UK CDS tells armed forces to do more to tackle discrimination

Harry Lye 12 June 2020 (Last Updated June 12th, 2020 13:01)

The head of the British Armed Forces, Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter, has written a letter to the chain of command saying the armed forces ‘talk a genuinely good game’ but need to go further in tackling issues of racism and other discrimination.

UK CDS tells armed forces to do more to tackle discrimination
Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter speaks at a Covid-19 Press Conference in 10 Downing Street. Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.

In his letter, Carter said: “We talk a genuinely good game – but it is time to think about how fast we are making progress towards our ambition. And we owe it to our black, Asian, and minority ethnic servicemen and women, who will be feeling very concerned at this moment, to try and look at this from their perspective, to listen and continue to make change happen. We will be meeting regularly to lead this effort and change the lived experience.”

The most recent British Armed Forces diversity statistics, released in 2019, show that of 144,650 personnel across all services, 8.2% come from BAME backgrounds compared with 13% of the entire UK population.

The percentage of BAME personnel across the armed forces has steadily increased over the last decade. However, the actual number of BAME personnel has decreased from 12,300 in 2012 to 11,830 in 2019; the percentage hike reflects a shrinking headcount.

Of 27,770 commissioned officers across the armed forces, only 2.5% come from BAME backgrounds, totally 690 officers. Across the armed forces, there are 580 BAME personnel of the rank of Major and below, out of a total of 22,380.

The heads of all of the British Armed Forces are white, as are all UK defence ministers and the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

Carter wrote the letter after yesterday attending a meeting with the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces discussing how the services can respond to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the world following the killing of George Floyd.

Sharing the letter on Twitter, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote: “Discrimination of any kind has no place in the armed forces and a diverse range of backgrounds only makes us stronger.

“Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, has written to the chain of command to ensure inclusivity is at the forefront of everything we do.”

In his letter, Carter added that the MOD thrives on the “rich mix of faiths, colour, gender, and creeds reflected in British society.”

Carter wrote: “We value team members for their ability, not for what they look like or where they come from. Discrimination has no place in our armed forces. We’ve learned that success on today’s complex battlefields requires the broadest range of talent. We have made significant progress, but as the Wigston Report into inappropriate behaviours showed, we have more to do and we must force the pace in implementing it this year.

“And as we know, leadership at every level is key to all this. Covid-19 has brought many issues sharply into focus. We must use it as an opportunity to double down on what we are doing and genuinely start walking as well as talking.”