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Kevin Watkins

CEO 2015-2021

Kevin joined Save the Children in 2016, having spent three years as Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute. He has held a senior academic role at the Brookings Institution and has also acted as an adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Education.

You'll find links to Kevin's blogs, articles and speeches on Save the Children's work and broader humanitarian and development issues below.

You can also follow him on Twitter at @KevinAtSave

2021 blogs

Tuesday 6th July 2021
Outgoing CEO of Save the Children UK, Kevin Watkins, reflects on his five years with the charity and his hopes for the future.
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Friday 30th April 2021
If vaccines are the light at the end of a tunnel, oxygen is the critical essential medicine that keeps people alive on the journey through the tunnel.
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Friday 26th February 2021
For those of us who believe in child rights and universal rights more widely, this is a time to demonstrate that human solidarity can make a difference.
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Blog archive


Friday 18th December 2020

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK, takes a look back at the year and offers some rays of hope for 2021.

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Thursday 17th December 2020

Education ‘stole the show’ at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, Twelve months on, we face a global education emergency brought on by the COVID-19.

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Friday 27th November 2020

This is the defining decade for a just transition on climate change and for delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Friday 13th November 2020

Yesterday, November 12th, was World Pneumonia Day. Save the Children joined with partners around the world to draw attention to childhood pneumonia.

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Monday 19th October 2020

The time has come for a fundamental review of debt sustainability, followed by coordinated action covering all creditors to restructure and reduce debt.

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Wednesday 7th October 2020

Of course, international development is about much more than aid. But with the world facing unprecedented reversals to progress, make no mistake: aid matters.

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Tuesday 6th October 2020

Preventing a great reversal for children – the case for a supplementary IDA budget and debt relief

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Tuesday 29th September 2020

CEO Kevin Watkins on the importance of international cooperation built on human rights, dignity and equality.

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Monday 6th July 2020

In the space of a few short months the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to almost every country in the world, bringing grief, suffering, and economic chaos in its wake.

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Tuesday 16th June 2020

The announcement diminishes the UK's global role, and will reduce the impact of its aid.

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Tuesday 2nd June 2020

It’s more important than ever that we stand together to protect every child. As we call on governments across the globe to protect children during this crisis.

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Monday 20th April 2020

At this critical juncture, Kevin Watkins explains briefly set out how Save the Children is responding to what is the gravest humanitarian challenge in our organisation’s history.

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Coronavirus pandemic: Save the Children launces global response

Monday 6th April

In the space of a few short months the Coronavirus pandemic has spread to almost every country in the world, bringing grief, suffering, and economic chaos in its wake. Today we are launching our movement is launching its biggest ever appeal.

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Reflections from the CEO on the Charity Commission report findings

Thursay 5th March 2020

Save the Children UK accepts in full the Charity Commission inquiry report’s findings – and we are committed to using the report to continue to strengthen our organisation to build a culture fully aligned to the values underpinning our mission.

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The world must act on childhood Pneumonia

Wednesday 29th January 2020

At the first ever global forum on pneumonia, leading agencies including Save the Children and UNICEF are meeting to boost efforts in the fight against the disease.

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Nigeria's child development crisis is a tragedy - here's how we can end it

Thursday 16th January 2020

If you want a window on the condition of children in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, there is no better vantage point than the Katanga health centre in the impoverished northern state of Jigawa.

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Get involved

Cynics like to cast aid as a waste of money. Try telling that to Jasmine and her classmates in Afghanistan

Wednesday 25 September 2019

While the diplomatic pantomime of talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban was reaching its inconclusive final act earlier this month, Mumtaz Ahmad* was getting on with her day job. She was delivering maths and science classes to 35 children, most of them girls, in a remote mountain village in the hills outside Kabul.

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High-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage: Making the right to health a reality for all

Friday 20 September 2019

Co-authored by Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK and Rob Yates, Head of the Centre on Global Health Security, Chatham House. The global community has committed to work together to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030 by making it a target in the Sustainable Development Goals.

