New Amnesty International chief calls on governments to respect rights of world’s most vulnerable people

Posted: July 2, 2010 in Updates

Salil Shetty is a renowned expert on poverty and human rights

© Amnesty International

1 July 2010

Salil Shetty, the new Secretary General of Amnesty International, on Thursday began his first full day in office by pledging to do all that he can to ensure governments respect the rights of the world’s most impoverished and vulnerable groups.

“I am deeply privileged to have this opportunity to lead the movement in its fight to end repression and injustice,” Salil Shetty said. “With traditional human rights challenges persisting and several new challenges confronting the world, the need for Amnesty International as a leading voice against human rights violations is greater than ever before.”

A renowned expert on poverty and human rights, Salil Shetty stressed the urgency of ensuring governments place human rights at the centre of efforts to eradicate poverty. World leaders are due to meet at the United Nations in New York this September to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals, the UN’s major global initiative to address poverty.

Salil Shetty praised the dedication of Amnesty International’s 2.8 million supporters from across the world that campaign to protect human rights.

“Wherever I have travelled Amnesty International is held in the highest regard for its powerful grassroots base, high quality of research and incisive and effective campaigning.” Salil Shetty said. “The solidarity and commitment of our supporters combined with the power of our analysis is a potent force in delivering change; as Amnesty has consistently shown over the decades.”

Outlining his priorities, Salil Shetty said he intended to build on Amnesty International’s core strengths. He highlighted the need to further campaigns that strengthen accountability and bring to justice those responsible for human rights abuses.

Other areas for action include renewed efforts to end unlawful detention; abolish the death penalty; end discrimination and to protect the rights of migrants.

The new Secretary General emphasised the indivisibility of all rights and said there was a need to find new ways of connecting more systematically economic, social and cultural rights with civil and political rights.

For the past six years Salil Shetty was Director of the United Nation’s Millennium Campaign, an anti-poverty campaign that calls for greater accountability from governments in the fight against hunger, disease and illiteracy. Through the Millennium Campaign, Shetty galvanised strong faith-based, civil society, media, private sector and local government support for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.


Salil Shetty joined Amnesty International as the organization’s eighth Secretary General in July 2010.

The Secretary General is the operational leader of the Amnesty International movement, acting as the movement’s chief political adviser and strategist, its chief spokesperson and the chief executive officer of the International Secretariat. As such the Secretary General is responsible for developing and coordinating Amnesty International’s strategies to promote and protect human rights, representing the movement to governments, inter-governmental and other organizations, the worlds media and the general public. The Secretary General is appointed by and reports to the International Executive Committee.

Salil Shetty is a renowned expert on human rights and poverty. Previously, Salil Shetty was the Director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign from 2003 to 2010. During his time at the United Nations, he played a pivotal role in building the global advocacy campaign for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals – eight goals to fight poverty, illiteracy and disease, agreed at the UN in September 2000, with specific targets to be achieved by 2015.

Through the Millennium Campaign, Salil Shetty was able to galvanise strong faith-based, civil society, media, private sector and local government support for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Under his stewardship, the Millennium Campaign succeeded in making governments of developing countries and donors more accountable for meeting their commitments to the Millennium Development Goals. Salil Shetty was instrumental in the formation of the ‘Global Call to Action Against Poverty’ and in leading the ‘Stand Up Against Poverty’ initiative on 17 October 2009, which mobilsed over 173 million people across the world.

Prior to joining the U.N., Salil Shetty was the Chief Executive of ActionAid, an international development NGO. As Chief Executive, from 1998 to 2003, Salil Shetty led the transformation of ActionAid into a leading global campaigning and advocacy NGO. He rose to the position of Chief Executive after 10 years as director of ActionAid India in Bangalore and then 3 years as Director of ActionAid Kenya in Nairobi.

By the time he left, ActionAid had become the third largest international development NGO in the UK and among the foremost poverty-focused NGOs in the world.

Salil Shetty first became involved in campaigning for human rights when growing up in Bangalore, India. With his mother active with women’s groups and his father with the Dalit* movement, his home became a hub for local and national activists. From his student days when a state of emergency was declared in 1976, Salil Shetty has been actively campaigning against the curtailment of human rights.
An Indian national, Salil Shetty earned a distinction in a Masters of Science in Social Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics and has a Masters in Business Administration from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.

Languages spoken:  English, Hindi, Kannada and Tulu.

[Tom’s note: ‘Dalit’ is a self-designation for a group of people in South Asia who face  many forms of discrimination. According to the Dalit Freedom Network: “The Dalits, also called the ‘untouchables,’ ‘outcastes,’ and most recently ‘slumdogs,’ comprise nearly one quarter of India’s society, with population estimates of 250 million people. The term ‘Dalit’ means ‘those who have been broken and ground down deliberately by those above them in the social hierarchy.’ Dalits live at risk of discrimination, dehumanization, violence, and enslavement through human trafficking every day. By all global research and reports, the Dalits constitute the largest number of people categorized as victims of modern-day slavery.” ]


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