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Achieving true racial justice: an update on our work to defeat structural discrimination

24 May 2021

The internal discussion at Minority Rights Group (MRG), following the call for dismantling structural discrimination ignited by the killing of George Floyd, has continued over the past months. We promised to keep the world at large updated on our progress, and this statement adheres to that promise.

For those unfamiliar with it, MRG embraced the call emanating from the Black Lives Matter movement by questioning the extent to which we, as a civil society organization working across the globe, may be culpable in perpetrating, actively or passively, or failing to adequately combat, structural racial discrimination.

Led by an internal working group at the organization, supported by an external consultant to ensure staff felt able to be forthcoming and frank, we gathered views from the staff as to where concerns might lie. This process revealed several strands of work needing further investigation, including active recruitment and promotion of minorities, policy review, partner engagement, decision-making on themes or projects we focus on, ensuring we meet our own objectives rather than those set by donors, and the extent of Euro-centricity in our planning, decision-making and outputs.

We are now moving ahead carefully to better understand all the concerns raised and to take action to address them. These findings have been digested and formulated into a set of concrete actions, some to be achieved immediately, others requiring long-term attention, on which we have already started work, while periodically reviewing progress against objectives.

Four lessons have been gleaned from the process so far. First, unravelling structural discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion or identity is not only incredibly hard, but also pressingly important for all, not least for those working with marginalised communities from a position of privilege, such as ourselves. Second, that engaging this question requires a concerted continuous process of open dialogue with regular critique and review.  Third, we are learning that in some instances there is no easy right or wrong answer and the nuances and resonances of our discussions in all the places that we work around the globe matter. Fourth, that we must continue, while ensuring we do not sacrifice or prioritise ourselves over the needs of our partner organisations and minority and indigenous communities who, now more than ever (for reasons in most cases completely unrelated to Black Lives Matter), face existential crises in the name of identity politics.

As a community of professionals, we are deeply committed to getting this process right. We hereby reiterate our commitment to eradicating all kinds of structural racial discrimination throughout our work and combatting it actively in the wider societies that we work in, to keep learning from others engaged on a similar trajectory, and sharing our own learning along the way. We promise to update on our progress in this journey and we thank you for your support through this process.

Photo credit: GoToVan. Published under Creative Commons.

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