Save the Children UK chairman resigns after staff complaints | Global development

The chairman of Save the Children UK has resigned after complaints by staff that he was not doing enough to address allegations of sexual harassment.

The charity said Peter Bennett-Jones was standing down following objections to remarks he made during recent discussions with staff about the organisation’s future.

In a statement, Save the Children said his comments “could have been perceived as being at odds with the organisation’s response to a review of its working culture earlier in the year. Mr Bennett-Jones recognised this and has apologised for any upset he caused”.

Bennett-Jones was expected to step down in 2019, but brought forward his departure following an internal investigation. He is expected to leave his post in January.

The charity’s international chairman Sir Alan Parker resigned in April amid allegations that Save had failed to investigate abuse and inappropriate behaviour by staff.

Accusations of abuse and harassment have been rife across the aid sector this year, which began with the revelation of a sexual exploitation scandal involving Oxfam staff in Haiti.

Earlier this month, a British aid worker in Uganda was sacked by the UN refugee agency, after an inquiry found he had engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman employed as a domestic worker.

Hamis Khamis, a British national of Tanzanian origin who headed up a UNHCR office in northern Uganda, was sacked nine months after he was accused of abusing and exploiting a 23-year-old woman.

The inspector general’s office, the UN’s independent investigative body, launched its inquiry when allegations were made in March, but the disciplinary process only started in July and concluded earlier this month.

A UNHCR spokesperson, Cécile Pouilly, said that while the investigation found no evidence that Khamis had exploited or abused refugees, “nonetheless, it established that he had failed to uphold the standards expected of an international civil servant, when he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a local woman, thereby breaching UN staff regulations and rules,” she said.

Khamis has 90 days to appeal his sacking.

The woman said she met Khamis in December 2017 while working as a waiter at a hotel in Kitgum.

Khamis, who was arrested in March and held for several days by Ugandan police in the capital, Kampala, said he would appeal against the decision, which he described as unfair and politically motivated. The UNHCR in Uganda has come under fire this year for mismanagement of resources and inflating refugee figures. Uganda now hosts more than 1 million refugees fleeing conflict in South Sudan.

“I told them [the investigators] I had a seven months relationship with a 23-year-old. So to accuse me for failing to uphold standards expected of an international civil servant is unfair,” said Khamis

“If UNHCR wanted to clear its image of the current challenge, they shouldn’t have used me.”

Pouilly said: “We expect the highest level of integrity from our personnel. Our high commissioner has been extremely clear on this and is personally committed to ensuring that UNHCR colleagues behave in the most exemplary way and abide by the highest standards of conduct.”

Khamis’ sacking follows a string of allegations against UN agencies over the past year. An independent inquiry recently concluded that Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAids, had created “a patriarchal culture tolerating harassment and abuse of authority”.

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