Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Major piece by departing High Commissioner in the Economist

August 31, 2018

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who steps down on 1 September wrote a long and hard-hitting piece under the title “Grassroots leaders provide the best hope to a troubled world” in the Economist of 30 August 2018. Just some excerpts here, please read the whole thing:

If they are growing in number it is because (with exceptions) many other politicians are mediocre. They, too, are focused on their own image, the vanities associated with protocol and re-election. Too busy with themselves, or too afraid to stand up to the demagogues and for others, they seem to shelter in the safety of silence and shuffled papers. Only when they leave public office do some speak up, discovering their courage rather belatedly. Many come and go; no one really notices.

In consequence, too many summits and conferences held between states are tortured affairs that lack profundity but are full of jargon and tiresome clichés that are, in a word, meaningless. What is absent is a sincere will to work together, though all will claim—again, under the lights and on camera—that they are wholly committed to doing so. The systems for states to act collectively at higher levels in pursuit of solutions are decomposing. There are signs of it everywhere we care to look.

….

I believe it is only a matter of time, for example, before we see a Takfiri confrontation with Buddhist extremism in Asia. Where this is likely to occur, geographically, and who is likely to be involved, can already be surmised. The how and the when are, as always, indeterminate. It will depend on the outcome of regional presidential elections and how the situations in Cox’s Bazaar and Myanmar play out. The current signs are not encouraging. What is clear is that our systems for fixing this are broken.

When Myanmar inflicts enormous suffering on the Rohingya—burns them in their homes, cuts the throats of their children, rapes and terrorises, sends 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh in only three weeks—and the government pays no penalty for this—what are we saying to the perpetrators? Or to the victims? And to other potential perpetrators across the globe? Xi Jinping openly backs the government of Myanmar and, unusually for the US, given the extent of the horrors, President Trump did not even mention Rakhine when he addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2017. Strong evidence indicates the Burmese military and others may have committed acts of genocide. How much more cruel can humanity be, and how much chaos and pain are we fomenting?

….

And when multiple stress fractures already exist—the result of decades of mediocre leadership—all that’s required is a tripwire. To heal those fractures, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, we must think differently, think more about human rights, and do this with some urgency.

A fracture within society is often shorthand for human suffering or the existence of burning grievances. Before conflicts begin, suffering stems from three types of human rights violations. One is the denial of fundamental freedoms, such as of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly, creating a situation where life and fear of the state become inseparable. A second is the deprivation of basic services, such as legal and social protections or rights to education and healthcare, which often only confirms the hold of political elites over others. And third, feeding the first two, discrimination, structural and deep, propped up by racism, chauvinism and bigotry.

When multiple stress fractures already exist—the result of decades of mediocre leadership—all that’s required is a tripwire

…If we do not change course quickly, we will inevitably encounter an incident where that first domino is tipped—triggering a sequence of unstoppable events that will mark the end of our time on this tiny planet.   Can we swerve in time?   

My hope lies in a set of people not widely known internationally, but familiar to those in the human rights community. Unlike the self-promoters—the elected xenophobes and charlatans—these people do have courage. They have no state power to hide behind: instead, they step forward. They are the leaders of communities and social movements, big and small, who are willing to forfeit everything—including their lives—in defence of human rights. Their valour is unalloyed; it is selfless. There is no discretion or weakness here. They represent the best of us, and I have had the privilege of knowing some of them personally, while others are well known to my office. 

Suffering reflects a massive dereliction of the duty to serve, by those who exercise sovereignty on behalf of their people

This is what true leaders look like. Bertha Zuniga Caceres from Honduras, the young daughter of the murdered environmental activist, Bertha Caceres, who has bravely continued her mother’s struggle. Dr Sima Samar in Afghanistan, who leads the country’s independent human rights commission and is utterly fearless, even when threats to her personal safety abound. The same could be said of Senator Leila de Lima in the Philippines, who has now been arbitrarily imprisoned without trial for 18 months. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa from Burundi, a gentle yet principled soul, undeterred even after his son was murdered and he himself survived repeated attacks.

