Ex-Save The Children director Justin Forsyth has resigned from Unicef saying he doesn’t want to “damage” the case for aid.
Forsyth “apologised unreservedly” for sending inappropriate texts to female staff when he worked at Save The Children, but said that was not why he was quitting his role.
The former Downing Street comms chief said “some of the coverage” of the allegations was aimed at tarnishing the charities and the wider “case for aid”, and he was standing down to limit the damage.
Forsyth had faced three complaints of inappropriate behaviour towards female staff himself before he quit as chief executive of Save The Children in 2015.
He said: “With heavy heart I am today tendering my resignation to Unicef as Deputy Executive Director.
“It has been a huge honour to work for the rights of children around the world. It is an extraordinary force for good and I know it will have even more impact in the coming years under the leadership of Executive Director Fore. I wish my friends and colleagues at Unicef and the UN well.
“I want to make clear I am not resigning from Unicef because of the mistakes I made at Save The Children. They were dealt with through a proper process many years ago. I apologised unreservedly at the time and face-to-face. I apologise again.
“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. Two organisations I truly love and cherish. I can’t let this happen.
“I have given 30 years of my life to fight against injustice and poverty and for children. From South Africa to Rwanda to Syria, I have tried my best to help tilt the course of event for children and the most disadvantaged. We have sometimes failed, but I feel privileged to have had the chance to help millions of children. I have worked with some extraordinarily talented and committed people at both Unicef and Save The Children.”
Save the Children has commissioned a review of its organisation culture, in which it promises to address “any behavioural challenges among senior leadership”.
Forsyth had been under scrutiny following sexual assault allegations made against Brendan Cox, widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, who he worked with at the time.
Cox, who quit the two charities he set up in his late wife’s name when the historic claims against him resurfaced, admitted he “made mistakes and behaved in a way that caused some women hurt and offence”.
Jo’s family have pledged to stand by him as they continue to help raise the couple’s two young children.