Response from Amnesty International’s Secretariat to the Guardian article


On Tuesday 20 April 2021, The Guardian ran a story in relation to racism at the International Secretariat and at Amnesty International UK.


Amnesty International’s Secretariat wholeheartedly apologises to any of our staff who have experienced discrimination or been hurt by individual, structural or systemic racism in the confines of our movement. These accounts are unacceptable for an organisation whose mandate is to ensure human rights for all are upheld around the world. Whilst we are obligated to protect the confidentiality of current and former employees, and are unable to speak about individual cases, we fully acknowledge how utterly devastating it is that some of our staff report such painful experiences during their time at Amnesty. We can give an assurance that allegations of racist language have been dealt with in line with our human resources policies.

As an organization born nearly 60 years ago, in June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd in police custody, Amnesty International’s International Board commissioned the Howlett Brown report to examine whether our structures could be unintentionally perpetuating ingrained racism. This was a seminal moment not just in the USA but in focusing attention globally on historic and systemic racism and it is precisely because we are deeply committed to becoming not just a non-racist organization but an anti-racist organization, that we took this step to reflect on our own structures and processes.

As a result of the findings of the report, we have acknowledged, that across many levels of Amnesty International, we do not have full equality. Through some of the systems set up in 1961, our behaviours and practices have perpetuated the very inequalities we try to change through our external human rights work.

Identifying and acknowledging the complex structures of racism and discrimination is an important first step to initiating authentic change. This is a challenge for the entire International Non-Governmental Organization model, and a question many similarly structured organizations will contemplate.

Following the report, the International Secretariat’s Coalition Leadership Team committed to actively and honestly tackling the root causes of these issues identified. However, it would be disingenuous for us to suggest there are any quick fixes – this is a long-term commitment to engender an organization that is authentically and fully anti-racist.

With the support and guidance from the Racial Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group (REDIG), work is currently underway in improving our recruitment process, reforming our People and Organizational Development (POD) so that it is a driver of anti-racism in the organisation, and commissioning external experts to lead a series of cross-programme facilitated sessions exploring racism across the International Secretariat.