I have also been deeply impressed by the dignity and courage of Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an extraordinary human being by any measure. Likewise, I have been humbled by the determination of Angkhana Neelapaijit from Thailand, whose husband, a lawyer, disappeared in 2004 leaving her to become a most courageous activist, fighting against enforced disappearances. 

There are others too, from Bahrain for example: the Khawaja family, Nabeel Rajab, Maytham Al Salman and Ebtisam Al Sayegh, who have all have shown extraordinary courage in the face of considerable adversity. Hatoon Ajwad Al Fassi and Samar Badawi in Saudi Arabia: courageous leading voices for the rights of Saudi women, both currently in detention. Amal Fathy in Egypt and Radhya Al Mutawakel in Yemen are also two brave individuals who have put their own safety at risk as they have spoken out against injustice and on behalf of victims of human-rights violations. 

Likewise, Ludmila Popovici, an activist against torture in Moldova. In Poland, Barbara Nowacka has been active in organising protests against measures to pull back women’s rights. Sonia Viveros Padilla in Ecuador is fighting for the rights of people of African descent. Close by, in El Salvador, Karla Avelar, the courageous transgender activist, deserves high praise—as does the Peruvian Maxima Acuna, a well-known environmental human rights defender.   

I could continue. There are grassroots leaders of movements against discrimination and inequalities in every region.  These names are just a sample of the real store of moral courage and leadership that exists among us today.      

While some speak from an individual vantage point, fighting specific battles on behalf of their local communities, others lead broader social movements. World-wide, they are not coordinated. But what if they were? What would happen if all the movements supported each other, openly and actively?  

There are grassroots leaders of movements against discrimination and inequalities in every region…the real store of moral courage and leadership among us.

……What if this coordinated, focused, human-rights movement had the backing of business leaders? There are business leaders who are also real leaders, and who have thought seriously about human rights; people like Barbara Novick of Blackrock, Paul Polman of Unilever, Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Deepmind’s Mustafa Suleyman. This has never been done before; but if we did do it, it might just deliver a sort of shock therapy to those dangerous or useless politicians who now threaten humanity. Maybe, just maybe, it would be enough to stop the rot, so that when a fool tips that first domino or strikes the tripwire they hurt no one but themselves, and we can hope that the injury is only a slight one.  

I leave you with that thought. This is my parting note: one of courage and defiance, and a longing for the leadership of the just.

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https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/08/30/grassroots-leaders-provide-the-best-hope-to-a-troubled-world?

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See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/

Amnesty announces Kumi Naidoo as next Secretary General, effective August 2018

December 22, 2017

Amnesty International has appointed Kumi Naidoo as its next Secretary General. As from August 2018, Kumi will succeed Salil Shetty, who served two terms as Secretary General from 2010.

Mr Naidoo is an activist and civil society leader. His previous leadership roles include Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Chair of the Global Call for Climate Action, Founding Chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty and Secretary General and CEO of CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation. [see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumi_Naidoo]. Mr Naidoo currently chairs three start-up organisations in his home country South Africa: Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity; the Campaign for a Just Energy Future; and the Global Climate Finance Campaign.

Mwikali Muthiani, Chair of the Board of Amnesty, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Kumi as our new Secretary General. His vision and passion for a just and peaceful world make him an outstanding leader for our global movement, as we strengthen our resolve for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.

Mr Naidoo himself stated: “I have been an activist and campaigner all my life, so I am excited to be joining the world’s largest people movement for human rights at a time when we need to counter increasing attacks on basic freedoms and on civil society around the globe. This means adapting to a fluid fast-changing global environment with urgency, passion and with courage. ..Amnesty International’s campaigns for justice and equality today are more urgent than ever, and I am humbled and honoured to be leading the organisation in these challenging times.

Amnesty has a global presence including offices in more than 70 countries, 2,600 staff and seven million members, volunteers and supporters worldwide.

