On Tuesday 20 April 2021, The Guardian ran a story in relation to racism at the International Secretariat and at Amnesty International UK.
I am deeply sorry to hear the accounts of racism from our former colleagues at Amnesty International UK that have been published in The Guardian.
I want to apologise to anyone who has experienced harm and pain and felt that we have not effectively and properly addressed allegations of racism within the organisation. These are serious and challenging concerns and, although I cannot discuss individual cases, we take allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate them thoroughly in line with our policies and procedures.
We know that institutional racism exists in the UK and, like any other organisation, we aren't immune to this very real problem. We recognise that we and the International Secretariat have not done enough to ensure that our organisations are truly inclusive, where everyone receives the same level of respect and opportunity, is valued equally and is able to be heard. We are reckoning with the uncomfortable fact that we have not been good enough and from this, we understand that we must change to become better.
Our clear priority now is to provide a positive environment where all individuals can thrive and fully contribute to the human rights work we are all so passionate about and that achieves so much. We want to build an anti-racist organisation that applies the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in all that we do, both in terms of how we operate within Amnesty International UK and our campaigning work. This is the cornerstone of our strategy for the next eight years.
Over the last nine months we have made some important changes. We started this vital process by listening to our staff and particularly our staff of colour. This has informed the actions we are taking:
- We are creating new governance structures with greater focus on equity, diversity and inclusion across all parts of Amnesty International UK, from Board and management levels to all colleagues and volunteers. A broader governance review will include the need for improved accountability and inclusive leadership.
- We have recruited a new Diversity and Inclusion Lead and are in the process of recruiting a Racial Justice Lead to support our human rights work. These roles will challenge the organisation, hold us accountable and build our capacity to become a more inclusive and anti-racist organisation. We have also convened a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, bringing together our internal expertise across our staff and Boards.
- We have held education sessions on anti-racism for our staff and governance members and we are creating a new activist anti-racism framework.
- We will listen to and engage with our colleagues of colour. Where colleagues provide us with experience and expertise, we know that such contributions come with a personal cost and that this must be recognised.
- We are reviewing our grievance process. Led by our Head of Safeguarding, this review will aim to ensure that our grievance procedure is safe, supportive, transparent and inclusive.
- We are improving our recruitment, retention and development processes and are reviewing proposals on career progression opportunities, particularly into senior levels. We are also committing to increasing diversity in governance roles. We are improving data collection and reporting in order to better understand where certain communities or groups are underrepresented so this can be rectified.
- We are improving our volunteering - we will review how we can support volunteers and ensure there is more inclusivity.
In addition to the changes outlined here, it is important to also note that:
- The Howlett Brown report, published in October 2020, was commissioned by the International Board of Amnesty to provide an understanding of the views, opinions and experiences of staff at Amnesty’s International Secretariat in relation to “systemic and individual acts of racism”. The International Secretariat has taken significant measures to act upon the findings of this report and to work towards becoming an anti-racist organisation. The report did not look at Amnesty International UK. However, we recognise that we must also change and so have undertaken an extensive review of our structure and governance in relation to racism. The response to the report from the Coalition Team Board of the International Secretariat can be found here.
- Amnesty International UK takes all allegations of discrimination seriously and deals with any such allegations in accordance with its HR policy and procedures. Every grievance case is investigated thoroughly.
There is much work to be done at Amnesty International UK to become the kind of organisation that we are all proud of. I want to thank our staff, volunteers and activists for the incredible work that you do. In particular, we want to acknowledge all the work that our colleagues of colour, past and present, have already put into trying to change behaviours and culture here – often at great personal cost.
The work ahead will not be easy, and these conversations and changes will be challenging but our focus in translating that discomfort into learning and action is clear.
I am confident in our ability to learn and be better. More so, I am confident in our ability to make real and meaningful change.
Director of Amnesty International UK