Kevin Watkins statement ahead of the International Development Committee

Like all of you, I am utterly appalled by the behaviour of some aid workers revealed over the past two weeks. That behaviour has betrayed the trust of the vulnerable people we are in business to serve, of the British people, and of our supporters, volunteers and staff.

Let me start by saying where I stand.

I have seen it argued that being in a stressful or dangerous situation somehow means different rules apply to you.

I disagree.

In our work there is only one moral standard: do as you would be done by.

Our mission is simple. Save lives, end poverty, bring relief in the darkest of times. It is the highest of callings – it must come with the highest of standards.

Over the year since I started as CEO, I have visited our humanitarian programmes in places like Somalia, Yemen, North-East Nigeria and, just a few weeks ago, Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.

We are working with women and children who have been uprooted, traumatised by violence, and impoverished. Mothers with malnourished children who do not know where their next meal is coming from. These are some of our world’s most vulnerable people.

Our job is to provide them with care and hope – and with the standard of protection their vulnerability demands.

What concerns me is not the scale of the media attacks charities are facing. Charities are not the victims here. There is only one groups of victims in this story: the people who have been placed in harm’s way.

We have put forward suggestions for correcting that failure.

These are practical measures which, if developed and applied with the urgency the current crisis demands, could help restore both standards of protection, and of trust.

Our primary responsibility as Save the Children is to the children we were created to serve. But I am fully aware of my responsibilities to all our staff, including those here in the UK.

My colleagues come to work every day to make a difference for children. They are passionate, committed and professional – and I will not allow them to be subjected to sexual harassment, bullying or a lack of respect.

That is why I shall be establishing an independent review not just of our rules and protocols, but of our culture. The review will consider whether our protocols have been properly applied in past cases, whether mistakes have been made, and how we can learn from those mistakes. And I commit now to making that review public.

In one case after another in our sector, and in institutions across our society and globally, there is one common theme in the incidents that have been reported: an abuse of power by men who exploit their position as gatekeepers to money, status, employment and, in the case of development agencies, aid. That abuse is overwhelmingly directed towards women and children and we need to stamp it out now.

The events of the last two weeks have been a powerful wake-up call issued by communities, by our staff, by the public, by investigative journalism and by the Secretary of State. We stand ready to answer it – and to change.

Leave a Reply


  • Kevin Wise

    As a long term supporter of Save the Children, I would like to be sent a copy of the results of your inquiry into the behaviour of your employees towards vulnerable people, in order to help me reach a decision on whether or not I continue to contribute financially the charity. Should I not receive a copy of the report I will seek an alternative charity to support.

  • Hi Kevin,
    Thank you very much for reading the blog and commenting, and of course for your continued support.
    The inquiry mentioned in this blog includes the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations within our UK office between staff members and not the children we help in our programmes. The review will examine whether the system for dealing with complaints about behaviour in the workplace can be further improved, and what organisational change may be required in order to enhance the protection, safety and wellbeing of all staff. We have to be confident enough as an organisation and sector to learn from mistakes.
    We will always remain honest with our supporters and the public and you may be interested in reading our Accountability and Transparency report, please take a look here: If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Supporter Care team on 0207 012 6400, or
    Many thanks, Lucy.