Kumi Naidoo

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Kumi Naidoo
Naidoo during the MSC 2019
Born1965
NationalitySouth African
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
OccupationHuman rights activist
OrganizationAmnesty International
TitleSecretary-General of Amnesty International

Kumi Naidoo (b 1965 in Durban, South Africa) is a human rights and climate justice activist. He was International Executive Director of Greenpeace International (from 2009 through 2015)[1] and Secretary General of Amnesty International (from 2018 through 2019[2]). Naidoo served as the Secretary-General of CIVICUS,[3] the international alliance for citizen participation, from 1998 to 2008. As a fifteen-year old, he organised students in school boycotts[4] against the apartheid regime and its educational system in South Africa. Naidoo’s activism went from neighbourhood organising and community youth work to civil disobedience with mass mobilisations against the white controlled apartheid government. Naidoo is a co-founder of the Helping Hands Youth Organisation.[5] He has written about his activism in this period in his memoirs titled, Letters to My Mother: The Making of a Troublemaker.[6] In the book Naidoo recounts the day of his mother’s suicide when he was just 15 and how it became a catalyst for his journey into radical action against the Nationalist Party’s apartheid regime.[7]

Kumi served as the Launch Executive Director of Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity (2016)[8] and he was appointed as the Inaugural Global Ambassador in June 2020.[8] He has also served the Global Call to Action Against Poverty and the Global Call for Climate Action (Tcktcktck.org) , which brings together environmental aid, religious and human rights groups, labour unions, scientists and others and has organised mass demonstrations around climate negotiations. Kumi Naidoo was most recently a Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy[9] He has lectured at Fossil Free University (2019 through 2021).[10]  He has served as a Special Advisor to the Green Economy Coalition .[11] Kumi is an Honorary Fellow at Magdalen College and a Visiting Fellow at Oxford.[12]

Activism in South Africa[edit]

Born in Durban, South Africa, Kumi Naidoo became involved in anti-apartheid activities, resulting in his expulsion from high school.[13] As a fifteen-year old, he organised school boycotts against the apartheid educational system in South Africa. In this era, he was involved in neighbourhood organising, community youth work, and mass mobilisations against the apartheid regime. Naidoo was arrested several times and was charged for violating provisions against mass mobilisation, civil disobedience and for violating the state of emergency.[citation needed]

His work made him a target for the Security Police This led him to having to go underground before he was forced to flee into exile to the United Kingdom until 1990. He suspended his studies at Oxford to return to South Africa in 1990 in order to conduct literacy campaigns after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and Mandela's decision to run for president of South Africa.[citation needed]

He was later asked to lead the process to formally register the African National Congress (ANC)[14] as a political party. Kumi then served as the official spokesperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC),[15] the overseer of the country's first democratic elections in April 1994. Naidoo was the founding member and executive director of the South African National NGO Coalition.[16] (SANGOCO). Naidoo, like many South African-born Indians, identifies himself as a Black South African. He noted that the completion of his doctorate was absolutely essential given that he was told he was "the first Indian activist" from South Africa to earn a doctorate at Oxford.[17]

The exile years[edit]

During the apartheid period, 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 go into exile, ending up with time in England and the United States.

During this time Naidoo was a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford and he eventually earned a PhD in political sociology.

Naidoo's doctorate was earned in the late 1990s, after he returned to England from South Africa.

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 and to lead the adult literacy campaigns and voter education efforts.

Voluntary Activism[edit]

"It is obvious that too many corporations and governments do not listen and put power and profit over people, ignoring what is in the best interest of humanity. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get their attention – but one thing that we know that works is civil disobedience and peaceful protest. Every act of rebellion – no matter how seemingly insignificant – adds up."

— Naidoo, 2009.[18]

Kumi's current voluntary roles include:

  • Global Leadership Council Member; Sanitation and Water for All[19]
  • Member of the Advisory Council; Transparency International[20]
  • Global Ambassador; Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity[21]

His previous voluntary roles include:

Member of the Board of the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)

Global Civil Society[edit]

Kumi Naidoo at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in 2011

The CIVICUS Period[edit]

From 1998 to 2008, he was the Secretary General and chief executive officer of the initially Washington-based Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which is dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.

During this time, Kumi also served as the founding chairperson of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.

