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UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth speaks during a UNICEF media briefing.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/B.R. Smith

UNICEF deputy resigns after harassment allegations

February 22, 2018

The deputy director of UNICEF has resigned following allegations of inappropriate behavior at a separate organization. The NGO sector has been hit with a series of sexual misconduct allegations.


The deputy director of UNICEF, Justin Forsyth, resigned in light of harassment allegations dating back to his time at a separate NGO, the United Nations children's agency announced on Thursday.

"Executive Director Henrietta Fore today accepted Justin Forsyth's resignation from his position as Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF," said a UNICEF statement.

"We are grateful to Mr. Forsyth for his work over the past two years to advocate for the most vulnerable children and help advance UNICEF's mission to save children's lives. This mission is now more important than ever," it added.

Read more: Oxfam sex scandal: EU warns charities to uphold 'ethical standards'

Inappropriate texts and comments

Save the Children UK said Forsyth had been the subject of complaints in 2011 and 2015 when he was the charity's chief executive officer. In all three cases he issued "unreserved apologies" to the women involved.

Three women said he had sent inappropriate texts and commented on what young female staff were wearing. BBC Radio 4 reported that if women did not respond to the texts he would follow up with an email and then ask someone to send them to him for a "quick word."

UNICEF said it was unaware of the allegations when he was recruited. Earlier this month, the United Nations announced a crackdown on sexual harassment and a zero-tolerance policy.

'Heavy heart'

Forsyth confirmed the resignation in a statement on his website, saying he was not stepping down because of his misconduct at Save the Children, but to protect UNICEF.

"There is no doubt in my mind that some of the coverage around me is not just to (rightly) hold me to account, but also to attempt to do serious damage to our cause and the case for aid. I am resigning because of the danger of damaging both UNICEF and Save the Children and our wider cause," he wrote.

NGO misconduct

NGOs have come under the spotlight for sexual harrassment and abuse after revelations of sexual misconduct by Oxfam staff in Haiti.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) recently reported 24 cases of abuse or sexual harassment in the past year. The International Rescue Committee admits that there have been three cases of sexual abuse during operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read more: Oxfam sex scandal is not an isolated case

aw/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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