I regret to write that, on Tuesday, Daren Nair resigned from the Amnesty UK Section Board. Many of you will know Daren for his committed activism in the Tower Hamlets and Newham local group, and for his work campaigning for those unjustly detained in Iran. That Daren no longer feels able to continue in his role as a Board Member is therefore deeply saddening.
Some of you may have seen Daren's announcement. In it, Daren raises some important issues which merit serious consideration. I have reached out to Daren directly, to seek to discuss these issues further and understand better his concerns. I only regret that these conversations could not have happened sooner.
Of the issues raised, for me the most important is that of anti-racism. I agree with Daren that Amnesty has not been an effectively anti-racist organisation to date, and that this is unacceptable. We do need to honestly confront our history as an organisation. That is what we have committed to do, and are doing, now – although I acknowledge that people of colour have been trying to change behaviours and culture at Amnesty for far longer, often at great personal cost. I therefore know and accept the anger that for some, including Daren, this comes too late. As I have said privately, and will repeat here: for this, I will offer no excuses; only shame, humility, and a desire to be better.
In this regard, over the past few months, the Amnesty UK Section and Charitable Trust Boards have been working together on an anti-racism statement, which we had planned to share with you later this week but I share with you now.
This statement of commitments has been the product of many months' work, to lay the foundations for the systemic change that is required to become a truly anti-racist movement and organisation.
I say, "foundations", because it is important to understand that we are at the start of this journey. It will require all of us – Boards, staff, volunteers, activists – to commit to the learning, unlearning, and action required.
As Boards, we are committed to succeed in making the changes we need to make. We will hold ourselves and the Senior Management Team accountable for this. In turn, we hope and expect you to hold us to account, too.
I would encourage you to reflect on the statement and share it with the activists that you work alongside. We will publish it in the next edition of the magazine so that we bring it to the attention of all Amnesty members in the UK.
The Activism Sub-Committee of the Board will be reflecting on the statement at their meeting on 24th April, and please do share any contributions you would like to make to that discussion to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would find it helpful to invite a member of the Board or staff team along to your discussions you may have on this issue, please do let us know and we will arrange that.
We all have much to learn and unlearn so that, together, we become the anti-racist organisation that we can and should be. As part of that, we are embarking on an ambitious programme of learning for Boards, staff, volunteers and activists, looking at anti-racism, equity and inclusion, and what they mean for us as individuals, as teams and as a human rights organisation. The first anti-racism session for Boards took place last weekend and was hugely insightful.
Thank you for all of your activism for human rights. Learning to be truly anti-racist in the way that we work for human rights is fundamental to the values of our organisation and to the work we do together. Our statement is an important first step on our journey. I look forward to working with you, and learning from you, as we make the changes we need to become a truly effective anti-racist organisation.
Chair, Amnesty International UK Section