The Greenpeace Period[edit]

Kumi Naidoo joined Greenpeace in 2009. He had been persuaded by his daughter Naomi to take on the role. Greenpeace's commitment to direct action and civil disobedience was what attracted Naidoo to the organisation. Naidoo saw his role as the executive director of Greenpeace as that of an alliance builder and an agent of change. Importantly, Naidoo saw the intricate connections between environmental justice, women's and human rights as being interconnected, occasionally bringing him much criticism from Western-born environmentalists who tended and tend to see environmentalism as a discrete cause.[24][25]

Naidoo has been actively involved in acts of peaceful civil-disobedience in the Arctic Ocean region against Shell and Gazprom's plan to drill in the Arctic's melting ice. In August 2012, Naidoo along with a group of Greenpeace volunteers occupied Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Pechora Sea for 15 hours, for the second time in the Arctic.[26] A year before, in June 2011, Naidoo 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.[27]

He has been a vocal critic of the failure of bodies like the World Economic Forum,[28] 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.[29] During the World Economic Forum in 2013, while Kumi Naidoo was rubbing shoulders with the world's wealthiest elites,[30] 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.[31] 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.[32]

In 2015 Naidoo announced that he would be leaving the post of International Executive Director in the middle of his second term.[33] Announcing his departure from the role of IED he said; "When I leave, I am looking forward to taking up an even more important role with Greenpeace: as a volunteer."[34] Naidoo returned to South Africa to focus his work on energy justice. Naidoo's resignation came shortly after it emerged that the organization suffers a budgetary crisis. In 2014 a leaked document indicated that a staffer had lost £3m in donor money on the foreign exchange market by betting mistakenly on a weak euro while Greenpeace's financial department faced a series of other various problems due to mismanagement.[35] The further documentation showed that this was only one example of how the organization was not managing its finances well and neglecting its reputation. It was also revealed that Greenpeace International's program director Pascal Husting was regularly commuting by plane between his home in Luxembourg to the organization's offices in Amsterdam. A letter from 40 Greenpeace Netherlands staff called on Husting to resign. Greenpeace International staff shortly joined their colleagues demanding that Executive Director Kumi Naidoo should resign as well.[36]

The Amnesty International Period[edit]

On 21 December 2017, Amnesty International appointed Kumi Naidoo as its next Secretary-General. In August 2018 Kumi succeed Salil Shetty, who served two terms in Amnesty International as the Secretary-General from 2010. The Secretary General is the leader and main spokesperson for Amnesty International and the Chief Executive of its International Secretariat. Kumi started his role at Amnesty with an opening session from Africa.[37]

In 2019 Amnesty International admitted to a hole in its budget of about £17m in donor money to the end of 2020. In order to deal with the budgetary crisis Kumi Naidoo announced to staff that the organization's headquarters would cut almost 100 jobs as a part of urgent restructuring. Unite the Union, the UK's biggest trade union, said the redundancies were a direct result of "overspending by the organisation’s senior leadership team" and have occurred "despite an increase in income".[38]

The crisis at Amnesty International became public in 2018 when Gaëtan Mootoo, 65, a researcher of three decades, died by suicide at Amnesty's Paris office, leaving a note blaming work pressures and a lack of support from management. A review found Mootoo's pleas for help had been ignored.[39] According to Mootoo's former collaborator, Salvatore Saguès, "Gaëtan’s case is merely the tip of the iceberg at Amnesty. A huge amount of suffering is caused to employees. Since the days of Salil Shetty, when top management were being paid fabulous salaries, Amnesty has become a multinational where the staff are seen as dispensable. Human resources management is a disaster and nobody is prepared to stand up and be counted. The level of impunity granted to Amnesty’s bosses is simply unacceptable."[40] After none of Amnesty's managers were held accountable for the poor working conditions and systematic misspending by Amnesty international secretariat, a group of workers petitioned for Naidoo's resignation. On 5 December 2019 Naidoo resigned from Amnesty International citing ill health. Naidoo said, "Now more than ever, the organisation needs a secretary general who is fighting fit and can see through its mandate with vitality that this role, this institution, and the mission of universal human rights deserve.".[41]

Current Period[edit]

In May 2016, Naidoo became the Founding Chair of Africans Rising, a Pan-African movement of people and organisations, working for justice, peace and dignity. The organization play a critical role on the continent pushing governments, business, and even established global and national NGOs to focus on challenges African’s deem critical, including demands for a fair global trading system, concrete action to address the effects of climate change and the creation and strengthening of a representative coalition to protect our natural resources and the environment.[42] Naidoo continues to serve Africans Rising in a non-executive role capacity with the official title of Global Ambassador.

