February 21, 2018 / 11:43 AM / 7 months ago

Charity Save the Children apologises for inappropriate behaviour by ex-CEO

LONDON (Reuters) - Save The Children UK apologised on Wednesday for historic inappropriate behaviour by its former chief executive and said procedures had not been properly followed in reviewing three complaints against him during his time at the charity.

Justin Forsyth (L), Chief Executive of Save the Children UK, talks to internally displaced Somalis at a camp in the Hodan district of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, November 21, 2012. REUTERS/Feisal Omar/File Photo

The apology came as charities in the aid sector pledge to overhaul their approach to dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. Britain and the European Union put their funding of Oxfam under review after reported abuse by some staff in Haiti after an earthquake in 2010.

Save the Children UK said concerns were raised in 2011 and 2015 about inappropriate comments and behaviour by ex-CEO Justin Forsyth, and reviews in both cases resulted in “unreserved apologies” to the women involved.

But the charity said that human resources processes had not been followed in every aspect.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Director Anthony Lake (2nd R) gestures as he visits Syrian refugee children while Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children, sits next to him inside a refugee camp in Zahle, in the Bekaa Valley March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

Save the Children said that current CEO Kevin Watkins would launch a “root and branch review of organisational culture”, following broader concerns about sexual abuse and harassment in the aid sector.

“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,” the charity said in a statement.

Forsyth is now a Deputy Executive Director at Unicef. He told the BBC that his apologies for “unsuitable and thoughtless conversations with colleagues” had been accepted, and he had “thought the issue closed many years ago.”

The charity said at the weekend that Brendan Cox, the widow of Jo Cox, a lawmaker who was murdered by a far-right extremist in 2016, had resigned as a employee of Save the Children after accusations of inappropriate behaviour.

Cox, who had continued campaign work in his wife’s memory, apologised for his actions, saying they were not malicious but sometimes inappropriate, and said he would step down from public roles to face up to the mistakes he made while at Save the Children.

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake (3rd L) stands with Justin Forsyth (L), chief executive of Save the Children, as they visit a school inside a refugee camp in Zahle, in the Bekaa Valley March 14, 2014. Syria's government has promised greater access for aid groups supporting millions of Syrians, but faster progress is needed to tackle a dire humanitarian crisis, Lake said on Friday. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Toby Chopra

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