The UK Foreign Office has taken down an internal job advert after coming under fire from its own staff for using “colonial era” language to advertise postings based in African countries.
The advert was live on the site earlier on Thursday, but by midday – shortly after BuzzFeed News contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) press office – sources said it had been removed.
The advert covered a number of available jobs, spanning a range of areas at various grades, which were grouped together under the tagline “Fancy an African Adventure?”
It had been posted on internal civil service networks, and prompted criticism from FCO staff, who said the tone was more suited to an advert for a gap year holiday.
The advert was posted alongside other civil service jobs, which were not marketed in the same way.
One civil servant said: “It’s really disappointing to see the FCO using this kind of language to advertise their roles in African countries. This sort of irreverent tone is normally limited to marketing exotic gap year experiences rather than serious job opportunities.
“Civil servants should not be going to ‘Africa’ for an ‘Adventure’ – overseas roles are not there for escaping from boredom at home, and framing them in this way harks back to colonial-era fantasies of a temporary tropical getaway as a character-building career boost.”
Another FCO employee told BuzzFeed News that the jobs were being advertised as the department was planning to expand its work on the African continent – and said that the advert would not sit well with partners in African countries.
“There has just been a raft of job opportunities open up in Africa as part of a wider strategy,” they said, but added that they had not seen previously jobs on the same continent – for example a number of postings in Europe – grouped together in the same way.
“I doubt that it would do well with the UK’s diplomatic relations with African countries if they knew that this was how the newly related jobs were being framed and advertised,” they told BuzzFeed News.
“And it does not encourage forward-thinking, diverse and inclusive applicants, but those rooted in colonial era notions of overseas postings.”
In a booklet published last year, Black Skin, Whitehall, FCO historian James Southern identified a lack of diversity within the FCO and the resulting issues that this raised.
He wrote: “Since Robin Cook’s pledges to diversify recruitment, the idea that bringing the number of female, nonwhite, LGBT and disabled diplomats in line with the proportion of those groups in wider society has become the single most important criterion by which ‘fair’ and ethical recruitment is judged.
“But of all the protected characteristics cited in the 2010 Equality Act, race remains
by far the most problematic for the Civil Service Commission in general and the FCO
Southern added: “Clearly, there are aspects of the problem of racism in recruitment that are buried too deeply for surface-level enthusiasm for ‘equal opportunities’ or ‘meritocracy’ to penetrate – admirable though such enthusiasm might be.
“In order fully to understand the FCO’s relationship with race, we must excavate and investigate the often subconscious forms of racism that affect the experiences of non-white diplomats.”
The FCO has been approached for comment.