In July 2021, Kumi Naidoo was awarded the prestigious Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow[43] at the Robert Bosch Academy, in Berlin. Naidoo used the time at the Robert Bosch Academy to develop his work on 'artivism' and continues his collaboration with Icelandic–Danish artist, Olafur Eliasson. Together, they presented a film[44] at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop26) in Glasgow, on how the worlds of art and activism can help each other curb the climate crisis. Concurrently with the period spent in Berlin at the Robert Bosch Academy, Naidoo hosted a new podcast for the Green Economy Coalition, 'that tackles some of the biggest issues of our time[45].' Titled, Power, People & Planet[46] with Kumi Naidoo, the first series included frank conversations with some of biggest names in modern thinking and science. A second season of Power, People & Planet has been announced[47] that will look at the future of activism.

In November 2022, Naidoo released the first instalment of his memoirs. Titled, Letters to My Mother: The Making of a Troublemaker [48] the book tells how his mother’s suicide when he was just 15 years old acted as a catalyst for his journey into radical action against the apartheid regime.[49] Letters to My Mother: The Making of a Troublemaker, is Naidoo's second book. His first, titled Boiling Point: Can Citizen Action Save the World?[50] looked at the urgency of the climate crisis and Naidoo's reflections on how we need to unite as humanity to face this challenge.

Kumi Naidoo's current roles as at December 2022 include:

  • Professor of Practice,[51] Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University
  • Senior Advisor[52] for the Community Arts Network (CAN)
  • Special Advisor[53] to the Green Economy Coalition
  • Honorary Fellow,[54] Magdalen College and a Visiting Fellow, Oxford University

Honours and awards[edit]

Kumi Naidoo has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by:

  • The University of South Australia (2019)[55]
  • University of Johannesburg in 2019[56]
  • Durban University of Technology in 2017[57]
  • Nelson Mandela University in 2012
  • The James Lawson Award for peaceful activism in (2014)[58]
  • Kumi was selected as one of the 21 ICONS South Africa: Honouring the legacy of Nelson Mandela (2013)[59]

Selected List of Audio-Visual statements[edit]

