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Salil Shetty: Another Indian at the top

Salil Shetty, an Indian national, has been appointed to be Amnesty International’s next Secretary General. He will assume charge from Irene Khan in June 2010. Mr Shetty has earlier worked with United Nations’ Millennium Campaign and ActionAid.

He joined ActionAid - a leading international development NGO - in 1985 and played a leading role in more than 30 programmes in Africa, Asia and across other regions, and made an exceptional contribution to its growth and development. Here he worked initially in field programmes in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and later in the fundraising and advocacy programmes in Europe and the USA.

As Chief Executive of ActionAid, he played a key role in reorienting the organization’s focus on advocacy at the grassroots and policy-making levels. Under his leadership ActionAid reached 9 million of the world’s poor in 2003, with support from 2,000 civil society partners worldwide.

In October 2003, he joined the United Nations as Director of the Millennium Campaign after two decades of experience and reputation as a recognized civil society leader. There he played a pivotal role in building up the global advocacy campaign for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in over 50 countries. This powerful anti-poverty campaign is a unique global partnership of the UN with NGOs, trade unions, faith groups, local authorities and the media, calling for greater accountability from governments in the fight against hunger, disease and illiteracy.

Mr. Shetty serves on the boards of The Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, and The Overseas Development Institute, London, an Italian-based international non-governmental organization (Azione Aiuto), and is a member of the Advisory Council of the American-Indian Foundation, New York. He also serves on the Global Leadership Council of the Technology Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. Mr. Shetty was also a representative for the Joint Facilitation Committee for Civil Society and the World Bank.

He has earned a distinction in Master of Science in social policy and planning from the London School of Economics and a Master’s in business administration from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. He studied advanced accounting and cost accounting during graduation at Bangalore University.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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