Amnesty’s first ever South African Secretary General sets out his vision for the direction of the world’s largest human rights organisation
Activist Kumi Naidoo says the human rights movement needs to be bigger, bolder and more inclusive if it is to tackle the challenges that people face today.
Amnesty International has repeatedly warned that this is one the most divisive times in modern history, with prominent leaders offering a nightmarish vision of society blinded by hatred and fear.
Only if we come together under the common values that unite us, like human rights, can we overcome this adversity, feels Kumi as he takes charge as the Secretary General of Amnesty International.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end abuses of human rights.
“I want young people to know especially 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.”
Stating that the patterns of oppression that people are living through are interconnected, Kumi feels the 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.
“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 says.
According to Kumi, 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.
“I want to build a human rights movement that is more inclusive. We need to redefine what it means to be a human rights champion. An activist can come from all walks of life – a trade union, school, faith group, government or indeed business.”
Kumi Naidoo is a life-long social justice campaigner hailing from South Africa. Born in Durban in 1965, Kumi’s first taste of activism came at age 15 when he organised and took part in an anti-apartheid protest that saw him expelled from his school.
Kumi Naidoo succeeds Salil Shetty, who served two terms as Secretary General from 2010.