PRINCIPAL RISKS AND UNCERTAINTIES
Islamic Relief Worldwide is committed to providing humanitarian aid and relief to those who need it the most. This commitment necessitates the charity operating in countries affected by war, conflict, humanitarian and environmental disasters and general uncertainty. Operating in such environments gives rise to significant risks and uncertainties, which we have managed through our considerable experience in this field, supported by a robust framework of systems, processes and oversight.
The Islamic Relief Worldwide Board of Trustees is advised by an Audit Committee made up of trustees and independent members who bring a broad range of expertise in this area. The Audit Committee meets at least four times a year, and its terms of reference include scrutiny and oversight of the way the Islamic Relief Worldwide executive are managing risk.
An independent Internal Audit function reports to the Audit Committee. This function maintains the risk register and carries out a risk-based audit programme, which follows an audit plan approved by the Audit Committee.
The executive management team regularly undertakes strategic and operational reviews to identify organisational risks and come up with plans to mitigate them. The team is then responsible for implementing those action plans, with the Audit Committee monitoring progress.
In order to underpin the process of risk management, Islamic Relief Worldwide has invested in specialist software that covers every field office as well as its operations in the UK. The principal risks and uncertainties facing Islamic Relief Worldwide, and the mitigating actions taken to meet them, are:
This year we welcomed further developments in Islamic Relief Worldwide’s Safeguarding strategy. We successfully convened our first Global Safeguarding summit, bringing together our safeguarding focal points from all our country offices. It was a significant milestone in mainstreaming and enhancing the role of safeguarding in Islamic Relief Worldwide’s culture and programming.
The Chair of Trustees is the trustee lead on safeguarding. The Chair works closely with the Head of Governance to lead on safeguarding at the executive management level. Islamic Relief Worldwide’s safeguarding team, which includes technical specialists, is now established and working across our global operations. We are pleased with the progress we are making, but continue to work on a strategy that is benchmarked against best practice across the sector.
We report on all safeguarding incidents in a transparent way, including incidents related to beneficiaries and any cases of sexual harassment. This will be the third year in which we publish figures regarding safeguarding cases reported to us for the period of the Annual Report. In doing so, we have adopted a broad definition of ‘safeguarding’: all complaints of harm related to sexual exploitation, abuse or harassment by Islamic Relief Worldwide employees, contractors, volunteers or others.
In 2019, a total of 38 cases were reported and logged as safeguarding cases by Islamic Relief Worldwide, 25 of which were from employees reporting safeguarding concerns related to other Islamic Relief Worldwide staff members. Of those concluded, formal HR action was taken against five individuals by Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2019, including dismissal in one instance.
Eight cases of harm were reported by beneficiaries relating to third parties (including family members) unconnected to Islamic Relief Worldwide; and four against Islamic Relief Worldwide. Of the four cases where beneficiaries reported Islamic Relief Worldwide staff, two Islamic Relief Worldwide staff members were dismissed for failing to adhere to safeguarding standards and protocols. We ensured the appropriate authorities and/or support systems were involved or made available in each of these cases. We also provided support and health intervention to survivors and their families, where we were permitted to do so.
Our staff work in many unstable parts of the world, in countries that are caught up in conflict and/or are experiencing natural disasters. Such environments present risks to the safety of our staff. The safety and wellbeing of our employees being of paramount importance, we have a number of mitigating measures in place. These include policies and procedures on health and safety and security. Security training is mandatory for all staff being deployed and we continually monitor the security situation in each country in which we work, ensuring adequate measures are in place to keep our staff as safe as possible.
The banking system is a key component of the charity being able to deliver on its humanitarian and development commitments. If Islamic Relief Worldwide is not able to transfer money securely, legally, reliably and through trusted financial institutions, it simply cannot fulfil its purpose. The obstacles and delays we face when moving funds to provide timely assistance to those in need have a direct impact on people’s lives. We will continue to work alongside civil society groups across the world to set out our concerns regarding the banking and finance sector, as well as inviting government to ensure funds for humanitarian work reach beneficiaries unhindered. Islamic Relief Worldwide is represented on a UK government convened multi-sector committee looking into the impact of bank de-risking on the delivery of aid.
Islamic Relief Worldwide feels uniquely placed to inform these discussions because of its experiences as a Muslim international NGO, and is encouraged by the recognition at governmental level of the need to act. The charity is grateful for the extremely strong relationships we have with our current financial service providers.
Cyber threats continue to pose a significant risk to our reputation and the right to personal privacy of our staff, supporters and the communities we serve. Online cyber security training and a revised information security policy were part of our ongoing efforts to promote cyber security awareness amongst our staff around the world. As an organisation entrusted to process donations, we achieved validation of our compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). We continue to coordinate with peer organisations and as part of our commitment to protecting our information resources. We have, as a strategic aim, to build further security capacity and assurance capabilities in 2019 and beyond.
UK’S DEPARTURE FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION
The negotiations to finalise the terms of the UK’s impending departure from the European Union (EU) had not concluded in 2019, leading to much uncertainty. This was hugely problematic for an organisation with a global workforce working in multiple currencies and as a recipient of EU aid funding. Like all UK organisations, we continue to monitor and follow the trade negotiations between the UK government and the EU. The continuing possibility of a no-deal Brexit has required additional resources to be devoted to planning for such an event. This remains a key risk.
COMPETITIVE JOB MARKET
In a highly competitive job market, and given all the demands on the charity’s resources, it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain experienced staff for senior management and technical positions. We continue to explore and implement strategies that better anticipate and manage attrition, while improving attraction and retention. While we are not market-rate driven, we offer ‘market relevant’ salaries and also provide non-monetary employee rewards such as flexible working hours, increased annual leave entitlement and enhanced terms for maternity and paternity leave. In order to improve retention rates within the organisation we enhanced our pension scheme by introducing a service related element. Various wellbeing initiatives have been rolled out such as providing support to staff with mental health concerns, and a healthcare scheme that includes access to a 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme. Recognising that personal development is key to retaining talent, the charity runs externally accredited Management Development, Aspiring Managers and Leadership Development programmes to enhance capacity and capability, and offer meaningful careers within the organisation.
At the point of submission of this Annual Report, Islamic Relief Worldwide is responding with due regard to the gravity of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The measures imposed by governments around the world are entirely without precedent, as large sections of the world are in lockdown. Although some countries are beginning to lift restrictions there are fears of a second wave, which is adding to the uncertainty for all organisations.
In every country of operation Islamic Relief Worldwide has adhered to government advice and directives. Global operations have been affected during the lockdown, while some of our programmes have adapted to support vulnerable communities through the crisis. Mitigation plans have been put in place by the organisation such as a move to home-working, a precautionary reduction of spending until the full economic impact of the pandemic becomes clearer, and securing financial support offered by the UK government.
Income had been expected to decline due to the general uncertainty gripping donors, and resources have been re-directed from face-to-face fundraising to online campaigns. In part due to these measures, but mostly due to the generosity of our donors, revenue has in fact held up well in the UK during the crucial Ramadan period, which is Islamic Relief Worldwide’s most significant annual fundraising opportunity. This experience appears to have been mirrored by our global partner offices too, supported further by a specific coronavirus fundraising appeal launched in early 2020.