African human rights activist, Kumi Naidoo, takes over as Greenpeace International executive director

Press release - 16 November, 2009
On becoming Greenpeace International Executive Director, prominent human rights activist Dr. Kumi Naidoo today warned world leaders that there can be no excuse for not attending the upcoming UN Copenhagen Climate Summit and agreeing a fair, ambitious and binding treaty to save the climate.

"The Copenhagen Summit offers the single greatest opportunity for leaders to come together and create a legally binding agreement to avert climate chaos. Our leaders need to find the courage to do what is right instead of what is comfortable. They need to become the leaders we elected them to be by acting to save the climate. They must avert the threat of mass migration, mass starvation and mass extinction all of which will be inevitable if climate

change goes unchecked."

"They must seize this opportunity with both hands, and choose to set aside their petty differences and short term political self interest. They must embrace the common goal of averting climate chaos which means placing the world on a more sustainable and equitable pathway. Today, they have a choice to agree to work together for a green and peaceful future or instead to squander the opportunity and place the fate of hundreds of millions of people in danger."

Naidoo became involved in South Africa's liberation struggle at the age of 15 when he played a leadership role in a national student protest against the apartheid education system. Arrests and police harassment forced him into exile, during which time he was an Oxford Rhodes Scholar, earning a doctorate in political sociology.

After returning to South Africa he took up work with civil society. From 1998 to 2008, he was Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of Johannesburg-based Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which is dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. In 2003, he was appointed by the United Nations' former Secretary General to the Eminent Persons Panel on UN Civil Society Relations.

He was one of the founders of Global Call to Action Against Poverty, in 2005, and is now Co-Chair. The alliance has grown into a coalition of anti-poverty campaigners from over 100 countries engaging the public to maintain pressure on leaders to fulfill their promises on aid, trade, debt, climate change and gender equality.

Currently Chair of the Global Campaign for Climate Action, of which Greenpeace is a member, he will continue to in this voluntary role, generating civil society pressure and cooperation to demand a strong deal at the Copenhagen Climate Summit

"The struggles to stop environmental destruction and fight poverty are inextricably linked: without ensuring that natural resources and biodiversity are protected from over-exploitation, people will get poorer and development will be unsustainable," he said.

"I have long been an admirer of the work of Greenpeace, from my days as a young anti-apartheid activist in South Africa and currently as a member of the Greenpeace Africa Board. The way Greenpeace works on all levels -- from confrontation to cooperation with governments and corporations - is an inspiration. The mix of pragmatism and passion really gets things done and effects real change in the world. I believe that Greenpeace is one of the most precious assets the global community possesses, and plays a critical part in reversing the current fatal trajectory of our planet," concluded Naidoo.

Other contacts: Dietlind Lerner, Greenpeace International Communications, +31 646 16 20 26New Media:- Read Kumi's blog at You can follow Kumi on Twitter: Watch a short intro film with Kumi: if you'd like to run on your website)

VVPR info: For background video footage, footage from the Johannesburg press conference and a Kumi Naidoo introduction video please contact / +31 634738790.Nick Cobbing, Greenpeace International Pictures Desk+44 (0) 797 364 2103