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SPEECH: How British leadership can help protect children in conflict

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Kevin made the following speech on Wednesday 18th September at the launch of Save the Children’s new joint report with RUSI, “The UK Strategy on Protection of Civilians”.

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The Tragedy of Gaza’s Children

Thursday 8 August 2019

Children and mothers are bearing the brunt of the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which includes widespread malnutrition. Allowing the current situation to slide into a full-fledged catastrophe would be an indefensible dereliction of responsibility by the international community.

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Tuesday 16 July 2019

It’s less than two years since Imperial and Save the Children organised a roundtable on paediatric blast injury.

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Wednesday 7 July 2019

With the government struggling to establish a parliamentary majority capable of unlocking the complexities behind our national Brexit conundrum, there’s another big problem with an obvious solution they could adopt tomorrow.

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Stopping the War on Children

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Around 420 million children are currently living in conflict-affected countries – more than at any time in the last 20 years. Many are deliberately targeted by armed combatants for heinous crimes, including killing, rape, and kidnapping.

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Speech: Kevin Watkins at the See Me Safe Centenary Symposium

Wednesday 8 May 2019

The starting point for our new campaign is engagement with the public. We need to turn the spotlight on what is happening to children – but do this in ways that invite action rather than despair, anguish and impotent hand-wringing.

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Our founder would be indignant - in wars across the globe children are being killed with impunity

Thursday 11 April 2019

Tucked away in Save the Children’s archive is a leaflet produced in 1919. It shows a shocking image of two severely malnourished Austrian children under a stark headline: “Our blockade has caused this – millions of children are starving to death.” That leaflet is more than a piece of quaint agitprop memorabilia. It’s part of our national DNA.

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CEO's Update: Cyclone Idai

Thursday 28 March 2019

Save the Children worked with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to launch an appeal to help the millions of people affected by the devastating consequences of Cyclone Idai – over 1.8 million in Mozambique alone. Since then, the appeal has raised over £21 million – a fantastic response.

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CEO Updates, January and February 2019

Monday 11 March 2019

Even with the extraordinary pace of medical advances, this is the only Save the Children centenary any of us will ever experience (sorry to break that news!), so let’s start with a quick reminder of where we came from.

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Dfid isn't broken – let's not inflict a damaging blow to one of Britain's prime assets

Saturday 19 January 2019

Ayesha was 14 months old when I met her at one of our emergency nutrition clinics in Hodeida, the port city at the centre of Yemen’s war. Weighing just 8lbs, the average birthweight of a baby in the UK, and suffering from pneumonia and diarrhea, she wasn’t expected to survive. But with a lot of fight and a little aid from the UK, Ayesha recovered.

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Meet Kevin: Yusef asks our CEO the tough questions

Monday 14 January 2019

11 year old Yusef is an inspiration to us here at Save the Children. He’s raised over £2,000 and has dedicated every birthday since he was 8 to helping less fortunate children through our work. We couldn’t think of anyone better, as we mark our centenary, to interview our CEO Kevin Watkins about the past, present and future of our organisation.

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Reflections and hopes for 2019

Friday 21 December 2018

Scanning the 2019 horizon, it would be easy to drift towards a state of pessimism.

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Wednesday 5 December 2018

I work for a charity created 100 years ago to respond to the impact of a conflict – the First World War – on children.

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CEO updates, November 2018

Wednesday 21 November 2018

A few weeks ago I was at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in Bali, during which the World Bank’s President, Jim Kim, launched a new Human Capital Project (HCP).

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CEO updates, October 2018

Thursday 4 October 2018

As I write this, our teams our responding to the devastating earthquake in Indonesia.

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Time to act on refugee education

Wednesday 25 September 2018

One year ago Daniel was part of the human exodus that saw 1 million refugees fleeing South Sudan’s murderous war for the safety of northern Uganda. After two days of walking he arrived carrying only the clothes on his back and his most treasured possession – a science book retrieved from his school before he fled.

