The Secretary General's Global Council

The Secretary General's Global Council

The Secretary General's Global Council is a forum that brings together leaders in the arts, business and philanthropy to raise public support for Amnesty International campaigns and initiatives. Global Council members use their high public profiles and  draw on their professional expertise to promote the growth of the grassroots human rights movement around the world, dramatically increase Amnesty International membership and harness the power of new technologies to promote and protect human rights around the world.

The members of the Global Council are:


Amnesty International Secretary General

Follow@SalilShetty on Twitter.

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

A long-term activist on poverty and justice, Salil Shetty leads the movement's worldwide work to end human rights violations. Prior to joining Amnesty International, Salil Shetty was Director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign from 2003 to 2010. He played a pivotal role in building the global advocacy campaign for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. 

From 1998 to 2003, he was chief executive of ActionAid, and is credited with transforming the organization into one of the world’s foremost international development NGOs.

Salil Shetty studied at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and at the London School of Economics.


Honorary Co-chair

Since starting youth culture magazine “Student” at aged 16, Sir Richard Branson has found entrepreneurial ways to drive positive change in the world. In 2004 Richard established Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, which unites people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world. Most of his time is now spent building businesses that will make a positive difference in the world and working with Virgin Unite and organisations it has incubated, such as The Elders, The Carbon War Room, The B Team, Ocean Unite and Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. He also serves on the Global Commission on Drug Policy and supports ocean conservation with the Ocean Elders.

Conceived in 1970 by Richard, the Virgin Group has gone on to grow successful businesses in sectors including mobile telephony, travel and transportation, financial services, leisure and entertainment and health and wellness. Virgin is a leading international investment group and one of the world's most recognized and respected brands.


Paulo Coelho is considered one of the most influential authors in the world today. His books have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide; have been released in 170 countries and translated into over 80 languages.

Born in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1947, Paulo Coelho is the author of some of the most read titles of our time, such as The Pilgrimage or The Alchemist, the book which made him internationally famous. But also, Paulo Coelho has written many other books which have touched the hearts of people around the world, among them Brida, Veronika Decides to Die, Eleven Minutes, Aleph and Manuscript Found in Accra.

He has been a member of the Academy of Letters of Brazil since 2002 and a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2007. In 2009 he received the Guinness World Record for the most translated author for the same book (The Alchemist). He is also the most followed author on social media.


Tan Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes is best known for founding AirAsia, the first low-cost airline in Malaysia and helmed its expansion from a Malaysia-based domestic carrier to an airline group domiciled in 6 countries, serving over 120 destinations across 27 countries. 

Fernandes is also the co-founder of Tune Group, a leisure and entertainment corporation, that includes prepaid telecommunications company Tune Talk, value hotel chain Tune Hotels and insurance provider Tune Protect.

An accountant by training, Fernandes began his career in Richard Branson’s Virgin Group before returning to Malaysia as Warner Music Group’s Vice-President for Southeast Asia.

Fernandes donated 1 million ringgit to the 1Malaysia Medical Fund launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in December 2009. He also contributes his speaking fees to AirAsia Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AirAsia Group, as well as Red Heart Funds and the National Heart Institute of Malaysia. Additionally, he privately supports various charitable institutions.


Bassim Haidar is the Co-founder & CEO of Logistics company GMT Group, and Chairman & CEO of Channel IT Group, a telecommunications company based in Nigeria.

AMURT Nigeria, the charitable arm of GMT was set up in 2010 and provides relief to impoverished local communities. AMURT has focused its efforts to the areas of primary healthcare and maternal health as well as the provision of clean water and sanitation, which today remain among the top issues affecting the rural communities in Nigeria. Haidar also supports the Milken Institute, which is a non profit, nonpartisan think tank, aimed at increasing global prosperity by advancing collaborative solutions that widen access to capital, job opportunities and health improvement.

Bassim Haidar is particularly active in the areas of human rights empowerment, having witnessed and lived through appalling human rights violations during the civil war in Lebanon. The growing insurgent threat by Boko Haram in Nigeria has equally reinforced his commitment to aid those who have been deprived of their basic human rights. He is committed to support humanitarian objectives in Nigeria and in all other regions in need of aid. Being a human rights advocate, in 2015, Channel IT sponsored the Clinton Global Initiative at the four countries tour in Africa before a conference in Morocco to showcasing their foundation’s charitable work.


