Save the Children UK’s chief executive stands down after five years 

10 Mar 2021 News

Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children

Kevin Watkins will leave his role as chief executive of Save the Children UK after five years in the role.

Watkins, who joined Save the Children from the Overseas Development Institute, previously worked at the United Nations and the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Two years into his leadership, the Charity Commission launched an inquiry into the handling of sexual harassment allegations against former executives of charity in 2012 and 2015. The organisation withdrew from bidding for government funding until the inquiry ended last year.

Save the Children is set to launch a new strategy later this year for 2022 to 2024.

Watkins, who is set to leave the charity this summer, said in a message to staff: “We are all of us temporary custodians of a 100 year-old institution built by our founders on values that reflect the best of humanity – an institution that co-created universal child rights”. 

“Our culture is grounded in unrelenting ambition for children. But that ambition has to be underpinned by a culture of kindness towards each other, support for staff, and a willingness to challenge systemic disadvantage and discrimination.”

Watkins added: “It has been a privilege to work with some of the most brilliant, committed and creative people in our sector on the defining moral challenge of our time – the defence of child rights. Working at Save the Children provides a daily reminder of the desperate circumstances facing so many children around the world. But it also provides a reminder that change is possible.

“I’ve seen the impact we’ve made together - and I know Save the Children has transformed many, many lives in some of the world’s toughest environments.

“I’ll leave with many memories – some happy, many heartrending, but all of them wrapped in deep gratitude for the opportunity I have had to work with you.”

He will continue to lead Save the Children’s response to the crisis triggered by Covid-19, while the board recruits his sucessor.

Watkins plans to spend more time on research and writing, and said he will continue to work on issues like including child survival, education and financing for recovery in the poorest countries. 

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