A selected list of recordings detailing some of the key periods of Kumi Naidoo's global civil society career.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Greenpeace - GPI Executive Director Kumi Naidoo". media.greenpeace.org. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  2. ^ ""Bigger, bolder and more inclusive": Kumi Naidoo sets out his vision for human rights". Amnesty International. 16 August 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  3. ^ "About CIVICUS". CIVICUS Global Alliance. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  4. ^ Naidoo, Kumi (1992). "The Politics of Youth Resistance in the 1980s: The Dilemmas of a Differentiated Durban". Journal of Southern African Studies. 18 (1): 143–165. doi:10.1080/03057079208708309. ISSN 0305-7070. JSTOR 2637185.
  5. ^ "CHAPTER FOUR: The Revival Of Alliance Politics, 1982-1984 by Kumi Naidoo | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  6. ^ "Letters to My Mother: The Making of a Troublemaker – Kumi Naidoo". www.polity.org.za. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  7. ^ "'Once you've read this book you will never be the same again' – Letters to My Mother: The Making of a Troublemaker by Kumi Naidoo". The Reading List. 5 October 2022. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  8. ^ "Africans are rising – we are going to build a different kind of future | Kumi Naidoo". the Guardian. 26 March 2017. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  9. ^ "Introduced: Kumi Naidoo". Robert Bosch Academy. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  10. ^ "Fossil Free University". www.fossilfreeuniversity.org. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  11. ^ "GEC at the SDG Festival of Global Action". Green Economy Coalition. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  12. ^ "Kumi Naidoo". Magdalen College. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  13. ^ "Durban Living Legend – Kumi Naidoo". Ulwazi Programme, Durban Public Library. Archived from the original on 16 April 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  14. ^ "Home | African National Congress". anc1912.org.za. Archived from the original on 6 August 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  15. ^ "IEC Home - Electoral Commission of South Africa". elections.org.za. Archived from the original on 28 July 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  16. ^ "SANGOCO | Umbrella body of NGO's". 8 September 2013. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  17. ^ "Kumi Naidoo | Oxford Today". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  18. ^ Greenpeace's Shard ascent Archived 20 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Greenpeace Blog. (18 July 2013). Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  19. ^ Manishka (19 February 2021). "Sanitation and Water for All Announces New Global Leadership Council". Sanitation and Water for All (SWA). Archived from the original on 8 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  20. ^ "International Council - The Organisation". Transparency.org. Archived from the original on 8 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  21. ^ "Dr. Kumi Naidoo - Yale Law School". law.yale.edu. Archived from the original on 8 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  22. ^ Tcktcktck.org Partners A-Z List Archived 17 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  23. ^ Leadership Council Archived 3 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine EarthRights International.
  24. ^ History teaches us... Archived 14 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian. (30 November 2009). Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  25. ^ "Africa 360 - Kumi Naidoo exclusive | eNCA". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  26. ^ Cold hands, determined hearts Archived 8 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Greenpeace Blog. (28 August 2012). Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  27. ^ Greenpeace's Naidoo freed, then deported Archived 23 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Times LIVE. (21 June 2011) Retrieved on 5 January 2012.
  28. ^ WEF 'Unlike' – Davos-bound Archived 8 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Huffington Post. (21 January 2013). Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  29. ^ Interview: Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace Archived 14 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Guardian Sustainable Businesses.(15 February 2013). Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  30. ^ Kumi Naidoo at the WEF 2013 in Davos Archived 29 March 2019 at the Wayback Machine. Reuters. (25 January 2013) Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  31. ^ Shell fuel station shutdown in Davos, Switzerland Archived 20 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Greenpeace Blog. (25 January 2013). Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  32. ^ Climate change: tears in the desert Archived 27 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Business Day LIVE. (20 December 2012). Retrieved on 10 September 2013.
  33. ^ Streep, Abe (1 April 2015). "Why Kumi Naidoo Is Stepping Down from Greenpeace". Outside Online. Archived from the original on 2 September 2018. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  34. ^ "Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey". Greenpeace International. Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  35. ^ Greenpeace losses: leaked documents reveal extent of financial disarray Archived 15 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 23 June 2014
  36. ^ Greenpeace staffers call for resignation of top leaders Archived 20 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Humanosphere, 31 July 2014
  37. ^ "New Secretary General Kumi Naidoo pledges support for African human rights defenders to hold the powerful to account". amnesty.org. August 2018. Archived from the original on 18 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  38. ^ Amnesty International to make almost 100 staff redundant Archived 20 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 9 June 2019
  39. ^ Amnesty International has toxic working culture, report finds Archived 5 September 2019 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 6 February 2019
  40. ^ Can Amnesty recover from this tragic death? Archived 24 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine, RFI, 26 May 2019
  41. ^ Kantaria, Priya (6 December 2019). "Amnesty International's secretary general Kumi Naidoo steps down". Civil Society News. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  42. ^ "Africans rising, About us". Africans Rising.
  43. ^ "Introduced: Kumi Naidoo". Robert Bosch Academy. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  44. ^ "'The numbers no longer add up': artist Olafur Eliasson calls for solidarity as Cop26 kicks off". The Art Newspaper - International art news and events. 1 November 2021. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  45. ^ "Power, People & Planet with Kumi Naidoo". Green Economy Coalition. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  46. ^ "Podcast | Power People & Planet, with Kumi Naidoo". Power People Planet. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  47. ^ "Podcast | Power People & Planet, with Kumi Naidoo". Power People Planet. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  48. ^ "Letters to My Mother: The Making of a Troublemaker". Jacana. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  49. ^ "Letters to My Mother: The Making of a Troublemaker – Kumi Naidoo". www.polity.org.za. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  50. ^ Naidoo, Kumi (2010). Boiling Point: Can Citizen Action Save the World?. Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. ISBN 978-91-85214-57-0.
  51. ^ "Kumaran Shunmugam NAIDOO | Thunderbird School of Global Management". thunderbird.asu.edu. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  52. ^ Activist, Kumi Naidoo becomes Community Arts Network Ambassador, retrieved 15 December 2022
  53. ^ "GEC at the SDG Festival of Global Action". Green Economy Coalition. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  54. ^ "Kumi Naidoo". Magdalen College. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  55. ^ "UniSA celebrates activist and advocate for justice - Amnesty leader, Dr Kumi Naidoo awarded Honorary Doctorate". Home. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  56. ^ "News & Events - Honorary doctoral degree for activist Kumi Naidoo". uj.ac.za. Archived from the original on 11 July 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  57. ^ "DUT HONORARY DOCTORATE FOR Dr Kumi Naidoo". Durban University of Technology. 7 September 2017. Archived from the original on 11 April 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  58. ^ Naidoo, Kumi [@kuminaidoo] (20 June 2014). "Honoured to have received the James Lawson Award for peaceful activism from the man himself grnpc.org/Ig0Ng" (Tweet). Retrieved 3 June 2020 – via Twitter.
  59. ^ '21 Icons' Video Profile of Kumi Naidoo, archived from the original on 9 July 2021, retrieved 3 June 2020
  60. ^ "Kumi Naidoo: The United States: Friend or Foe of Global Justice? - Yale Law School". law.yale.edu. Archived from the original on 8 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.

External links[edit]