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Kumi Naidoo named as director of new Africa Civil Society Centre

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
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An alliance of civil society groups across Africa has come together to launch the Africa Civil Society Centre, a dynamic and robust space where progressive African civil society leaders engaged in various civic struggles can convene.

The new centre aims to promote and strengthen the effectiveness of Africa 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 founding partners of the centre, ActionAid and CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, are delighted to announce that the first director of the centre will be the internationally respected civil society leader Kumi Naidoo.

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.

Kumi Naidoo said: “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.”

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. In October, 2015 ActionAid and CIVICUS convened a group of African civil society representatives convened in Tanzania to discuss establishing a dynamic and robust space where progressive African Civil Society leaders engaged in various civic struggles can convene – the Africa Civil Society Centre.

Participants at the workshop included: African Trade Union Congress; African Council of Religious Leaders; Pan African Climate Justice Alliance; SADC Council of NGOs – represented by their member, Tanzania NGO Forum (TANGO); Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) and the West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF).

The participants of the meeting agreed to constitute themselves into a provisional working group to take forward the ideas generated at the meeting and mobilise further interest among progressive civil society leaders in Africa, including trade unions and social movements, behind the initiative.

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