Human rights defender and poet Ketty Nivyabandi appointed Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada

Lana Verran, Chair of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International Canada (English Branch) today announced the appointment of Burundian human rights defender and poet Ketty Nivyabandi as the branch’s next Secretary General.  Ketty has resided in Canada since 2015 and holds refugee status in the country.  She succeeds Alex Neve, who is stepping down after more than twenty years in the role.

“At such a challenging time for human rights across Canada and around the world, but also tremendous openings for advancing real change, we are excited and honoured that Ketty Nivyabandi will be our next Secretary General,” said Lana Verran. “Her dynamism, conviction and experience offer precisely the inspiring leadership we need at this time.”

Formerly holding the role of Advocacy and Research Manager at Nobel Women’s Initiative and having previously worked as a journalist in Burundi, Ketty has been a passionate defender of human rights throughout her life, driven by a commitment to grassroots movements, advocacy and the inherent power of people working for change. Prior to seeking asylum in Canada, she faced police violence as a leading organizer of women’s peaceful protests for democratic change in her country.

A compelling public speaker, Ketty is frequently called upon as a keynote speaker and moderator, addressing women’s human rights, the situation in Burundi and other pressing human rights concerns at various advocacy events such as the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, at McGill University’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, and the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

“I am honoured to be appointed Amnesty International Canada’s next Secretary General.  It is a privilege to lead Amnesty’s work at this important juncture for human rights,” Ketty Nivyabandi said.  “Amnesty’s mission reflects the values I have always stood for and I am eager to join the world’s largest people-driven movement for human rights.”

In keeping with Amnesty’s rich legacy of advocacy and research Ketty has supported global women activist movements (in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Cameroon, South Sudan) to shape public policy in her previous capacity at the Nobel Women’s Initiative.  She has led research and advocacy on massive human rights atrocities against the Rohingya and the threats faced by women human rights defenders in the Middle East. And as a global advocacy leader on human rights abuses in Burundi, Ketty has supported numerous local activists to reach safety including by leading successful digital campaigns for the release of detainees.

Having developed strategies to improve staff well-being and reform organizational culture, Ketty will work collaboratively with Jayne Stoyles, Executive Director, under our co-leadership model.   As Jayne Stoyles expressed, “I am very excited to be welcoming Ketty. The work of AI Canada’s members and partners, and of our Amnesty colleagues around the world, will benefit greatly from her depth of experience as an advocate for human rights change, her passion as an activist and the warmth and humility Ketty exudes in her approach.”

Ketty will officially take up the role as Secretary General later this year, after a transition period with outgoing Secretary General Alex Neve.  “I am thrilled that someone of Ketty’s experience, talents and passion is the next Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada,” said Alex Neve, “I have had several opportunities to work with her over the past few years and have always been inspired by her insights, moved by her eloquence, and energized by her unwavering commitment to the very essence of universal human rights.  Ketty’s leadership comes at a crucial time of challenge, responsibility and opportunity for human rights change and transformation, both nationally and internationally. Amnesty International Canada could not be in more capable and caring hands going forward.”

“Human rights work is a critical as ever amid an ongoing pandemic, a divisive political climate, the urgent need to address systemic racism, the increasing human rights impact of the climate crisis and threats to democracy and the right to peaceful protest across the globe,” said Lana Verran. “We are confident that Ketty brings the energy and commitment needed for Amnesty International to be at the forefront of addressing these immense challenges, as we continue toward our goal of being a bigger, bolder and more inclusive human rights movement.”

Amnesty International Canada will host an exciting event around International Human Rights Day on December 10 with Ketty Nivyabandi and Alex Neve in conversation. This will also be an opportunity to wish Alex well and to welcome Ketty. Watch for more details. A tribute book is also being prepared for Alex, and you are invited to contribute messages and photos through Bonnie Harnden at until November 27.