Shami turned Liberty into an effective campaigning organisation, leading debate on civil rights from ID cards to surveillance. The Sun once dubbed her ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain.’ In presentations Shami weighs up the balance between privacy and security – for government, business and individuals. While privacy cannot be an absolute in the context of national security, as every brand is based on trust it makes sense to see it as a top priority.
Shami Chakrabarti served as Director of Liberty for more than a decade. In that time she has led many high-profile campaigns, changed the face of Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties), and oversaw the organisation’s involvement in the defence and promotion of human rights in Parliament and wider society. She now serves as Shadow Attorney General in the Labour Shadow Cabinet.
After training as a lawyer and serving as a barrister, Shami joined the Home Office where she worked for five years before joining Liberty as their in-house counsel. The organisation was at the time a small, charitable organisation more given to providing legal support for those whose rights may have been infringed than to campaigning.
Shami joined Liberty the day before the 9/11 attacks and much of her and the organisation’s work would thereafter be defined by those events. Under her leadership Liberty took on government, media and public opinion, fighting for human rights and civil liberties and attacking proposed legislation on ID cards, detention without charge and surveillance.
Established in 1934, Liberty has worked on everything from the Hunger Marches to counter-terrorism legislation and asylum issues. Shami helped advance the organisation in profile and professionalism, making them a formidable and respected force in lobbying and public debate. She changed its culture, developed a greater collaborative ethos, and became an indomitable advocate for rights and liberties, frequently facing personal criticism by the press and politicians. As her and Liberty’s profile rose, they became an important counter to much of the extreme, knee-jerk reaction to threats both real and imagined.
As well as addressing the continued importance of civil liberties and human rights, Shami also considers the importance of balancing security, privacy and freedom. She looks at the way public and commercial organisations view information and how legislation and technology are changing things. She also examines the lessons in leadership, working with government, and campaigning her time at Liberty taught, as well as reflecting on life as ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’ (according to the Sun).
Shami carried one of the eight white Olympic flags at the London 2012 opening ceremony, alongside Doreen Lawrence and Nobel peace prize winner Leyma Gbowee. She was a panel member of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking and has written a personal examination of rights and liberties, On Liberty.
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