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Promoting equality and fighting racism

United Kingdom


The Greater London Authority (GLA) is the coordinating authority of London in the areas of police service, transport, fire, and strategic planning. Under the mayoralty of Ken Livingstone (2000-08), the GLA started its equality policy. The policy continues under the current mayor, Boris Johnson (updated information on the GLA’s equality policy can be found at Since the beginning, the aim of the policy has been the fight against cultural, social, and economic exclusion affecting London’s minorities and women, in a strong intersectional perspective.

As such, the main target and beneficiaries of the policy have been national, racial, and ethnic groups including Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and also women, people with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

The case presented focuses on the Livingstone’s era, emphasizing action in favour of race equality. The implementation of the policy involved the formal participation of the main policy stakeholders, including civil society organisations representing the target groups. Specific ‘equality schemes’ were approved by the GLA, which addressed race, disability, and sexual orientation amongst others. Several initiatives, including festivals and other types of events, were organized by the GLA in order to valorize the ethnic diversity and cosmopolitan character of the city including those within the framework of London’s ‘diverse’ economic connections with countries such as Russia, China, and India. Other initiatives were implemented in collaboration with the GLA’s local development and transport agencies.

If we consider data on (in)equalities contained in official GLA reports up to 2007, the GLA and its equality schemes appear to have been successful in improving at least some aspects of the life of (ethnic) minorities and women in the city. Some improvements concerned the acceptance of diversity in the city. The drop by 11.9% of racist crimes between 2005/06 and 2006/07 shows an increasingly receptive attitude of Londoners vis-à-vis racial and ethnic differences. The same attitude emerged also from the Annual London Survey of 2006. Other improvements regarded the social and economic conditions of minorities and women in London. Between 2001 and 2005, the employment rate of both groups and women experienced increased notably. Record numbers of members of the city’s BAME communities were recruited by the Metropolitan Police Service. Notwithstanding these improvements, however, some problems remained. In the education sector, for example, the performance of Black pupils in secondary school remains relatively low, although differences emerge in this respect if we consider different communities.

Local administrators who want to replicate GLA’s equality policy need to consider some specific characteristics of London which can hardly be found and replicated in other urban contexts and which arguably have had an impact on the design and outcome of equality policy: London’s exceptional global character, its high degree of urban diversity, the multicultural tradition and legal framework within which the city is located, and the specific competences of a metropolitan government such as the GLA. Traditional local governments of smaller cities in countries with limited or no multicultural tradition should adapt (and eventually expand) the policy to fit their competences, rescale it, tailor it to the specific needs of its own communities and their different legal statuses (including migrants), and eventually opt for more direct forms of participation of members of minorities and women.