I write to you after a very difficult few weeks for all of us who are part of AIUK, but first and foremost our staff and activists of colour. Many of you may have, by now, read the accounts of racism shared in The Guardian and on social media.
The Boards have recognised that AIUK has not been an effectively anti-racist organisation to date, that this is unacceptable, and that this needs to and will change. However, as I have said before, I also know and accept the anger that for some, including those who have shared their stories, this comes too late. For that, I am sorry.
Both Boards remain committed to changing AIUK – and are changing AIUK – so that we become the truly inclusive, rights respecting organisation that our statement of commitments on anti-racism, our new strategy, and indeed our very mission as a human rights organisation, requires of us.
Part of that change entails renewed leadership. So, today, I want to give some important updates about the leadership of AIUK.
As you know, Kate Allen announced her retirement this year. I want to take this opportunity to thank Kate for her leadership and commitment to human rights and wish her the best for the future. From our first meeting at the Student Action for Change in 2013, to attending the Global Assembly together in Johannesburg in 2019, it has been a pleasure to get to know and work with Kate - a senior and respected human rights leader who has shown a lifetime’s dedication to promoting dignity and respect for all people.
I am now, however, delighted to be able to let you know that we have appointed Sacha Deshmukh as AIUK’s interim CEO. Sacha will take up this post tomorrow and he will lead AIUK until January 2022. Sacha is a very experienced leader within the charity, private and public sectors and we are excited to work with him. His first priority will be to lead the implementation of our new strategy, of which a key part is developing an inclusive culture where all our staff, activists and stakeholders can thrive.
We are also making some immediate changes to the composition of SMT. The responsibilities of the current Director of Corporate Services role will be divided between two new positions Director, People and Culture, and Director, Corporate Services. This change reflects our commitment to building a safe, diverse, inclusive, collaborative and equitable workplace. In order to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Charity Commission and to deliver a more robust and effective grants process, we will also be recruiting for a new position titled Director, Investments. These 3 executive positions will be recruited immediately.
These important changes are just the first of a wider transformation of the management of the organisation. Inevitably, more changes will follow as we continue to review our current resourcing and structure to ensure we have the capability to deliver on our commitments and our new strategy.
The Boards will also now begin the process to search for a permanent CEO. This will be a thorough, transparent, and consultative process to find the right leadership for the important years ahead. Based on current forecasts we think the earliest start date for a permanent CEO is January 2022.
As Chair of the Section Board since June 2019, I have also been thinking deeply about my own place in this transformation of the organisation. So, too, have my colleagues on the Section Board been thinking about their own roles. The upcoming elections – in which I would encourage you all to vote – will refresh the composition of the Board. At the new Board’s first meeting in September, that Board will then select its Chair and Vice Chair for the coming years. In the meantime, I will continue to lead the Board through the initial stages of AIUK’s transition, ably assisted by our new Vice Chair, Sen Raj. I would therefore also like to say thank you – or, more appropriately, diolch – to outgoing Vice Chair Sharon Lovell for her hard work, support, and dedication to AIUK.
Whilst this update sets out the immediate changes that are being made, there is much work still to be done. With that in mind, I would also like to take the opportunity to discuss our wider plans with you in a series of briefings and discussions, starting next week.
These meetings are scheduled to take place over the next 4 Wednesdays between 6pm and 8pm starting on 26th May:
Weds 26 May - 6pm – 8pm
Weds 2nd June - 6pm – 8pm
Weds 9th June – 6pm -8pm
Weds 16th June – 6pm – 8pm
If you’d like to attend one of these sessions please reply to this email or send an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org saying the date of the session you’d like to attend. The staff team will then respond with the meeting arrangements and details of how to attend.
Alternatively, I know many of you will also have your own scheduled group and network meetings. If you would instead prefer a Section Board Member to attend one of your own meetings, please do get in touch.
Thank you for your commitment and your patience during this period not just of reflection, but ultimately of transformation: to ensure AIUK is an effective, inclusive, and equitable movement and organisation, achieving positive human rights impact in the world, of which we can all proud to be a part.
In solidarity and with best wishes,
Chair, Amnesty International UK Section
Message from AIUK Chair - May 2021