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UPDATE: MRG’s commitment to achieving true racial justice

21 July 2020

Four weeks ago, Minority Rights Group (MRG) published the statement below, making a commitment to achieving true racial justice. 

Since then, MRG has held three organisation-wide conversations and many smaller conversations within teams and amongst colleagues about the ways that racism manifests and is insufficiently challenged within the organisation. We have identified variousareas and processes which need to be reviewed, from personnel and management procedures to fundraising and programmatic decisions.We are rethinking the language that we use and the imagery we select, andwe are considering what factors inform our priorities and selection of issues on which to focus and about which to communicate.  

At this stage, we have very few answers. However, from our discussions in the past month, wehavedrawn up a list of 18 actions that we know we need to completein the short term.  These actions range from reviewing chapters of our World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples to auditing our staff diversity by grade, location and team.  A working group of volunteers has been formed to discuss the difficult issues in more detail. MRG has found the budget to free some time from their day-to-day responsibilities to focus on this issue.  

Our commitment to dismantling structural racism, and promoting equality and inclusion internally and externally remains strong. We know that we will need to confront difficult issues and that progress may not be straightforward or easy, but we reaffirm our dedication to addressing this matter.  

We will provide more updates in the coming months. 

Statement of 19 June 2020

Minority Rights Group commits to achieving true racial justice

Minority Rights Group stands firmly in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Our support stems from a longstanding conviction that racism is endemic in all societies and must be challenged, always.

While we have spent fifty years promoting the struggles of ethnic, religious, linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples, the current demands for racial justice have compelled us to think and reflect on the efficacy of our own work as well as our internal systems and processes.

The founding history of Minority Rights Group reflects a strand of liberal thinking that has often taken on the White Man’s civilising burden. Elements of it live on within our organisation, in our traditions and ways of thinking and being, and we realise that we too are implicated in a system that has produced and upheld racism.

Our avowed focus on marginalised communities ‘abroad’ while failing to tackle racism occurring daily especially in our London headquarters is an indication of this. The location of our largest office in London, UK, for an organisation that mainly undertakes work in Africa, Asia and the Middle East both reflects and may consolidate power structures that we ourselves are otherwise working hard to dismantle.

We are now asking ourselves questions about our internal structure and the extent to which we have attracted and retained minorities and indigenous peoples to work within our organisation. We are also questioning how our choices regarding the ways that we work, the issues we prioritise and the decisions that we make might achieve quick wins but fall short in achieving fundamental systems change. Ultimately, this may imply acceptance of an unjust status quo in which Minority Rights Group does not sufficiently challenge elites holding power and privilege.

We know we have a long road ahead to overcome these issues. But today, in honour of the movement’s spirit and our very own principles, we publicly commit to:

  1. Assessing the extent to which Minority Rights Group can undertake anti-racism efforts in Western societies, and provide support to existing initiatives as well as organisations addressing racial discrimination;
  2. Reviewing our hiring processes, staff retention practices and career development opportunities to address why we may have poor representation of minority staff members, particularly black persons and indigenous peoples, in our European offices and especially at senior management levels;
  3. Reviewing our management practices to assess whether the voices and expertise of our current staff from minority communities have been adequately heard, amplified or drawn upon;
  4. Understanding the implications of the donors, to whom we apply for funding and from whom we accept money, on power relations between nations and between communities, and recognising our role in perpetuating colonial structures.

This process will not be completed quickly but we vow to address it with utmost priority. We undertake to publish an update in four weeks – the first of many updates that will allow us to reflect deeply and continuously so that we can test measures and assess their success.

Many organisations may have been stung into reflecting on their practice by watching the murder of George Floyd, whose heart-wrenching death was caught on camera and provides further evidence against anyone who denies that racism still exists in our societies. As time carries on, however, we know there is a risk that the memory of this moment will fade and that other imperatives will crowd in to capture the world’s full attention.

We will not let that happen at Minority Rights Group.

We will continue to reflect on and evaluate our positionalities, policies and practices and commit to doing so indefinitely. We also commit to making our progress public and transparent, so that we can guard ourselves against this risk and hold ourselves accountable.

The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked much needed conversation on racial justice, in which we will continue to take part. We maintain the hope that this will trigger a genuine and truthful reckoning with the past, motivate the world to concretely address the causes of racial discrimination, and secure an inclusive and just future for all.