Mercy Corps Commitments to Action Progress Report

Report provides update on new safeguarding resources, governance changes 

PORTLAND, OR — Mercy Corps today released its first progress report on the delivery of commitments to action made by the organization in February 2020. The list of commitments followed an independent, external review examining what steps were taken when reports of sexual abuse by Mercy Corps’ late co-founder were brought to the organization’s attention in 2018. 

“We have made strong progress across our commitments, which respond to each of the independent, external review’s recommendations,” says Beth deHamel, Interim Chief Executive Officer at Mercy Corps. “The Mercy Corps Board of Directors and Executive Team are committed to continuing and building on this work, and to sharing regular updates with our community until all our commitments have been implemented.”

In the five months since issuing its commitments to action, Mercy Corps has:

  • Initiated investigations into the extent of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by Ellsworth Culver in connection with his role at Mercy Corps, and to evaluate how Mercy Corps in the 1990s handled reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by Ellsworth Culver. The investigations have begun, and are being led by Freeh Group International Solutions, which specializes in areas of integrity, compliance and investigations and is led by Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI and federal judge.
  • Established the position of Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer (CECO) as well as a new Intake and Investigation Department to support case management and investigative oversight for alleged ethics violations, including safeguarding. Mercy Corps is in active recruitment for the CECO and expects to announce an appointment by the end of August.  
  • Invested significant additional resources into our global, prevention-focused safeguarding team, comprising multiple permanent staff now overseen by the Director of Safeguarding. Mercy Corps has now trained 40 Safeguarding Focal Points and 40 Co-Investigators are in 30 countries with additional training scheduled for all remaining countries by the end of 2020.
  • Approved updates to the agency’s safeguarding policies, including the Ethics Complaint and Whistleblower, Child Safeguarding, and Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse policies.
  • Established the Joint Ethics and Safeguarding Committee of the Board, which has responsibility for overseeing management and advising the board on all ethics matters. Mercy Corps will also undertake a comprehensive review of the organization’s global governance practices, entity structuring and joint global operating model.
  • Issued the organization’s first annual Safeguarding Report for Fiscal Year 2019 (Part I, Part II).

A complete summary of Mercy Corps’ response to details of abuse by co-founder Ellsworth Culver, including the organization’s commitments to action, can be found on the Mercy Corps website here.