Dear colleagues

Our most recent Board meeting took place on 2 June and we welcomed no less than five new Board members: Daren Nair, Hugh Sandeman, Sue Jex, Senthorun Raj and Tom Harrison. Sue is co-opted as our director responsible for Human Resources. Tom, Daren, Hugh and Sen were all elected by Amnesty UK members.  I would like to express my appreciation to all of the candidates who stood for election, to the Nominations Committee and to everyone who voted.  Eilidh Douglas has been elected by the Board to serve as the new Vice-Chair.

It remains for me to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those Board members whose term of office has come to an end: Tracy Newton-Blows, Tom Hedley, Jerry Allen and Hannah Perry. The commitment that they have shown and the contribution that they have made to our organisation and to human rights has been immense.

It’s been a while, but it was fantastic to see so many of you at our AGM and National Conference in Swansea in April. We had an excellent mix of old friends and fresh new delegates. As always, this was a weekend buzzing with inspiration, ideas and information. The Board is grateful to all the staff and volunteers who work so hard to deliver such a marvellous event.

At the Board meeting, we reviewed the AGM and the feedback that we’ve received. The atmosphere in Swansea was friendly and constructive:  in no small part, that’s down to our excellent AGM Chair, Alex Rhys. During his time in the role, Alex has had to preside over some challenging debates and deal with difficult issues. He has done so with aplomb and we are all deeply grateful. I’m delighted that he is staying involved as a member of the Standing Orders Committee so that we can continue to benefit from his experience. Thanks also to Sheila Banks, whom Alex will be replacing on SOC. Again, I’m really pleased that she will remain involved in the Section’s governance through the Members and Directors Appeals Committee.

The decisions taken by the AGM are published on our website AGM 2018. After each Board meeting we will provide a short update on the progress that we are making in implementing those decisions.  The Board has appointed one member to look after each decision and this list will be published on the website within the next couple of weeks. So if you do have any questions or concerns about how things are going, you can get in touch with a specific Board member.

As soon as the AGM was over, I left for the European Regional meeting with our Director, Kate Allen.  This is a new forum, which replaces a now abolished international meeting. It was a good opportunity to share experiences and learn from nearby Amnesty sections.  There is much solidarity and support amongst other Chairs and Directors and listening to them is always salutary.  Our colleagues in Hungary have had their names printed in a magazine, listed as enemies of the state. Amnesty Russia have the awkward understanding that the more impact they have, the more likely it is that they will be closed down.  As you know, our colleagues in Turkey have been arrested and imprisoned.  Even in Europe, in takes real courage to belong to Amnesty in many countries.

The Board has also spent time preparing for the international movement’s Global Assembly meeting. This meeting replaces the International Council Meeting as the movement’s highest decision-making body and will take place next month. As it’s the first year of a new system of governance, the agenda will be deliberately light. Pleasingly, the business to be discussed will include the follow-up to last year’s decisions on abortion policy and the human rights implications of climate change, both proposed by the UK Section.  We are very happy with the progress that the International Secretariat has been making and I look forward to reporting back later in the summer.

As you would expect, the Board receives quite a lot of progress reports from the Senior Management Team and our most recent meeting was no exception. We held our annual review of human resources facts and figures, which provides useful information on how we are doing as an employer (an area of Board responsibility that receives full attention from our Human Resources sub-Committee). We also reviewed the first quarter’s finances and performance against strategy.

This performance report highlighted the very significant success of gaining a successful second reading of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill back in February.

The Bill aims to enable child refugees to sponsor their close family to come to the UK so that they can enjoy their right to family life and rebuild their lives together. It would also enable young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents to live in safety with their families and for refugees to be able to access legal aid to support them through the complicated family reunion process.

Frankly, the government should be introducing the legislation. However, they are not and so Angus McNeill MP tabled the measure as a Private Members Bill. These usually fall at the first Parliamentary hurdle. This did not. It passed its second reading because Amnesty’s members and the supporters of our partner organisations mobilised in their constituencies and persuaded 129 MPs to attend the debate and vote in favour of the Bill.

There are many more hurdles in the way but to have come this far is itself a stunning achievement and it wouldn’t have happened without you. I thank you all for your activism.

With best wishes

Ruth Breddal
Chair, Amnesty International UK Section