UK Politics

Save the Children 'sorry' about Tony Blair award

Tony Blair
Image caption Mr Blair launched an Africa Governance Initiative after leaving office

Save The Children has apologised for any offence caused by its decision to give Tony Blair a "global legacy award", saying it was an "unnecessary distraction" from its work.

The charity's UK chief executive Justin Forsyth said he was sorry it had "upset so many people" and "it is not really what we do at Save the Children".

The award, given by the group's US arm, specifically related to Mr Blair's work to tackle poverty in Africa, he said.

Mr Blair stood down as UK PM in 2007.

The award, which Mr Blair accepted in person in November, prompted a backlash from staff at Save The Children and some of its supporters, who argued that his key role in the 2003 Iraq conflict and its aftermath meant he was not suitable for such recognition.

Mr Blair received the award for his work at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005 and for his Africa Governance Initiative, which he launched after leaving office.

'Quite specific'

Mr Forsyth, who once worked for Mr Blair in Downing Street, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the decision had been made by its "sister organisation" in America, where Mr Blair did not have the same controversial legacy and there had been "very few complaints" in the US.

But he acknowledged that many of his own staff were upset about the move.

"Yes, it was a global legacy award. It was called that. But actually it was an award very, very specifically for Tony Blair's efforts on Africa at two G8 summits at Birmingham and Gleneagles, not his wider legacy," he said.

Image caption Mr Forsyth said the award was not about Mr Blair's "wider legacy"

"And if it had been for his wider legacy I think it would be wrong, but it was for something quite specific that helped Africa and children.

"I'm sorry it's upset so many people. It's not really what we do at Save the Children.

"What we're really doing is on the ground in Syria, with the Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone - that's the work we do. This has been really an unnecessary distraction. I do apologise to those people that it's upset."

'Mistakes'

Mr Forsyth, who advised Mr Blair on the Make Poverty History Campaign before becoming Gordon Brown's strategic communications and campaigns director, admitted the row had "in part" damaged the charity in eyes of some staff but expressed hope people would accept that organisations "make mistakes".

Jasmine Whitbread, Save The Children International's chief executive, has said the row over the award has been "painful" for the organisation.

In a statement published in November, Mr Blair's office said: "The award was in recognition of Tony Blair's work in leading G8 nations at Gleneagles in 2005 to pledge to double aid to Africa and provide 100% debt relief to eligible countries, as well as his ongoing work in partnership with African governments through his Foundation, the Africa Governance Initiative."

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