Salil Shetty will remain in office until July 2018. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/salil-shetty/]

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/12/kumi-naidoo-next-amnesty-international-secretary-general/

Sam Zarifi new SG of the International Commission of Jurists

November 4, 2016

 

Sam Zarifi has been appointed to serve as ICJ’s next Secretary General when the current Secretary-General retires next spring. Wilder Tayler will continue to work as SG until the end of March 2017 and Sam will begin in April 2017, although there will be some overlap to ensure a smooth transition in the Geneva based HQ.

Sam is a veteran of the human rights movement, with a most impressive array of experience and contacts, and has done phenomenal work as Director of the ICJ’s Asia and Pacific Regional Programme over the last four years. Prior to joining the ICJ Sam served as Amnesty International’s Director for Asia and the Pacific from 2008 to 2012. He was at Human Rights Watch from 2000, where he was Deputy Director of the Asia division. He was Senior Research Fellow at Erasmus University Rotterdam from 1997 to 2000, where he co-edited Liability of Multinational Corporations under International Law (Kluwer 2000) as well as several other publications on the subject. Sam was born and raised in Tehran, Iran and moved to the United States to complete his education. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and his Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School in 1993. After practicing as a corporate litigator for several years, he obtained an LL.M in Public International Law from New York University School of Law in 1997.

Source: ICJ Newsletter – November 2016

Another passionate plea by UN High Commissioner for better education and global leadership

February 6, 2015


High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein delivers his speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Credit: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum | Photo: Miriam Lomaskin

In an impressive speech on 5 February 2015 at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. – one week after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein emphasized that education devoid of a strong universal human rights component can be next to worthless, especially in a crisis. “What good was it to humanity that…eight out of 15 people who planned the Holocaust at Wannsee in 1942 held PhDs?” he asked. “In the years after the Holocaust, specific treaties were negotiated to cement into law obligations to protect human rights. Countries the world over accepted them – and now alas, all too frequently, they ignore them in practice.” While it has been 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz extermination camp, some of the processes used by the Nazis to carry out humanity’s largest organized destruction are being implemented again today by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), explained Mr. Zeid.

This logic is abundant around the world today: I torture because a war justifies it. I spy on my citizens because terrorism, repulsive as it is, requires it. I don’t want new immigrants, or I discriminate against minorities, because our communal identity or my way of life is being threatened as never before. I kill others, because others will kill me – and so it goes, on and on.

Since the world cannot afford “sinking into a state of paralyzing shock…the task is to strengthen our ethics, clarity, openness of thought, and moral courage,” calling for new battle lines to combat extremism – based on the struggle for minds.

Children need to learn what bigotry and chauvinism are…they need to learn that blind obedience can be exploited by authority figures for wicked ends. They should learn that they are not an exception because of where they were born, how they look, what passport they carry, or the social class, caste or creed of their parents; they should learn that no one is intrinsically superior to her or his fellow human beings,” said Mr. Zeid.

The world needs “profound and inspiring” leaders who fully observe human rights and humanitarian law and all the treaties drafted to end discrimination, poverty, war, “with no excuses.”

It is obvious, Mr. Zeid continued, that forceful reprisals against atrocities – including “the savage burning of my compatriot the pilot Mu’ath al Kassassbeh” by ISIL – have had limited impact. Leaders must adopt a “battle-line based on ideas,” to speak out against Takfiri ideology (when one believer apostasies another believer and condemns them as impure). The movement to end that dangerous ideology must be waged by Muslim leaders and Muslim countries, he said.

Just bombing them or choking off their financing has clearly not worked…for these groups have only proliferated and grown in strength,” he said. “The space for dissent in many countries is collapsing under the weight of either poorly-thought out, or indeed, exploitative, counter-terrorism strategies.”

Few crises erupt without warning, he continued. Extremist ideas and violence manifest from years of tyranny, inequalities, fear and bad governance. They build up over years – even decades – of human rights grievances and the denial of basic economic and social rights. He insisted that atrocities can be prevented and extremism curbed through better, human rights-based global leadership and a fundamental rethink of education. “Surely we now know, from bitter experience, that human rights are the only meaningful rampart against barbarity.”

United Nations News Centre – In Washington, UN rights chief says atrocities can be prevented through better global leadership.