Who we are

An Ombuds is a trustworthy person who can listen, support, and guide children and young people through situations that have not been successfully resolved by SOS Children’s Villages Safeguarding. There are national, regional, and global Ombuds. 

The Ombuds Office is the team of people that ensure that all ombudspersons can offer strong support for children and young people. At the moment, the Ombuds Office is working with interim positions, while recruitment for permanent staff is ongoing.


The Ombuds Office consists of: National Ombuds, Regional Ombuds, Global Ombuds and Representatives (staff and children). On a global level, an Ombuds Office Coordinator and a Human Resources Coordinator will support the work. The Ombuds board is overseeing the Ombuds Office. Children and young people have participated in the development of the Ombuds Office approach and in the recruitment processes for national, regional and global Ombuds.

Importantly, the Ombuds Office is independent from SOS Children’s Villages with internal reporting lines: the national Ombuds reports to the regional Ombuds, the regional to the global, and the global Ombuds to the Ombuds board.

The Ombuds board is selected by the International Senate of SOS Children's Villages.

Ombuds board

Ombuds board chair:

Cornelia Zelter, Germany

Served with the United Nations for over 30 years as an international lawyer, manager, mediator and ombudsperson.  

Ombuds board members:

  • Emma Baumgartner, Italy
    Former Professor of Developmental Psychology and Head of the Department of Developmental and Social Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, University of Rome, Sapienza.  
  • Jaap Doek, Netherlands
    Former Chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2001-2007), emeritus professor of Law (Family and Juvenile Law) at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.
  • Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Ethopia
    Chairman UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from 2015 - 2017 and vice chairman of African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.


How is the Ombuds Office set up?

National Ombuds
  • Benin: Dona Houansou
  • Sierra Leone: Jotham Johnson
  • Uruguay: Luján Alvarez
  • Albania: Renis Meta
Regional Ombuds
  • LAAM: Magela Luksic
  • WCNA: Sambieni Bienvenu
  • ESAF: Nandisa Tilayi
  • ASIA: Harleen Walia
Global Ombuds 
  • Pierre Cazenave (Global Ombuds - currently on onboarding process)
  • Judi Fairholm (interim)
  • Andrew Azzopardi (interim)

They are two child safeguarding experts and lead the Ombuds Office until a permanent global Ombuds is found.