Kumi Nadoo is the new Executive Director of environmental action group Greenpeace. Until last year he served for 10 years as the General Secretary of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
Naidoo grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He strongly believes his environment influenced his career as an activist.
“I was defiantly the product of the society I was born in, which was apartheid South Africa… I do think that many of us who might have exceptional or out-of-the-ordinary backgrounds are not because we ourselves are exceptional people but because we were born in context of adversity and been able to somehow rise above that adversity,” he told CNN.
During the 1980s Naidoo was arrested several times for civil disobedience. In 1987 he moved to the United Kindgom and earned a doctorate in political sociology at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
Kumi returned to South Africa in 1990 after Nelson Mandela was released from prison and worked with a number of civil society NGOs. In 2005 he worked on his first high profile campaign, Make Poverty History. The campaign gained a number of celebrity supporters and widespread coverage.
As the head of Greenpeace, Naidoo is using his skills as an activist to move issues from the fringes to mainstream.
“Another feature of activism is being able to choose the right tools and tactics for the right moment….If you can win through dialogue and engagement then that’s great but sadly those with power in both government and business do not have the propensity to do the right thing unless they are pushed and that’s why you have to have tools like non-violent direct action,” said Naidoo.
“I feel that right now we are all at risk and being severely judged by future generation,” he told CNN.