Amnesty International executives offer to resign over 'toxic' working culture

The offer comes after a critical review of the charity's working environment that was published earlier this month

All seven members of Amnesty International’s executive team have offered their resignations after a critical report talked of a "toxic" working environment at the organisation.

The move comes after the publication of a highly critical report on staff wellbeing that was published earlier this month by the Konterra Group on behalf of the organisation. It was commissioned alongside two other reports on the suicides of two Amnesty International workers last year.

The Konterra report said that 39 per cent of staff reported physical or mental health issues as a result of working for Amnesty and the organisation’s attempts to address these issues were "ad hoc, reactive and piecemeal".

In an internal letter seen by Third Sector, the seven members of the executive team, not including the organisation’s secretary general, offered their resignations in the best interests of Amnesty.

The executive team members, who have between four and 11 years’ service in leadership roles at Amnesty, said that changes to the organisation’s structure over the past few years – which were criticised in the Konterra report – had been carried out in good faith.

But they accepted that the way the changes had been handled had inflicted pain on some members of staff.

"When managing the required changes and in all the many consultations, particularly with those individuals who were relocated, redeployed or made redundant, we would all say we tried to be as sensitive as we could to individual needs and circumstances," the letter says.

"We sincerely regret that many colleagues felt let down or hurt. In the surveys and reviews that accompanied the change process, we have consistently seen the feedback on the lack of trust and confidence in us, and on the need to focus on parts of our organisation where bullying and harassment were experienced.

"We have responded to this to the best of our ability and knowledge through a variety of initiatives to address the concerns raised. We acknowledge that we have fallen short of expectations and more needs to be done."

The trade union Unite had called on the organisation’s senior leaders to take full responsibility for the "toxic" working culture at Amnesty after publication of the report.

Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement that the recent reports had highlighted "an alarming trust deficit" in Amnesty’s leadership and there had been "full and frank discussions" by the organisation’s leadership.

"I can now confirm that the entire senior leadership team are ready to step aside, as an acknowledgement of their shared responsibility for the climate of tension and mistrust that emerged over many years in Amnesty International’s organisational culture," Naidoo said.

"To be clear, I might not choose to accept all of their offers. Change has to happen in a realistic, structured and holistic way to ensure necessary continuity, with due sensitivity to the constraints we face within the organisation.

"These are dangerous times and Amnesty is needed now more than ever. Our staff need to be empowered to make sure that, by growing our campaigning and activism, we rise to meet the challenge and win the bigger battles before us."

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