The final report of the Independent Special Commission (ISC) was published in June 2023, the culmination of more than a year and a half of collaboration between the ISC and SOS Children’s Villages, which also included an interim report from the ISC provided in summer 2022. The ISC’s work built upon previous reviews that had been commissioned, including the Independent Child Safeguarding Review, which concluded in 2021. Throughout this time, all members of the federation have worked hard to on multiple fronts to strengthen safeguarding, governance and accountability.
When the ISC issued its final report, we re-confirmed our resolve to ensure that organizational failures cannot happen again. We are all deeply saddened that so many were hurt because of these failures, and our focus continues to be on supporting victims/survivors of abuse. We continue to urge anyone with knowledge of wrongdoing anywhere in the SOS Children’s Villages federation to come forward. We will continue to listen to and act on all allegations.
As a federation, we continue to make progress in implementing the Safeguarding Action Plan introduced in June 2021, and we are pleased that the ISC recognizes this progress in its final report. Safeguarding has been and remains front and centre, reflected in the development of a new Child and Youth Safeguarding Policy, an updated Code of Conduct, a Global Ombuds Office, and new procedures for responding to incidents and supporting victims/survivors, among many other developments. Data in the recently published Child and Youth Safeguarding Annual Report 2022/2023 confirms the increasing awareness of and compliance with our standards and mandatory procedures across the SOS Children’s Villages federation.
Since publication of the ISC report, we have brought on board our first International Director Safeguarding. As part of the safeguarding unit, we have also hired a Head of Anti-Corruption and Asset Protection who will lead a team on this topic. They are all playing key roles in driving progress towards implementing the ISC recommendations.
The extensive confidential annexes provided by the ISC are being used to guide improvements in safeguarding – both in member associations and in the General Secretariat – and to hold accountable individuals responsible for wrongdoing. There is a great deal of material contained in those annexes, obtained through the ISC’s investigations, and since receiving those annexes teams have been working with the relevant member associations to assess options for follow-up and take action where needed. For those countries named in the ISC report, the member association is working with the regional office in developing concrete action plans that address the risks identified.
In order to align with our longer-term vision of safeguarding, the General Secretariat has developed a holistic response that combines the implementation of the Safeguarding Action Plan with a proposed safeguarding strategy (currently under consultation across the federation). This approach ensures a broader framework, with increased accountability, to be part of the organizational culture, with effective governance and programme quality at its core.