo, for the second time in the Arctic, occupied Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea for 15 hours, along with a group of Greenpeace volunteers. A year before, in June 2011, Kumi spent four days in a Greenlandic prison after scaling an oil platform owned by Cairn Energy, as part of Greenpeace's "Go Beyond Oil" campaign. He was deported to Denmark where he spent a short time in Danish custody before being released in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
He has been a vocal critic of the failure of bodies like the World Economic Forum, to go beyond “system recovery”, “system protection and maintenance” instead proposing a system re-design. Kumi Naidoo uses the WEF to amplify environmental messages to business leaders and politicians and lobby for green business practices and transformational changes in the energy sector. During the World Economic Forum in 2013, while Kumi Naidoo was rubbing shoulders with the world’s wealthiest elites, Greenpeace activists were blocking a Shell gas station just outside the Swiss mountain resort demanding that the oil giant drops its ambitions to drill for oil in the Arctic. Naidoo regularly attends United Nations climate negotiations and advocates for increased ambitions from governments to cap emissions and vigorously move towards an energy sector based on renewables meant to help humanity avoid catastrophic climate change.
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- Annie Kelly interviews social justice campaigner Kumi Naidoo (Guardian)
- Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace on Obama’s Peace Prize, Obama’s War, Copenhagen and Climate Debt – video report by Democracy Now!
- Naidoo: Climate Justice Movement Must Intensify Efforts Ahead of 2011 Climate Talks in South Africa
- Elements in the FBI and Pentagon consider climate change a great threat to world peace, Kumi Naidoo's Interview with OneWorld South Asia