South African human rights activist, Kumi Naidoo has been appointed the first Director of the Africa Civil Society Centre, a dynamic and robust space where progressive African civil society leaders engaged in various civic struggles can convene.
According to a statement issued by ActionAid, the new centre, co-founded by ActionAid and the global civil society alliance CIVICUS, is “to promote and strengthen the effectiveness of African solidarity and integration, bringing together networks to build trust and cooperation amongst civil society leaders for reflection and experience sharing in pursuit of eradicating poverty and injustice.”
The centre will be based at the Training Centre for Development Cooperation at Usa River, Arusha in Tanzania and will be launched with a major conference in May 2016.
Establishment of the centre follows a workshop convened by ActionAid and CIVICUS in October 2015, to discuss the establishment of a dynamic and robust space where progressive African Civil Society leaders can convene.
Kumi Naidoo has a long history of activism and leadership for international organisations including Greenpeace, CIVICUS and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. Kumi was also active in the struggle against apartheid in his native South Africa and a Rhodes Scholar.
He was quoted as saying: “This new centre is inspired by a vision of a democratic, equitable, sustainable and transformative change in Africa in which popular struggles against poverty and injustice shift the balance of power and attain respect for human rights for all. It is a vision that I am committed to helping achieve.”
Adriano Campolina, Chief Executive of ActionAid International, said: “ActionAid is delighted to be one of the founding partners in this new initiative and that Kumi Naidoo has agreed to be its first director. He brings huge experience as an activist, leader and human rights advocate and will inspire the centre to help us increase our work together in solidarity, sharing our experiences as African civil society to mobilise and organise our civic struggles.”
Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS, said: “CIVICUS is a founding partner of the centre because we see civil society in Africa experiencing closing civic space, erosion of women’s rights and increasing inequality. The threat to civil society is huge – in 2014 my colleagues at CIVICUS tracked serious threats to civic freedoms in 96 countries around the world, 37 of them in Africa.
“At the same time we are also experiencing an increase in popular citizens’ action and support for democratic reforms, human rights and income and wealth redistribution.”
“We believe the centre under the leadership of Kumi Naidoo can help civil society mobilise and shape development agendas in Africa and internationally.”
By Emmanuel Odonkor