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Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain

October 11 2000 saw the publication of the Parekh report: the report of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. Set up by the Runnymede Trust in 1998 the commission consisted of 23 distinguished individuals chaired by Bikhu Parekh.

The Runnymede Trust is an independent think-tank which aims to promote racial justice in Britain. The Commission was asked to:

* Analyse the present state of Britain as a multi-ethnic country

* Suggest ways in which racial discrimination and disadvantage can be countered

* Suggest how Britain can become 'a confident and vibrant multicultural society at ease with its rich diversity'

Commission members came from a wide range of community backgrounds and professions and had extensive experience of academic or practical involvement with race issues. Two years of deliberation and discussion resulted in the consensus represented by this report.

According to Bikhu Parekh:"Given the fluidity of social life and the constant emergence of new ideas and insights, no report can claim to be the last word on its subject, and this one most certainly advances no such claim. However, as a carefully researched and thought-out document, hammered out in searching discussions conducted in a spirit of intellectual and moral responsibility, it represents, we hope, a major contribution to the national debate."

Recognising the moral equality of worth of individuals from each of Britain's many communities, Parekh advocates the recognition of differences while stressing the need to combat racism. Bikhu sees racism as 'a subtle and complex phenomenon' which 'may be based on colour and physical features or on culture, nationality and way of life; it may affirm equality of human worth but implicitly deny this by insisting on the superiority of a particular culture; it may admit equality up to a point but impose a glass ceiling higher up'.

Method of working

The Commission visted many of Britain's regions, asked a wide range of relevant organizations for their views, conducted interviews and focus group discussions and read hundreds of written submissions. Activists and experts in race-related issues were invited to day-long seminars in which specific issues were debated in detail. Papers were commissioned from experts in particular areas for Parts Two and Three of the report and these were commented on by other experts and debated in meetings of the full Commission.

Overview

The nations of Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) are viewed as being 'at a turning point in their history'. Two scenarios are presented:

1. Narrow, inward-looking countries unable to forge agreement between themselves or between the regions and communities from which they are composed.

2. Alternatively, they could become a community of citizens and communities' at the level of Britain as a whole and also within every region, city, town or neighbourhood. If this is the preferred choice, it will be necessary to:

* Rethink both 'the national story and national identity';
* Understand the transitional nature of all identities;
* Achieve a balance between cohesion, difference and equality;
* Address and eliminate all kinds of racism;
* Reduce the inequalities in material benefits;
* Build a 'human rights culture'.

The report looks at a number of areas including: police and policing; the education systems of England, Scotland and Wales; cultural policy; health and welfare; employment; immigration and asylum policy; responsibilities of politicians; religious motivations and affiliations; and strategies for change at governmental, organizational and other levels.

Employment issues

The report makes the following specific recommendations on employment:

1. The government should 'place a statutory duty on all employers to create and implement equity employment plans' and do so as a matter of priority.

2. The award of Investors in People status should be made conditional on an organization having formlated and implemented an employment equity plan. Also issues of equity should be ' explicitly and comprehensively covered in the Business Excellence Modelís guidance materials'.

3. The importance of employment equity should be stressed in such matters as guidance on public procurement and investment subsidies (e.g. Regional Selective Assistance).

4. Organizations involved in delivering New Deal programmes should be asked to demonstrate a positive contribution to employment equity. Failure to do so should lead to responsibilities being transferred to others.

5. Organizations responsible for provision of personal adviser services should be asked to make sure that people from black or Asian backgrounds are 'equitably involved in their programmes, both as managers and as advisers'.

6. The government should commission research on the contributions made by black and Asian-owned businesses to th UK Gross National Product or UK trade balances.

7. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Small Business Service (SBS) should sponsor research on black and Asian business start-ups and their survival patterns. Local targets and SBS national strategies should be based on the findings of this research.

8. 'Targets should be set at SBS national council and local council levels for increasing the take-up of support by Asian and black small businesses.

9. Undertakings of non-discrimination should be included in the Banking Code and the Mortgage Code.

10. Providers of financial services should be required to monitor and improve procedures, ensuring that their key employees are given race and diversity training.

11. Lending decisions by financial institutions should be monitored by ethnicity.

12. Targets should be set for British Trade International and Business Links partnerships to work more closely with black and Asian business sectors, and to highlight the 'possibility of international trade as a mechanism for encouraging growth'.

13. Business support agencies should be required to develop expertise in helping and advising independent retailers, and each agency involved in urban regeneration or business development should be made aware the value of the independent retail sector.

You can buy the report online at:  Amazon.co.uk

Or you can order from any reputable bookshop

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