Hadeel Ibrahim is the founding Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was established in 2006 to support leadership and governance in Africa.

In addition to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Hadeel is a member of the Boards of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the Governing Board of the African Governance Institute (AGI) and the Co-Chair of the Museum for African Art in New York.

Hadeel is a member of the Advisory Boards of Africa 2.0 and MIT Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship, she is a co-opted member of the Royal African Society Council, a Member of the British Council Provocation Group, a Patron of Restless Development, a youth led development agency and is leading an anti-corruption review.


Judith Neilson is the founder of the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, Australia, which exhibits selected works from her renowned collection of Chinese contemporary art. That collection is testament to her belief in freedom of artistic expression; the free admission policy of White Rabbit, for which she provides all funding, reflects her equally strong belief that art is for everyone.

Growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa left Judith Neilson with a deep awareness of poverty and the plight of refugees. Those concerns led to her work with Anti-Slavery Australia, of which she is Patron, and her endowment of a Chair in Architecture at the University of New South Wales to develop innovative housing for people displaced by war and natural disasters.

She has deepened her commitment to scholarship with the endowment of the Judith Neilson Chair in Contemporary Art at the University of New South Wales, announced in February 2017. Judith Neilson’s charitable work and her contributions to the arts were recognized in 2016 by her appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia.


Yoko Ono is a pioneering Japanese artist, musician and peace activist, known for her work in avant-garde art, music and film-making and for her marriage to John Lennon. Ono brought feminism to the forefront in her music. She is also known for her philanthropic contributions to arts, peace and AIDS outreach programmes. She has most recently been involved in Gun Control and Anti-Fracking campaigns.

Ono has been an Amnesty International supporter for a number of years. In 2006 Ono donated the rights to John Lennon’s songs to Amnesty International for the “Instant Karma” benefit CD, which raised millions of dollars for AI’s work on Darfur. She is based in New York City.


Krishna Rao was, until recently, a partner in Goldman Sachs International, co-head of Global Equity Derivatives Trading and head of European Equity Volatility Trading with additional responsibility for the Global Credit Correlation business. He joined Goldman Sachs in 1998 on the Foreign Exchange (FX) Options desk in London. After playing key roles in Tokyo and New York, he was named managing director in 2003 and partner in 2006. Prior to joining the firm, Rao worked as a director at UBS, and previously was assistant vice president at Citibank. He earned a degree in electrical and electronic engineering from Imperial College in London in 1993.

Rao has supported important philanthropic initiatives in India focused on the rights of women and children. He currently lives in London.


The Global Council was initially established to help raise the public support and financial resources to fuel Amnesty International’s expansion in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

The goal of the Global Council is now to raise financial resources and support for projects connected to our Strategic Goals 2016-2019. These goals seek to address the rising inequality the world is facing, increasing movement of people within and across borders, ongoing crises and conflicts, unlawful actions by states in the name of public order and ending terrorism. Amnesty International is evolving within a context of continuing challenges for justice and human rights. 


To achieve Amnesty International's strategic goals, Global Council members are asked to serve as champions for Amnesty International within their own networks and help the Secretary General to identify and engage new human rights supporters. Council members do this in a variety of ways that are suited to their backgrounds, areas of expertise, and interests. Activities may include hosting an event for potential donors, promoting Amnesty International via traditional and new/social media outlets, and inviting potential supporters to meet the Secretary General.
Members are invited to attend one in-person meeting and one meeting via conference call per year. The meetings provide opportunities to educate and inspire Council members about Amnesty International’s strategic priorities, campaigns and impact, so that they can better serve as effective ambassadors for the organisation within their networks. Members serve a four year, renewable term.


The Global Council is made up of a small but diverse group of influential, well-connected individuals who are prominent in their fields, passionate about social justice and advancing human rights, and committed to supporting the major fundraising effort required to fuel Amnesty International’s expansion in the global South. 
Nominations for Council members can come from any source, but must be made to the Secretary General and the International Fundraising Programme. The Secretary General, in consultation with the Council chair, will have sole discretion to appoint members of the Council. Participation in the Global Council is by invitation of the Secretary General.


No. The Global Council has no role in Amnesty International’s governance or in determining Amnesty International policy.