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UK Defence Chiefs Pledge To Improve Diversity In Open Letter

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Chiefs of Staff across defence have written a joint letter setting out their commitment to improving diversity and inclusion in the Armed Forces.

The letter, signed by the heads of all services and the Chief of the Defence Staff, says "recent months have provided a stark reminder of the inequalities" in society, the Armed Forces and wider defence.

They said while the military has made progress, "urgent action" is still needed with the ultimate aim of creating "a unified culture that has zero tolerance at its core".

The document sets out a number of key plans, including modernising the promotion system so it "fairly maximises everyone's potential".

An independent review will be launched to improve this, with findings to be published in early 2021, the letter said.

The military chiefs also announced they will increase funding for defence's diversity and inclusion programmes.

In the letter, they also promised to revamp the career structure by making service life more flexible - focusing more on potential and championing "positive action pathways".

They vowed to take "personal ownership" for implementing the recommendations outlined in the Service Complaints review this autumn, adding it is "critical that everyone has confidence" in the complaints system.

Figures released in the Service Complaints Ombudsman 2019 annual report for the Armed Forces found that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) personnel were disproportionately lodging complaints about discrimination.

It showed BAME service personnel were more than twice as likely to complain about bullying, harassment or discrimination than white personnel. 

General Sir Nick Carter said last month that the Armed Forces must do more to tackle discrimination (Picture: PA).
General Sir Nick Carter said last month that the Armed Forces must do more to tackle discrimination (Picture: PA).

"We will set targets and we will be held to account for delivering the policy, process and behavioural changes required to deliver the levels of ambition that each Front Line Command has set for 2025," the Chiefs of Staff also wrote.

"To drive transparency and accountability, each Front Line Command will publish publicly its levels of ambition and associated delivery plans by September 2020."

The letter comes a month after the head of the Armed Forces, General Sir Nick Carter, said the coronavirus pandemic must be used as "opportunity to double down" on tackling discrimination.

He previously addressed the chain of command saying "discrimination has no place" in the Armed Forces and the military has "more to do" to stop it. 

The Defence Secretary has also said more needs to be done to improve diversity and inclusion in the Armed Forces in recent weeks.

The letter says diversity is "mission critical for defence" and concludes: "We must embed D&I [Diversity and Inclusion] into our culture.

"We are committed to setting a personal example; genuinely to improving the lived experience for everyone; and regularly engaging with our D&I agenda by being held formally to account by publishing a report every six months.

"We are all determined to deliver this agenda and to taking demonstrable action with immediate effect."

Cover image: British Army.

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