Anorak | Justin Forsyth resigns from Unicef – man loses his job over text messages

Justin Forsyth resigns from Unicef – man loses his job over text messages

by | 23rd, February 2018

john forstyth


Another successful hit for the anti-harassment police as Unicef chief Justin Fortyth falls on his (pork) sword and resigns. The former chief executive of Save the Children says his past must not “damage” the charities that allegedly coseted him.

Forsyth was accused of “inappropriate” behaviour towards three female colleagues – a “barrage” of texts and comments about their looks. He “apologised unreservedly” to the three women at the time. Save The Children investigated him twice. He left, scored a new job at Unicef and life rolled on. But when the story became news just a few days ago, his career was mired. Justice in the age of #MeToo is mercilessly swift. He’s gone.

“They were dealt with through a proper process many years ago,” Forsyth says in a statement about the complaints an their handling. “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.” (For “aid”, read: politics, party, movie, the BBC, TV series,  gender and more.)

Conservative MP Pauline Latham, a member of the House of Commons’ International Development committee, reacts: “But what I’m more concerned about is the fact he has been able to work for as long as he did. It is shocking. The more I hear about it the more shocked I am. It’s terrible for the UK charity sector. It will take a lot of getting over.”

Should we be more shocked that a woman who represents us in the combative world of party politics is shocked by a man sending sleazy tests and making lewd comments? If that shocks her, what does the war in Syria do to her constitution?

Brie O’Keefe, a former employee at Save the Children, tells BBC’s Newsnight: “One of the things that kept many of us from speaking out earlier was a desire to protect the organisation that we loved.”

So much for justice, then. Less #MeToo than #ThoseBastards.

The rest of us might also wonder how one man’s unwelcome comments, for which he apologised, are linked to Oxfam’s depravity? The charity allegedly covered up and protected staffers who aided local women – some allegedly underage (child rape, then?) – escape the horrors of witnessing hundreds of thousands killed and millions made without basic needs following the 2010 earthquake by paying them for sex. The BBC makes the link explicit. In its comment on Forsyth, the BBC slips in the line: “Meanwhile, Haiti has suspended Oxfam GB operations in the country, as it investigates claims of sexual misconduct by staff in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.”

The office creep is linked to Oxfam staff going to a poor foreign country and using their piles of money and power to debase the locals to such a degree that, it’s alleged, they arranged “meat barbecues” (orgies) in which the women wore Oxfam T-shirts.

Forsyth is right about one thing: this amplification of any sort of harassment into a scandal that rides high at the top of the news cycle is creating an unhealthy atmosphere of mistrust. The most authoritarian voices are holding the mic. The rest of us should worry about where it’s all leading?

Posted: 23rd, February 2018 | In: Key Posts, News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink