Save the Children staff call for withdrawal of award for Tony Blair

Nearly 200 UK employees of the charity sign an internal letter criticising the decision by Save the Children US to give the award to the former Prime Minister for leadership in international development

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

Almost 200 members of staff at Save the Children have signed an internal letter calling on the charity to withdraw an award given to the former Prime Minister Tony Blair for leadership in international development.

The Guardian and The Times newspapers reported today on their front pages that the letter said the global legacy award was "not only morally reprehensible, but also endangers our credibility globally", and called for it to be withdrawn.

A petition on the website of the campaigning group 38 Degrees, also calling for the award to be withdrawn, had attracted almost 100,000 signatures on Wednesday morning.

Save the Children UK said in statement that neither it nor Justin Forsyth, Save the Children UK’s chief executive, who previously worked as a special adviser to Blair, had given the award.

The statement said it was given by Save the Children US at its gala event in New York on 19 November.

"He received the award because of his work when Prime Minister on Africa and poverty," the statement said. "He led the G8 nations at Gleneagles to agree a doubling of aid to Africa, debt cancellation and universal access to Aids treatment. 

"These commitments enabled poor countries to accelerate progress towards the United Nations millennium development goals and further efforts toward reducing the numbers of mothers and children worldwide who die each year from treatable causes such as pneumonia, malaria and newborn complications."

The statement also said: "In a global organisation like ours of thousands of people, our staff have strong views on a whole range of issues and people and we respect that diversity of views."

The newspapers reported that the internal letter, which was signed by some senior regional staff in the UK, said: "We consider this award inappropriate and a betrayal to Save the Children’s founding principles and values."

It also said that regional staff were neither told nor were communicated with about the award before it was given.

The publications pointed out that Jonathan Powell, Blair’s former chief of staff while he was Prime Minister, is a trustee of Save the Children UK.

The petition on the 38 Degrees website says: "Save the Children, please revoke the award given to Tony Blair in supposed recognition of his vanguard leadership on the world’s international development stage.

"As an international children's charity, the choice of Tony Blair is not only controversial to say the least, as many see him as the cause of the deaths of countless children in the Middle East with damning allegations relating to his role as Middle East envoy and businesses dealings with autocratic rulers and others in the region."

George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, said on Twitter: "Save the Children activists and donors should demand the rescinding of this award to Tony Blair upon pain of withdrawing their support."

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