INNSBRUCK – September 10 2021

New international leadership commits to improve safeguarding and governance

With a majority of new members, SOS Children’s Villages’ International Senate moves forward to implement the organization’s child safeguarding action plans.

Complying with strict coronavirus measures, SOS Children’s Villages International’s highest supervisory body met this week in the Austrian alpine city of Innsbruck. Sixty per cent of the members of the International Senate, including the President and the Vice President, were elected earlier this summer and are eager to improve safeguarding standards and governance in the organization.

The newly elected President, Ethiopian national Dereje Wordofa, is clear about his priorities: “My key focus is to improve the quality of child care across the federation. We need to ensure the well-being of each child – and above all, I will do my utmost to secure the implementation of our child safeguarding action plans.”

Vice president Beata Juvancz, also newly elected, shares the desire to push through change: “We are working together to find the best course of action. Since having been elected, I feel a strong personal motivation to deliver on our promises,” the Hungarian national says. “There have been many discussions with stakeholders within the organization on enhancing transparency, governance and trust,” she adds.

In this first in-person meeting in close to two years, the International Senate - comprised of 22 members from around the world - discussed how to best work together and lead the federation with good governance.

Maria Grazia Lanzani of Italy emphasizes the importance of integrity and open communication. “We need unity, and we must immediately start working on governance. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we are ready,” Ms Lanzani says.

The longest-serving member of the Senate, Michael Wandy Karlsson from Sweden, who has served since 2008, left the meeting feeling enthusiastic and optimistic: “In the room, I could feel that this a real new beginning, where we will operate in a much more transparent and collaborative way.”

Newly elected Senate member from Brazil, Pedro Paulo Campos, says: “The only way to bring innovation and new ideas is to bring in new people and new leadership. We are a large, complex organization, and challenges are everywhere, but I felt a great desire for change in the room today.”

To get a deeper understanding of the organization’s work, the Senate members visited the SOS Children’s Village in the Tyrolean town of Imst. This was the first Village founded in 1949, when nobody imagined that the organization would become the world’s largest provider of alternative care operating in more than 130 countries. “We have a rich history and an undeniable purpose: to give every child a loving home,” says Susan Kiama from Kenya. “It is our responsibility to continue the mission in new ways and have more impact with the resources we have.”

At its meeting, the Senate approved the creation of a fully independent Special Commission to take up allegations of misconduct that were the subject of recent reports initiated from within the organization.

“All the Senators are personally committed to ensuring that children are safe and that safeguarding is foremost in the execution of all our programmes,” says member Aishah Ahmad from Nigeria.

Elisabeth Grieg from Norway adds: “It is not what you say, it is what you do. We need to move forward with a new culture that makes it impossible for this to happen again.”

Read more about our child safeguarding work.