LETTERS TO HEADS OF UN AGENCIES, FUNDS, AND PROGRAMMES, AND HEADS OF UN OFFICES, ON HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA IN THE WORKPLACE (46 letters)
It has been a really busy past five months.
Since January, we have sent the Secretary-General a letter on mobility co-written with our sister organizations at the State Department, GLIFAA, and the European Union, Egalité; we have reacted quickly to the adoption of an anti-gay law in Uganda to write to the Secretary-General again to express our concern for LGBTI staff serving in countries with increasing levels of homophobia; we have carried out a video campaign featuring staff speaking about their experiences; released posters to publicize issues such as inequalities in pension benefits, and unfair policies when it comes to same-sex unions; and we have a brand new website up and running.
Our advocacy is yielding results. I believe this. The UN, to its credit, is reacting to our demands, increasingly addressing homophobia in the workplace with a “let’s roll up our sleeves and address this” approach. A working group is meeting in the Secretariat to come up with concrete solutions. WFP organized a wonderful event in May against homophobia and transphobia with the active involvement of our Rome coordinator, Antonio Brina. During this event, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the food agency delivered passionate remarks against homophobia and transphobia in the workplace. Having also spoken at this event, I can say that many WFP staff were moved by such a clear statement of support from their head.
WFP, by the way, recently adopted the Jurisdiction approach, whereby all legal unions will be recognized regardless of the staff member’s country of nationality. IFAD adopted this last year.
As to when the rest of the UN system will move towards this, I hope it will be soon. I can’t discuss much just yet, but we will be pushing again, a push I hope becomes it. We are close, it’s all I will say at this point.
We have not forgotten at the same time that the Jurisdiction approach is not the most inclusive approach. The Jurisdiction approach, quite frankly, prioritizes international staff who can be mobile, and national and general service staff serving in developed countries. It does not do enough for national and general service staff in countries whose citizens have a hard time securing visas to the West, let alone to get married. We are mindful of this, and we have not given up on the Affidavit approach, whereby a staff member can get his or her union recognized if certain requirements are met, such as obtaining a notarized statement of commitment.
When it comes to pensions, the Pension Board meets this July. We are strategizing, working out an action plan that can be effective and can bring about change. As the UN system increasingly moves towards a Jurisdiction approach, where all legal unions are recognized, it will become increasingly indefensible for the UNJSPF to continue its policy of only recognizing legal unions from staff members with the correct nationality.
We will need all of you to get involved, so please stay tuned. And remember this, the pension issue is not an issue that concerns only those who are near retirement. Even if you have decades of work left before retirement, you too are impacted. If you are in a legal union that is not recognized by the UNJSPF, should you die at any moment in the near future, your legal partner will be left without any benefits. The UNJSPF policy can impact us all, and we ought to stand together in solidarity.
Another issue of concern to us all is homophobia and transphobia in the workplace. This is a problem particularly in field duty stations. Many of you have expressed your concerns, and we want the UN system to address them.
In fact, the fight against homophobia and transphobia will be a priority for UN-GLOBE in the months ahead.
As part of this fight, please find attached one of the letters sent to heads of agencies, funds, and programmes, as well as to the heads of regional offices. What we ask is this: that a clear statement be issued declaring that homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated in the workplace, and that there will be accountability, especially for managers; that a diversity strategy be initiated to make the Organization a more inclusive place for all; and that the Organization support us in changing the policy at UNJSPF.
Starting today, and continuing over the next few days, this letter will be sent to over 30 senior leaders of the UN system.
We hope that it will have an impact and that UN-GLOBE can start working with all UN entities who want to address homophobia and transphobia in the workplace.
As always, if you have questions, or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com. On our website, you will find our list of Coordinators around the world, and our Coordinators for specific agencies, funds, and programmes (http://www.unglobe.org/about-us/). We are here to help.
Finally, let me say this: we will be holding elections starting this month for the UN-GLOBE Board. I strongly encourage you to consider running for any of the offices (President, Vice-President, Secretary, or Treasurer). There will be a call for nominations; release of candidates’ statements; and finally, electronic voting.
As for myself, I do plan to run for another term. We have achieved quite a number of impressive results in the past year, but the work is not finished. There is quite a lot more on my to-do list, and I have the determination and energy to see that list narrow. As our slogan for IDAHOT 2014 states: equality starts at home. We have to achieve this in the UN system, a symbol of a better future to so many people.
Please stay tuned for more messages from us.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)