Amnesty UK chief to step down after more than 20 years

Kate Allen is expected to leave the organisation in September

Kate Allen
Kate Allen

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK for the past two decades, has announced plans to retire later this year. 

She had intended to step down last year, but decided to stay on to help the organisation maintain stability during the pandemic, according to an Amnesty statement.

Allen has been director of the organisation since 2000, when she joined from the Refugee Council, where she was deputy chief executive. 

In a joint statement, Eilidh Douglas, chair of Amnesty International UK section board, and Nicolas Patrick, chair of Amnesty International UK section charitable trust, described Allen as “a tireless and dedicated human rights defender, who in her 21 years as leader of AIUK has transformed the organisation”. 

The statement said: “Among her many achievements, she has created a home for human rights in London, strengthened the participation of children and young people in our work and increased the scale and reach of the human rights movement in the UK.

“Her lifelong dedication to the rights of refugees has seen her strengthen Amnesty UK’s work in this area, take testimony from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and challenge legal frameworks and misconceptions here in the UK.”

Allen said: “It has been the privilege of my life to be part of Amnesty International and to lead the UK section over the past 21 years.

“I have seen so much positive change for human rights, met so many committed and inspiring people, and I know that our global movement for human rights is in a stronger place now than when I joined it 21 years ago.  

“The work we have begun to be a truly anti-racist movement will be central to our strategy and my one deep regret is that I should have begun this work earlier.”

“I am looking forward to my retirement and to time with my family and friends, but I will always be an Amnesty supporter, and I will have a lot more time to write those letters.”

In 2012, members of the union Unite at Amnesty UK called for Allen’s resignation over a cost-cutting programme that put up to 40 jobs at risk and moved many London-based jobs abroad. 

At the time, Allen said it was “horrible to hear calls for my resignation”, but stood by the difficult changes, which she said were vital for the organisation to continue fighting for human rights. 

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