Amnesty International has a ‘toxic’ working environment, says independent review 

07 Feb 2019 News

Amnesty International has a “toxic” culture, with over a third of its staff reporting that working for the charity has caused them health problems, according to a staff wellbeing review. 

The external review was commissioned following the suicides of two members of staff and was carried out by the international development consultancy KonTerra.

The findings have been published alongside a separate report into the death of Rosalind McGregor, an intern in the Geneva office who took her own life. 

The review found that while most staff “believe in Amnesty’s mission very deeply”, they are often under “exceptional stress”. 

“Although Amnesty employs many talented and caring individuals, Amnesty as a working environment is often described as ‘toxic’,” it said. 

Some 39 per cent of people told the review that they had developed mental or physical health issues “as the direct result of working at Amnesty”. 

The report criticises management for an “ad hoc, reactive and piecemeal” approach to wellbeing. 

It recommends the organisation create a Wellbeing Task Force to develop a policy and improve support available. It also says managers should be encouraged to lead by example. 

Response

Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement that the report “paints a sombre picture of Amnesty International’s recent internal track record”. 

“We need to accelerate and widen our efforts to establish credible and effective wellbeing measures and find better ways to recognise the tremendous dedication of staff to our mission. 

“The KonTerra report brings that into stark focus, and it is a difficult read. To hear our employees speak of a culture of secrecy and mistrust where discrimination, bullying and abuse of power have been condoned is profoundly troubling. Unacceptable management practices, attitudes and behaviours cannot and will not be tolerated at any level in the organisation,” he added. 

Amnesty International promised to take on board the findings. 

“We will now look in detail at the recommendations of the KonTerra review – and in consultation with staff draw up an overall implementation plan, assessing to what extent and in what stages we will deliver on them, and how we best integrate them with James Laddie’s recommendations,” Naidoo said. 

Section leaders within the charity have been invite to engage with the findings. 

Naidoo said: “Staff wellbeing is now our absolute priority and will be at the heart of everything we do. As the report states, we have started to take steps in the right direction. However, we have a long way to go.”


 

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