As I write our teams are responding to the devastating earthquake in Indonesia. The death toll in Sulawesi is mounting daily. Tens of thousands of people are living with serious injuries, there are major disease risks, and people have seen their homes and businesses destroyed on an epic scale, with potentially devastating consequences for the future. Children figure prominently among the victims – at least 600,000 have been impacted. Apart from the injuries, many are dealing with the shock and distress of losing parents, brothers, sisters, family members and friends.
Working through our Indonesia office and their local partners, we are providing water and sanitation support, child safeguarding specialists, and shelter and child protection staff who will offer psychological support as well as help reunite children with their families. For those who might be interested in supporting our efforts, we have also mounted an appeal.
The tragic events in Sulawesi put other events into context. Last week I was in New York for the UN General Assembly (UNGA). I sometimes have doubts about the value of these flagship events. However, at a time when international cooperation and multilateralism is under pressure on so many fronts, from climate change to the Sustainable Development Goals and respect for universal human rights, this felt like an important moment. Save the Children organised a number of events, including a high-level meeting on refugee education in partnership with UNHCR, with Gordon Brown, Henrietta Fore (Executive Director of UNICEF) and Filippo Grandi (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) among the speakers.
We also had an opportunity at UNGA to develop our partnership on pneumonia with UNICEF. Despite the fact that this disease – now the single biggest killer of children globally – is preventable and, in most cases, readily treatable, progress in cutting child deaths has been negligible. Having visited paediatric wards in Nigeria, Somalia and Kenya and seen at first hand the suffering that comes with pneumonia, I’m determined to make this one of the areas in which we act as advocates for children. I gave a speech on this at the Social Good Summit in New York which is available to watch here.
Next week I’ll be attending the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in Bali. We have a number of events lined up with the Gates Foundation, DFID, and both the World Bank and the IMF. As some of you may know, the World Bank’s President, Jim Kim, has led on the development of a human capital approach backed by an Index, which will be launched at the Annual Meetings. The Index is designed to demonstrate that under-investment in human capital is not just bad for people, but bad for economic growth. Having the World Bank carry that message to finance ministers will help to break down what is an artificial barrier between efficiency and equity.
Squeezed between UNGA and the World Bank meetings, I briefly attended the Conservative Party conference. While proceedings were dominated by Brexit, we convened a successful event on Global Britain with ConservativeHome. This is the fifth time our organisations have partnered – and our event is now a conference staple. Our keynote speakers this year were the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, and Tom Tugendhat, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Both made compelling cases for putting international development at the heart of an outward looking, globally engaged foreign policy geared towards multilateral engagement and international cooperation. It strikes me this is a future we all have to fight for.
There have been ongoing efforts to strengthen our organisational culture. Our recent staff survey produced some very positive results, while turning the spotlight on areas where we need to do more. We also commissioned last February an independent review into our organisational culture. The review team has been led by Dr Suzanne Shale, one of the UK’s most respected organisational ethicists, who has interviewed current and former staff and Board members to examine our procedures and policies, and interrogated in great detail how people feel about working for Save the Children.
From the outset, I made it clear that the review would be independent, that I would recuse myself from oversight, and that the findings of the review team would be published in full on our website. The publication date has now been set as Monday 8th October. Along with the rest of my leadership team, I am committed to acting on the recommendations that emerge.
Finally, I am looking forward to the Safeguarding Summit hosted by the Department for International Development later this month. The Secretary of State has shown tremendous leadership in tackling this issue head-on. While I am confident that Save the Children’s child safeguarding systems are among the best in the sector, we have been taking concrete steps to strengthen them over the past few months. This is a critical opportunity for governments, agencies, charities – and anyone else who works with vulnerable people overseas – to hold ourselves accountable to both the communities we serve and to our shared values.
I am very ambitious for Save the Children. In pursuing our mission, we have to be relentless, committed to excellence and uncompromising. That’s what children have a right to expect from us – and we are here to advance the cause of children whose lives are blighted by poverty, vulnerability and the violation of fundamental rights. However, ambitious and effective organisations should also be kind, respect and nurture their staff, and live their values. That is the organisation I am committed to us building.