Dear Colleagues

I would like to begin this update by thanking everyone who participates in our Board sub-committees. We have five of them and we receive a report on their discussions and deliberations at every Board meeting. They play a vital role in advising the Board and supporting management in the consideration of finance and risk, human resources issues, campaigning impact, securing nominations to governance positions and maintaining a healthy activist movement.

At our last meeting, on Saturday 16 December we were pleased to agree name changes for two of our networks. We agreed that the LGBTQI should become the Amnesty International UK Rainbow Network and the Women’s Action Network should become the Amnesty International UK Feminist Network. 

We discussed both name changes carefully but the deciding factor was the thought and attention that our networks are giving to being as inclusive and attractive as possible to like-minded supporters. We are very grateful for that. Please do keep an eye on the work of our networks and consider signing up to their mailing and actions. They really are open to the involvement of everyone.

Our Nominations Sub-Committee also reported on the steps that they have taken to support nominations for next year’s Board elections. If you are interested in a governance position, please do visit our web pages for more information https://www.amnesty.org.uk/jobs/governance. The positions are voluntary but they are essential to the effective and democratic leadership of our movement. You can also discuss opportunities informally by contacting nomcom@amnesty.org.uk

December is not only the end of our calendar year, it is also the end of our financial year and so a significant item for the Board was understanding performance in 2018 and approving a budget for 2019. We will provide further detail on this at our Annual General Meeting in April once the accounts have been audited. However, the headlines are that we are conscious of income challenges around individual giving and wider uncertainty in the UK economy but remain in a healthy financial position and are comfortable agreeing a deficit budget in 2019 to support continued investment in our human rights work and fundraising, including tests aimed at increasing the Section’s membership numbers. 

We reviewed a further report from the Senior Management Team into safeguarding. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously as a Board and we are very pleased that one of our Board members has experience in this area. Over a number of years, the Board and SMT have been reviewing and improving our approaches to safeguarding human rights defenders, children and vulnerable adults. However, as I said at this year’s AGM, this is an issue that is rightly receiving a lot of attention and we want to ensure that our safeguarding policies and procedures are as comprehensive as possible. We were therefore pleased to note the progress achieved since our last review in September. 

The next Annual General Meeting is starting to come into view. As I hope you know, we are returning to the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham, over the weekend of 13-14 April. You can find further information and a link to the website containing all the details by visiting https://www.amnesty.org.uk/agm2019. At our Board meeting, we reviewed the first draft agenda and considered the results of a test of “remote participation” that we carried out in November. As we believe this would be a significant step for our AGM and National Conference, we decided to table a further resolution at the AGM to enable members to decide on next steps. 

December’s Board meeting had a fairly high proportion of international movement issues to consider. We reviewed a report by James Laddie QC into the tragic death of Gaëtan Mootoo, a long-standing staff member at the International Secretariat. The report identifies a number of lessons and these are currently being built on by the IS. We expect to receive further information on how they are being implemented at the various international meetings that will take place in 2019. 

We were pleased to welcome a guest from the International Secretariat to our Board meeting, to support our discussions of international issues. The Senior Director for the Office of the Secretary General described the various structures of Amnesty’s international movement and some of the challenges and opportunities that we face together. We were able to discuss issues like safeguarding, relationships between UK activists and the IS’s regional offices and the mounting threats to Amnesty’s staff, leadership and operations in various parts of the world.

With that in mind, as 2018 draws to its close, I would like to express my deep gratitude for all the campaigning and fundraising that you’ve done over the course of year. But thanks in particular for your work on behalf of our colleagues in Turkey, Idil and Taner. It is a great relief that they will be welcoming the New Year in their homes and not in a prison cell. 

I wish I could say that there will be less need for campaigning in 2019. Sadly, that’s not the case. So, allow me to wish you a peaceful and restful festive period. We will return, rejuvenated, to campaign and raise funds with even more determination next year. 

With best wishes

Ruth Breddal
Chair, Amnesty International UK Section