Amnesty considers change of direction and announces probable job losses

The news comes as it faces a £17m shortfall in its budget to the end of 2020

Amnesty International has confirmed it will make job losses amid reports that it is planning a major strategic change of direction to focus more on climate change.

The Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday that the organisation faced a £17m shortfall in its budget to the end of 2020 and was set to make up to 70 compulsory and voluntary redundancies.

Amnesty International, which is the London-based international secretariat for 50 national sections worldwide, said in a statement to Third Sector: "Even though membership of Amnesty is increasing worldwide, the international secretariat will have to unfortunately cut its expenditure, while at the same time ensuring future priorities.

"We are working closely with staff and the union to find a solution, though we can confirm that there will be redundancies. This is a painful and difficult decision and we will do everything in our power to support impacted staff."

When asked to confirm the number of job losses and the budget shortfall, a spokesman said he had no further information.

It has been a difficult year for Amnesty International, which has about 650 staff. In February a review of the workplace culture, commissioned after two staff members committed suicide, said it had a "toxic" environment.

This prompted the union Unite, which represents 250 staff at Amnesty International, to say it had no confidence in the senior management team, although it gave its backing to Kumi Naidoo, who was appointed secretary general in August last year and has pledged to change the culture.

Naidoo is due shortly to reveal a new strategic plan for Amnesty International. According to The Guardian, the organisation will increase its focus on campaigning and climate change, an issue on which Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth campaign heavily, and possibly reduce its focus on research and human rights.

Amnesty International's statement said: "Kumi Naidoo will in due course be sharing with staff details about the strategic direction of the international secretariat, including his decision on changes to the leadership team, to ensure that it is in the best possible position to support the wider Amnesty movement going forward.

"We cannot provide further details until staff have been fully consulted."

A Unite spokesman said: "Members have grave concerns about the financial situation Amnesty has found itself in both in the short and the long term.

"Members are also alarmed at suggestions that Amnesty is considering altering the fundamental direction of the organisation."

A spokesman for Amnesty International UK, which has 170 staff, said the reports of job losses and budget shortfalls related only to the international secretariat and did not affect AIUK.

But he added that a change in strategic direction would eventually affect its work.

"If they look at climate change more than they have done, then it will filter down in due course," the spokesman said.

- The article was updated on 1 May 2019. It originally said Amnesty was facing a shortfall because of declining donations but the charity said donations had been increasing in recent years. 

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