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Mind the gap – getting our children ready for school

Saturday 7 September 2018

Parents across the country are battening down the emotional hatches, staying calm and trying to exude an air of quiet confidence. The reason: this week is the moment thousands of parents have waved goodbye at the school gates to children starting their first day at primary school.

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Thoughts from the Global Disability Summit

Wednesday 24 July 2018

Disability is at the heart of some of the greatest challenges facing children around the world. The scale of that challenge is difficult to quantify, not least because the problem is often hidden from statistical surveys

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What we do is simply too important to fail

Tuesday 19 March 2018

At the beginning of the month, alongside my colleagues from across the international development sector, I joined the Safeguarding Summit. Hosted by the Department for International Development and the Charity Commission, we came together to agree strategies aimed at strengthening our safeguarding and protection systems.

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Speech: Kevin Watkins at the Bond annual conference

Tuesday 27 February 2018

This session is on the theme of 'The UK's vision for International Development'. My starting point is that we cannot credibly plan ahead without an honest assessment of where we stand today.

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Pneumonia is the single biggest killer of children in the world's poorest countries

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Pneumonia claims almost 900,000 lives annually. 

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Getting serious about the SDGs and education

Wednesday 31 January 2018

It's not every week that aid workers have a chance to put their money behind a great cause, with returns that would have most investors straining at the leash - but this week is one of them.

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Speech: Kevin Watkins at Wilton Park Dialogue on the mental health needs of children and adolescents affected by armed conflict

Wednesday 17 January 2018

It strikes me that education has a distinctive role to play in supporting children traumatised by violence - but it cannot be 'education as usual'.

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Those who focus on New Labour in Gordon Brown's memoir neglect his international legacy

Tuesday 16 January 2018

The former Prime Minister’s book is a reminder we should not be complacent about Britain’s commitment to international development. 

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Educating Myanmar's youngest refugees

Tuesday 9 January 2018

The Rohingya crisis is also an education crisis, as tens of thousands of refugees remain unable to access schooling in their temporary homes.  

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Cancel debt and give Somali children a chance

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Writing off IMF arrears would unlock access to finance from the World Bank's International Development Association and other donors helping children whose lives are hanging by a thread. 

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When it comes to protecting children in war zones, the UK should set an example by ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Monday 1 January 2018

What we are dealing with is not a failure of the law, but a culture of impunity surrounding the perpetrators of heinous crimes against children. 

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Saving Somalia through debt relief

Friday 17 November 2017

Somalia needs humanitarian aid to stem its short-term suffering, but that cash will not break the country's deadly cycles of drought, hunger, and poverty. To do that, the IMF must forgive Somalia's crushing debt, just as it has for nearly every other heavily indebted poor country. 

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Fighting for breath

Thursday 2 November 2017

Having just finished my first year as CEO at Save the Children, this feels like a good moment to share some thoughts on a campaign as important as anything I have ever worked on – and one that I’m personally determined to make a success. 

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Jo Cox Memorial Lecture

Friday 20 October 2017

Declaring it a privilege to deliver any memorial lecture is a convention. In this case, it is beyond a privilege. 

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Partnering to get every child learning

Tuesday 19 September 2017

The world is witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record since World War II. Of the unprecedented 65.3 million people forced from their homes, almost one-third are refugees, seeking protection from violence or persecution. 

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Speech: Kevin Watkins at the UNICEF executive board

Thursday 14 September 2017

There is no prospect of us delivering on our collective promise for children without a step-change in our response to humanitarian crises.

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Broken promises for Syria's children

Thursday 3 August 2017

Last February, at a meeting in London, international donors promised to get all of Syria’s refugee children into school by the end of 2017, and pledged $1.4 billion to make it happen. Six months later, that promise is about to be broken, dashing the hopes of millions of Syrian children. 

