Employment news

Report finds covert racism at UNICEF UK

An independent audit commissioned by UNICEF UK in Autumn 2021 after it was publicly accused of institutional racism has found that some staff of colour regularly experience covert racism.

The report found that the charity had “no targeted and specific process on how to report and address racism”, that “a perceived aversion to risk” was  “impeding progress towards genuine inclusion and anti-racism”. It also notes that whilst a public allegation triggered the audit there had also been a number of internal issues related to racism that the organisation had dealt with in the recent past

The report records that whilst no examples were shared of overt racism, and some staff of colour had not experienced racism there was evidence  of  “covert and everyday racism is a regular experience at UNICEF UK for some colleagues of colour”. There is a focus on a range of microaggressions identified by participants. These include repeatedly pronouncing names incorrectly, people of colour being labelled as aggressive, and comments about how people from ethnic minority groups speak or pronounce certain words.

The report also points to wider issues of organisational culture and structures that are impeding progress towards both inclusion and anti-racism, and that given the nature of UNICEF UK’s work, decolonisation should be “front and centre” of its anti-racism work.

The report acknowledges that whilst the audit was taking place EDI initiatives were being put in place, and new leadership was appointed which “changed the tone of discussion on racism”. The findings have been accepted by the recently appointed CEO, Jon Sparkes. Apologising on behalf of UNICEF UK he said they fully accepted the report’s findings and recommendations and acknowledged that, even though progress had been made, there was “some way to go to becoming a truly anti-racist organisation.” There is a commitment to developing a well-funded action plan that will be shared with staff in January 2023.

The audit consisted of an extensive desk review, interviews, online qualitative research and focus groups over the period December 2021 and June 2022.