Kumi Naidoo became Greenpeace International executive director on Nov.15, 2009.
Kumi Naidoo has worked closely with Greenpeace for a number of years. He was involved in the development of Greenpeace’s work in Africa and became a board member of Greenpeace Africa when it opened offices in Johannesburg and Kinshasa in 2008. More recently, he served as Chair of the civil society alliance ‘Global Campaign for Climate Action’ (GCCA), of which Greenpeace was a founding member.
Born in South Africa, Kumi became involved in the country’s liberation struggle at the age of 15. As a result of his anti-apartheid activities, he was expelled from high school. He was very involved in neighbourhood organisation, youth work in his community, and mass mobilisations against the apartheid regime. In 1986, Kumi was arrested and charged for violating the state of emergency regulations. He went underground for one year before finally deciding to live in exile in England. During this time he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and earned a doctorate in political sociology.
After Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, Kumi returned to South Africa to work on the legalisation of the African National Congress. During the democratic elections in 1994 he was the official spokesperson of the Independent Electoral Commission and directed the training of all electoral staff in the country.
Kumi became the founding executive director of the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), an umbrella agency for the South African NGO community. Moved by the fact that South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women, Kumi organised the National Men's March Against Violence on Women and Children in 1997.
From 1998 to 2008, Kumi was the secretary general and CEO of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which is dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. He was also the founding chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and also served as a board member of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development. In 2003 Kumi was appointed by the former Secretary General of the United Nations to the Eminent Persons Panel on UN Civil Society Relations.