The British Indian chief of the UK arm of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has triggered a major shake-up at the UN charity with his resignation just months after taking charge of the post after raising bullying concerns against a senior.
Sacha Deshmukh, who took over as Executive Director of Unicef UK in April, is believed to have raised some concerns around bullying behaviour involving Douglas Alexander – a former UK government minister who had been Chair of Unicef UK since 2018.
“The board of trustees of Unicef UK announces with regret that it has accepted the resignation of Executive Director Sacha Deshmukh. He will remain in post until the new interim leadership is announced. The search for a new Executive Director will start immediately,” a Unicef UK statement said.
“In the meantime, the board has every confidence in the strengths of the existing executive team and the dedicated staff as a whole, to take forward the charity at this vital time with its work focused on improving the lives of the world’s children,” it added.
However, soon after the Unicef UK Board of Trustees issued a follow up statement to confirm that Alexander had decided to resign as Chair with immediate effect and that the search for a new Chair will start immediately. Meanwhile, Shatish Dasani, who joined the Board this month as Treasurer, will take on the role of Interim Chair.
“A full review has been launched by the Board, which will be led by an external adviser from the law firm Bates Wells. The review is intended to be swift and thorough,” the board’s statement read, in reference to the allegations of bullying that had emerged.
Sophie Gallois, Deputy Executive Director for Communication, Advocacy and Programmes, and Steven Waugh, Chief Financial Officer, have also been named Interim Joint Executive Directors “with immediate effect” in addition to their current responsibilities.
Deshmukh was said to be disappointed to be leaving the charity, which he feels strongly committed to despite the alleged events.
“Unicef’s work supporting children, worldwide and in the UK, is more important than ever before. Globally one in four children are affected by war, and Unicef’s engagement with generous supporters in the UK is critical to providing vital support to children around the world,” he had said at the time of his appointment to the post earlier this year.
Deshmukh joined Unicef UK from Smart Energy GB, the government-backed campaign to help people understand smart energy meters, where he had been Chief Executive since 2013.
He has previously spoken about his Indian heritage and historic connect with Unicef, following his father’s migration from Pakistan to India as a young refugee post-Partition in 1948. His father later came to England in 1962 in pursuit of a university education and met his mother when she stopped off in the UK on her way to the US in 1968.
Deshmukh grew up in west London before going on to study at Cambridge University.
by Nadia Hatink