Interview – Kumi Naidoo: A new leader for CIVICUS

Following a seven-month global search, Kumi Naidoo has been named Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. He will take up the post at the beginning of October.

Kumi Naidoo comes to CIVICUS from his position as founding Executive Director of the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), the umbrella agency for the NGO community in South Africa. Prior to that he had held several other leadership positions in the NGO sector. He was active in the anti-apartheid movement from the age of 15.

‘The fact that Kumi comes from South Africa carries great symbolism for CIVICUS. Eastern/Central Europe and Southern Africa are two regions where civil society has made an incredible impact in recent history,’ said Miklós Marschall, Kumi’s predecessor and the organization’s first Executive Director.

Caroline Hartnell talked to Kumi Naidoo about his new appointment.    

CH  What do you hope to achieve as Director of CIVICUS?

KN  CIVICUS has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the promotion of a better world, a better humanity and a more active and creative global civil society.    I am humbled by being asked to lead CIVICUS at this point in its development. I would like to build on the good work done by Miklós, the other staff in the secretariat and the Board members and to expand the various programmes and activities. We will need to look at doubling the membership (currently 430) over the next four years. We must also look at promoting real relevant relationships between our members. I would like to see CIVICUS add real tangible value to the work of its members and to genuinely secure a more enabling environment for the non-profit sector globally.

With the right kind of strategic partnerships, courage, and perhaps a small measure of risk, CIVICUS hopefully will emerge as an important global resource that can make positive contributions to building greater social progress and coherence in the world.

CH What do you see as the greatest challenge facing you?

KN  The greatest challenge CIVICUS faces is to ensure that we can build an inclusive civil society movement which is able to throw its weight behind the critical challenges facing humanity – challenges which our membership feel require a global response, not simply a sectoral or country-specific one. We will potentially be exploring the question of a global civil society intervention around poverty eradication and perhaps adding our voice and resources to such urgent issues as violence against women and children or HIV/AIDs.

CH  How relevant do you feel your experience at SANGOCO is to your new position?

KN  My time at SANGOCO was a wonderful learning process and will be very instructive in my new position at CIVICUS. Much of what SANGOCO has done at a national level is what CIVICUS seeks to achieve at a global level. Our efforts include securing practical benefits for our members – for example discounts for goods and services NGOs consume – promoting dialogue within the NGO sector and with other sectors, and protecting and improving the legal environment in which NGOs operate.

CH What do you see as the greatest achievements of CIVICUS so far?

KN For a relatively young organization CIVICUS has done excellently to draw the quality of membership it has succeeded in doing; it has also done well to commit to the leadership a wide range of players in global civil society. Some of the publications CIVICUS has produced have been pioneering and have had a very positive impact. The dialogue between global civil society that has been promoted via the two world assemblies and regional meetings is also a positive achievement.

For further information about CIVICUS, contact Jo Render, Program Coordinator, CIVICUS, 919 18th Street NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20006, USA.
Tel +1 202 331 8518
Fax +1 202 331 8774

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