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Our life-saving ship: what Katie Hopkins needs to know

Wednesday 26 July 2017

The intervention of the anti-immigrant, so-called "identitarians" - who are heading for Sicily to make political capital out of human misery - is not only misguided but threatens to cost lives. 

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Education restores hope: Daniel's lesson from the world's biggest refugee camp

Wednesday 21 June 2017

You don’t have to tell Daniel, a quietly spoken but fiercely smart 14 year old, about the value of education. Six months ago an armed group went on a rampage in his village near Yei, the capital of South Sudan’s Central Equatoria province, killing his father, and abducting his mother and sister. 

"I want to finish my education and become a doctor. Learning is my only hope for a better life," says Daniel. 

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The price of hope: Uganda's Refugee Crisis

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Value for money is the defining international aid mantra of our age – and rightly so. These are fiscally straitened times in donor economies. We need to ensure that every last aid dollar delivers results for the world’s poorest people. But what price do you put on hope? 

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Celebrating our brilliant volunteers

Thursday 1 June 2017

This week is Volunteers’ Week, an annual event where the whole country comes together to celebrate the 23 million people who give their skills and time to great causes. 

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Speech: Kevin Watkins at the London Somalia Conference

Thursday 11 May 2017

As the UK public's overwhelming response to the recent Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Somalia and other countries demonstrated, compassion, empathy and concern for others are integral parts of our national DNA - and the aid commitment is a powerful expression of those values. 

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‘Where is the help?’: black tea and dark despair as Somalia edges closer to famine

Thursday 20 April 2017

Arcane rules mean that debt accrued decades ago is denying Somalia access to funding that might stave off famine. Officials should simply write off the arrears. 

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Famine warning signs were clear, so why are 20 million lives now at risk?

Tuesday 7 March 2017

South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are on the brink of catastrophe, thanks to conflict, drought, and a shocking failure in our international response. 

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Government can’t walk away from child refugees

Thursday 23 February 2017

The government must not walk away from the Dubs amendment, which was passed in a spirit of generosity. This was a pledge to help the most vulnerable children.

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Educating Nigeria’s Survivors

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Aid donors will soon gather in Oslo to mobilize international support for northeast Nigeria. Success could bring hope and the prospect of recovery for millions of vulnerable people, while failure will cost lives. 

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How to free children like Samira from Somalia's cycle of drought, conflict & hunger

Monday 9 January 2017

When you look at 7-month-old Samira (name changed), it’s hard to think of anything other than whether she’ll survive. 

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Don't tell anyone that you can cut overseas aid painlessly

Thursday 5 January 2017

We should always care about value for money - but we should be proud of our commitment to the world's poorest. 

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Kevin Watkins shares his reading list

Sunday 18 December 2016

I am currently reading The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett. It is about how large organisations often fail to share the right type of information internally, which makes it hard for them to achieve external goals. 

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It's time to take on the world's biggest killer of children

Saturday 12 November 2016

Five years ago a three-month-old Kenyan baby called Umi became a symbol of survival and hope. Brought to a Save the Children emergency clinic at the height of a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, Umi was malnourished, dehydrated and on the brink of death. 

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Boris Johnson wants Britain to use soft power. The first place must be Mosul

Friday 21 October 2016

The Iraqi advance on the Islamic State-held city has trapped civilians, including 600,000 children. UK influence could help get them out safely. 

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Girls Have Mountain To Climb To Achieve Same Opportunities As Boys

Monday 10 October 2016

In the time it takes you to read this article, at least 45 girls under 15 will marry. That’s one girl every seven seconds.

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Three giant steps towards a global Britain

Tuesday 27 September 2016

The children of Aleppo won’t be listening to the leaders’ addresses this party conference season. But if we are to fulfil Theresa May's ambition for a thriving, post-Brexit 'Global Britain', the words of our leaders must matter to people in countries where war is devastating lives and destroying opportunity.  

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