Message from the Chairperson
As Chairperson I have the great privilege of working with extraordinarily dedicated Council members and staff throughout the organisation. The commitment to working with the poorest people in the developing world and fulfilling our mission is very evident throughout the organisation.
In 2013, Tom Arnold, who had led the organisation for 12 years retired. Under his direction Concern was recognised as a global leader in the fight against hunger. While Tom stepped down from his formal position as Chief Executive, we are delighted that he continues to be involved in Concern’s work as our Special Representative for Hunger. This allows him to support our international leadership role on hunger, food security and nutrition and take advantage of his unique capacity to convert advocacy into action.
The appointment of a new CEO is one of the most important duties of Council. We oversaw a very rigorous and competitive selection process and were delighted to offer the job to Dominic MacSorley. Dominic, who many of you know, has over 30 years’ experience of working with and on behalf of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and we are privileged to have him as our CEO.
This year marked the mid-point of our strategic plan: Greater Impact in an Increasingly Vulnerable World. One of the core aims in the plan is to increase our focus on the poorest and most vulnerable countries, communities and people. A significant outcome of this focus saw us finalise our plans to close operations in India, Zimbabwe and Cambodia while opening programmes in Syria, Lebanon and Philippines in response to the humanitarian crises in those countries.
As Chairperson, I have had the opportunity of visiting a number of our country programmes, to meet with staff and the people we work with and see the impact of our work first-hand. In both Afghanistan and Ethiopia I was struck by the way we work in partnership with the poorest communities and are very much directed by what they have to say about how we can support them to improve their lives. We strive to do ourselves out of a job in the best way possible so that people and communities can provide for themselves. I would like to assure people that we continue to do extraordinary work, with the poorest of people in the most efficient manner.
Since I first volunteered with Concern in Bangladesh in the late 1980s, and was humbled by the support of people in our local communities, I have been firm in my belief that we have to do all in our power to ensure we are fully accountable to both people at home, who make our work possible and people overseas, with whom we work.
Our supporters need to know that funds raised are spent as effectively and efficiently as possible. As an organisation we try to ensure at all times that we are both accountable and transparent to our supporters and the poorest people we work with.
In 2013, for the fourth successive year, our annual report won the Published Accounts Award for Charities in Ireland. This is an important independent recognition of the transparency and strength of our financial reporting.
Getting external verification of the quality of our accounts is extremely valuable and gives great reassurance to people, that accountability and transparency is core to everything we do.
The need for charities to be transparent and publicly accountable was never more evident than towards the end of 2013 when a series of revelations hugely impacted on the public’s confidence in charities generally. We were able to point to our good practice, awards, certifications and support for initiatives like the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising and the Governance Code in reassuring the public of our own strong commitment to transparency. We have actively advocated for improved oversight of the charity sector for a number of years and warmly welcomed the February 2014 announcement of the appointment of a Charity Regulator, Ireland’s first.
I am happy to say that Concern’s governance arrangements follow best practice. An independent and voluntary board of directors – the Council – is responsible for overseeing and reviewing all aspects of the organisation's work. Council is elected by Concern’s membership and meet six times annually.
Through good and bad times, the public have given its consistent support to Concern. Following Dominic’s appointment, I was delighted to travel with him to different parts of Ireland to meet and thank our local supporters.
Together, we got an insight into the power of our community support groups and met many of our unsung heroes and heroines. We met people who have consistently and generously supported Concern for many years. It was humbling and inspiring to learn of the commitment and support that we have throughout Ireland, north and south. We hope to continue these meetings and encourage the next generation of supporters to join the Concern family.
Based on a solemn trust that we will use the resources available to save lives and reduce extreme poverty, this support, which now extends to communities throughout the UK and the US, is the life blood of the organisation.
It is a trust I believe Concern takes with great seriousness and will never take for granted.
Concern is passionate about its work and we can change people’s lives for the better with your continued kindness and support.