UK Military Chief Pledges To 'Make Change Happen' On Racism In Armed Forces

General Sir Nick Carter said the coronavirus pandemic must be used as "opportunity to double down" on tackling discrimination.

The head of the UK Armed Forces says the military "must force the pace" it tackles racism and inappropriate behaviour.

In a letter addressed to the chain of command, General Sir Nick Carter said "discrimination has no place" in the Armed Forces and that the military has "more to do" to stop it. 

The Chief of the Defence Staff's comments come amid worldwide anti-racism protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

Gen Carter said recent events have brought issues of "racism and discrimination sharply into focus".

While he said the Armed Forces "talk a genuinely good game" over racism, he added: "It is time to think about how fast we are making progress towards our ambition."

"We owe it to our Black, Asian and minority ethnic servicemen and women, who will be feeling very concerned at this moment, to try to look at this from their perspective, to listen and to continue to make change happen," Gen Carter wrote.

"We will be meeting regularly to lead this effort and change the lived experience."

In December last year, the independent Service Complaints Ombudsman called upon the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to do more to tackle racism in the military.

Nicola Williams, who leads the Service Complaints Ombudsman, told BBC News at the time: "Incidents of racism [in the Armed Forces] are occurring with increasing and depressing frequency."

Although Gen Carter said the Armed Forces have made "significant progress", he added the coronavirus pandemic must be used as "opportunity to double down" on anti-racism.

He said: "The Armed Forces thrive on the rich mix of faiths, colour, gender and creeds reflected in British society.

"We value team members for their ability, not for what they look like or where they come from." 

In a statement, the MOD said: “Discrimination of any kind has no place in the armed forces and a diverse range of backgrounds only makes us stronger."

Recruits from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds account for 8% of the Armed Forces - the MOD has a target to boost that to 10% during the next year.