The former chief executive of Save the Children resigned after he admitted making “unsuitable and thoughtless” comments to three young female members of staff, it emerged on Tuesday.
Justin Forsyth, who is now deputy executive director at Unicef, “apologised unreservedly” to the women after sending them text messages commenting on how they looked and what they were wearing.
It represents the latest scandal facing the charity sector after it emerged that senior Oxfam staff paid prostitutes while working in Haiti following an earthquake in 2010.
Mr Forsyth’s resignation from Save the Children came just four months after Brendan Cox, a friend of Mr Forsyth and former chief strategist at the charity, quit following separate allegations of sexual misconduct.
Mr Foryth and Mr Cox worked together at Oxfam and later again as advisors to Gordon Brown in Downing Street. Mr Cox, the widower of the late Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016, admitted at the weekend that he had caused the women “hurt and offence”.
Neither Mr Forsyth of Mr Cox were subject to a formal discplinary hearing. Save the Children said on Tuesday night that trustees had carried out two internal investigations into the complaints against Mr Forsyth in 2011 and 2015.
It admitted that it should have conducted a further review and “matters should not have been left”. The women who complained about Mr Forsyth’s behaviour told the BBC he sent them a “barrage” of text messages which left them feeling deeply uncomfortable.
If they did not respond he allegedly sent them emails, and if they still refused to engage they were called over by Mr Forsyth for a private “chat”. Save the Children is said to have dealt with each complaint by having a mediation process where Mr Forsyth apologised to the women involved.
One of the complainants, who remained anonymous, said: “The complaints of harassment were not treated with the appropriate degree of seriousness. “It seems there was more interest in preventing the exposure of misconduct than in protecting its female employees from predatory behaviour.”
Another told the BBC: “It was my dream to work for an organisation like Save the Children but the longer you are there the more you are exposed to some of their bravado and that’s both at head office and in the field.
“Other women tell you to watch out for certain senior people. You start to hear rumours about some of the directors but of course, until it happens to you, which it did, you don’t really appreciate how hard it is to deal with.”
One former senior staff member added: “The centre of this crisis was not in Haiti or in Chad, it was here in London and it went all the way to the top.”
In a statement last night Mr Forsyth said: “I made some personal mistakes during my time at Save the Children.
“I recognise that on a few occasions I had unsuitable and thoughtless conversations with colleagues which I now know caused offence and hurt
“When this was brought to my attention on two separate occasions I apologised unreservedly to the three colleagues involved and my apologies were accepted and I thought the issue was closed many years ago.”
A spokesperson for Save the Children said: “The review will commence by the end of this week and report in June 2018. The final report will be published, shared with the Charity Commission and made available to Government and every single member of staff.
“We apologise for any pain these matters have caused and sincerely hope that the complainants feel able to help us with the review in the coming weeks. This is so that we can better support our skilled and highly valued staff as they help change the lives of millions of children around the world every day.”
A spokesman for Unicef, where Mr Forsyth now works, said: “We are aware of media reports related to past complaints against Justin Forsyth about events that occurred before he joined UNICEF. We welcome Mr Forsyth’s decision to come forward and acknowledge past mistakes. We are discussing this matter with Mr Forsyth and his former employer so we can take appropriate action.”
The charitable sector has come under fire since it emerged that Oxfam allowed aid workers in Haiti to resign after it emerged they had been using prostitutes.
Save the Children admitted yesterday that it dealt with 193 child protection and 35 sexual harassment cases last year, which led to 30 dismissals. Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, accused Oxfam executives of “betraying the public” and said they may have deliberately misled charity regulators and the authorities.
She also warned that Britain could withdraw funding for the United Nations unless it stops exploitation and abuse. Oxfam yesterday revealed that it has received 26 new allegations of sexual misconduct and 7,000 donors have cancelled their subscriptions in the fortnight since the Haiti sex scandal emerged.
A total of 16 alleged incidents took place in countries where Oxfam ran aid operations, seven in high street charity shops in the UK and three from “other UK-based divisions”.
The cases range from 1995 to the present. Mark Goldring, the chief executive at Oxfam GB, yesterday apologised to the committee for the actions of some Oxfam staff who sexually exploited young Haitian woman and for an interview last week in which he appeared to downplay the gravity of the scandal.
He said that he had been stressed when he claimed that the “ferocity” of the attacks on Oxfam made it seem as if staff had “murdered babies in their cots”. He also apologised for saying that he made the comments after six nights without sleep.
He said: “I repeat Oxfam’s broader apology and my personal apology. I am sorry, we are sorry, for the damage Oxfam has done both to the people of Haiti but also to wider efforts for aid and development by possibly undermining public support.”
As well as donors who have cancelled their subscriptions, Mr Goldring also disclosed that corporate sponsors are considering whether to continue giving Oxfam money.
Pauline Latham, a Tory member of the committee, questioned whether he was the “right person for the job” after he failed to look into allegations that staff had paid prostitutes in Haiti when he was appointed in 2013.
She said that some Oxfam staff had treated women and girls in Haiti if they were “trinkets and you can pay for them”.
Mr Goldring disclosed that Oxfam had given Roland van Hauwermeiren, the charity’s former director of operations in Haiti, a reference which omitted the fact he had used prostitutes. He subsequently went on to work for another charity.
Ms Mordaunt said: “They did not provide a full report to the Charity Commission, they did not provide a full report to their donors, they did not provide a full report to prosecutors. In my view they misled, quite possibly deliberately.”
Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/20/save-children-boss-quit-admitting-sending-inappropriate-texts/