Kumi addresses experts from the Indian development sector in Delhi
“The civil society found itself doing nothing when the banking sector collapsed. It was a lost opportunity for the international development sector. Now the world leaders have put a big band-aid to stem the current crisis,” said Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International. Naidoo, a passionate human rights campaigner, was speaking at a panel discussion organised by a coalition of Indian NGOs called the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) during his recent visit to Delhi.
Naidoo, who comes from Durban, has earlier headed the Johannesburg-based international NGO CIVICUS and has been an active member of the African National Congress. He has been speaking at the World Economic Forum and the G-20 meetings to impress upon the world’s most powerful political leaders to pay more attention to the deprived people. Words like growth and GDP mean little to Naidoo, who says: “The astronomical rise in fuel prices caused a rise in food prices which led to riots across the world. Though fuel prices have come down, food prices have not. More than 50,000 people die every year due to poverty.”
Talking about the food riots, Naidoo said: “When the riots took place in 2008 in South Africa, we turned against those African brothers who came from other countries. We forgot that there was a time during our struggle against apartheid when we had turned to those countries for help and other things.”
Pranjoy makes a point during the interaction with Kumi in DelhiNaidoo urged the Indian civil society to be proactive and said: “We cannot put the poverty crisis, environmental crisis and the financial crisis in different boxes. The various civil society organisations have to work together and support each other in their causes. We will have to organise a civil society beyond boundaries. If Europe can have its common currency, the Euro, why cannot Africa have an Afro?”
Rajesh Tandon from the Indian civil society organisation PRIA too was critical of the current global economic paradigm. He said: “Public revenues have gone up seven to eight times in India but corruption has gone up by 70-80 times. Maybe we were better off in times of low growth rates.” Talking about the emerging countries, Tandon said: “India in South Asia, Brazil in Latin America and South Africa in Africa have emerged in their regions. Their companies are working across the world but should we be championing the existing world order or should we be championing a new world order? So how do we raise the debate between these countries?”
Speaking on the changing role of civil society organisations, Prof. Neera Chandok from the Delhi University said: “The task of the civil society is to safeguard democracy and keep a watch on the government. In India we noticed that the government acts only when people go to the court. So, in the case of the right to education, food, work and information, where the NGOs went to the Supreme Court, the government has acted but it has not done anything over the right to health because nobody approached the court.”
Quoting the solidarity slogan of the South African anti-apartheid movement, “Injury to one is injury to all”, Naidoo pushed for unity and cohesion among diverse constituents of the global civil society. The session was moderated by noted journalist and activist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.