When delegates from racial equality councils in England, Scotland and Wales came together at a conference entitled Racial Equality Councils: Securing Our Future, on Wednesday 25 April 2001 at the Council House in Birmingham, they resolved to set up a national British body of racial equality councils and partnerships based upon Scotland, Wales and the regions of England.  The new body was to be overseen until it was underway by a representative steering committee.

The Commission for Racial Equality committed itself at the same conference to negotiate with the new British Federation of Race Equality Councils on proposed changes to the salaries, conditions and pensions of race equality council staff.

The founding conference was initiated by Waqar Azmi, the then Chief Executive of Worcestershire Racial Equality Council, supported by officers of Race Equality West Midlands.   Every effort was made to involve race equality councils from different regions of England and the countries of Scotland and Wales.

Speakers at the founding conference were Milton Crossdale, Director, Nottingham and District Racial Equality Council, Jazz Iheanacho, Director, Race Equality First, Cardiff, Maggie Chetty, Senior Community Relations Officer, West of Scotland Community Relations Council, John Azah, Director, Kingston Racial Equality Council, Dave Purdey, Vice Chair of the MSF (now Amicus) Race Relations Group, Mukami McCrum, Director, Central Scotland Racial Equality Council, and Waqar Azmi, the driving force behind the conference. All were in favour of a new national organisation, but opinions varied as to its functions.

Focus group facilitators were Mr Paul Crofts, Director, Wellingborough District Racial Equality Council, Faruk Desai, Director, Preston and Western Lancastershire Racial Equality Council, Dr Cyriac Maprayil, Director, Tower Hamlets Racial Equality Council, Anne Matin, Director, Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council, Anita Kumari, Director, Warwick and District Racial Equality Council, and Mr Amu Devani, Director, Charnwood Racial Equality Council.

Towards the end of the proceedings, Mr Andrew Housley, Acting Chief Executive of the Commission for Racial Equality, apologised for the absence of the CRE chair, went on to welcome the proposal for a new body to represent race equality councils, but pointed out the urgent need for RECs to modernise their approach and adapt to changing circumstances.

The conference discussed various models for the proposed national organisation, with most delegates recognising the advantages of one based on English regional, and Scottish and Welsh, forums nominating to a national executive.  This had the advantage of bridging the distance between the local and national, and ensuring regional variations were accommodated.  It also differed considerably in structure from the failed National Association of Race Equality Councils, which has been riven by political dissension.  The official report of the founding conference was compiled by Frank Reeves of Race Equality West Midlands.

The first national chair of  was Waqar Azmi who, on leaving the voluntary sector race equality movement, was replaced by Milton Crosdale.  When Milton Crosdale announced his retirement at the Stoke Rochford national conference, John Azah took over the leadership.  Since March 2007, the  chair has been Amir Kabal.

From its inception,  has tried hard to fulfil its capacity-building brief for the voluntary equality movement but has been unsuccessful in its application to the CRE and National Lottery for funding.  It has had to rely entirely on the voluntary support and contribution of its member organisations.

In addition, in the seven years of its existence,  has found itself subject to periodic changes of political climate, sometimes welcomed and sometimes neglected by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Home Office, as opinion fluctuated on the continued need for local voluntary race equality councils.  In the final days of the Commission for Racial Equality, under the leadership of the Chair, Trevor Phillips, more supportive relationships were forged. Since the inception of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the coming into being of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Government Equalities Office, a great deal of effort has been invested by all parties in explaining positions and developing mutually supportive partnerships in furtherance of the promotion of local equalities.  The Federation was finally registered as a company limited by guarantee in 2007 under the name Federation of Race Equality Councils Ltd.