Update as of January 2017
I wanted to update you on the work of UN-GLOBE as it has been a while. What has driven our work, what will continue to drive our work is to change minds and attitudes in the UN system on issues related to sexual or gender identities, and regarding peoples of all sexualities, and gender identities, including gender non-conforming people.
To this end, the UN-GLOBE Task Force on Gender continues to work on its recommendations to the UN system on more inclusive workplaces for trans individuals, as well as intersex individuals. We are nearing the end, and hope to be able to share our draft recommendations with trans rights groups, and intersex rights groups, before we publicize them and make an all-out push for them.
The new Secretary-General has made gender equality one of his core issues, which is likely to be adopted by the UN system as a whole. It is imperative that the SG and other heads of UN organizations understand that when speaking of gender, we should not limit the discussion to the male-female binary. We must make it an inclusive dialogue that includes people of various gender identities. I believe this is crucial, and UN-GLOBE will advocate every chance it gets to make this point in any gender equality strategy meetings in any of the UN organizations.
On other fronts, please know also that UN-GLOBE continues to work together with UN Plus, the staff group that advocates for people with HIV/AIDS in the UN System, on recommendations for more inclusive workplaces for individuals with HIV/AIDS.
And we continue to strategize on ways to ensure the ICSC— which establishes what counts as a hardship duty station or a family duty stations— factors in the serious dilemmas LGBTI staff face in the field, from being unable to bring their spouses, to security threats.
We also are increasing our network of UN-GLOBE Coordinators, solidifying our presence around the world. UN-GLOBE representatives are in place in Nepal and Nairobi, with more to be announced soon, and thanks to the work of UN-GLOBE Vice-President Gurchaten Sandhu (Nanoo), we now have representatives in Geneva for the following agencies: ILO; ITC; WIPO; WMO; and WTO.
Lastly, I wanted to address the situation faced by LGBTI staff in Nairobi. Nairobi is one of the headquarter duty stations of the UN, where both UN-HABITAT and UNEP are based. The situation for LGBTI staff there is concerning. We are aware of this. UN-GLOBE will address this and look for solutions. In the coming weeks, for example, we’ll initiate a search for representatives for UN-HABITAT and UNEP. We are also looking for ways to establish a dialogue on sexual and gender identities.
If you are serving in Nairobi, please get in touch with me at email@example.com to share your views. I can also connect you with the UN-GLOBE Coordinator there.
If we can get a big player like Nairobi to do a 180° on sexual and gender identities, it would represent a big step towards change.
Looking forward to continuing this work with UN-GLOBE Board members and representatives,
Hyung Hak Nam
UN-GLOBE statement on the formal recommendation by the Security Council of António Guterres as Secretary-General
António Guterres, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and former Prime Minister of Portugal, has been formally recommended as Secretary-General of the UN.
UN-GLOBE calls on António Guterres to be a strong advocate as Secretary-General for the equal rights of LGBTI people and for their safety, and stresses that this advocacy is made stronger when the UN’s own LGBTI staff have full access to their rights. Equality called for around the world must be practiced at home.
UN-GLOBE looks forward to working closely with the new Secretary-General to bring greater awareness of LGBTI issues in the UN system, to change its culture to one of inclusiveness, to embrace equal benefits for all families, and to institute inclusive policies for trans and intersex employees, among other issues. We will reach out to him in the weeks ahead.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
Update on the work of UN-GLOBE - September 29, 2016
I wanted to give you a brief but long overdue update on the work of UN-GLOBE.
In previous messages, I have already written to you about the workshops we conducted on sexual and gender identity issues targeted to UN senior leaders. These workshops were attended by the Executive Director of UN Women, and one of the Under-Secretary-Generals of Peacekeeping, among others.
I have also written to you about finally achieving equal pension rights for all same-sex unions with the status of marriages.
You should also know that one of the main focus of UN-GLOBE these past two months has been gender, especially trans individuals and gender-nonconforming individuals. In particular, the UN-GLOBE Working Group on trans, and intersex issues, has been meeting weekly to come up with comprehensive (and we hope far-reaching) recommendations on building inclusive workplaces in the UN system. After we finalize the draft recommendations, we will engage in active consultation with national and international trans advocacy groups, and also intersex groups, to make sure that we have gotten it right. And then, we will mobilize and actively work towards turning words into reality. I can’t wait to share these recommendations with you.
I should also note that UN-GLOBE Coordinator for IOM, Jennifer Rumbach, and I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. in August to attend a workshop organized by the Department of Safety and Security. The workshop looked into ways to raise awareness among UN security officials about gender issues. Jennifer moderated one of the sessions, and throughout the workshop, we discussed the particular realities faced by trans and gender-nonconforming individuals.
In addition, particularly in Europe, we have reached out to national and international advocacy groups that are working to ensure that workplaces are inclusive of LGBTIQ individuals, and we have proposed partnerships. UN-GLOBE Vice-President Gurchaten Sandhu (aka Nanoo) has been active on this front, recently attending an international conference in Amsterdam that discussed ways to enroll labor leaders as advocates of LGBTIQ equality.
Looking ahead, this will be a busy fall for UN-GLOBE.
-- We will wrap up the recommendations of the UN-GLOBE Working Group on trans and intersex issues.
-- We will work, together with UN Plus, on a set of recommendations to make the UN workplace more inclusive of individuals with HIV or AIDS.
-- We will mount a full advocacy campaign for gender-neutral parental leave policies (meaning the same parental leave time for all parents regardless of their gender); and parental leave policies that grant the same leave time for parents who adopt, have kids through surrogacy, or give birth to their child. All families should be treated equally.
-- We will also push for the trans voice to be heard during the finalization of the UN Secretariat’s 2030 Gender Equality strategy.
-- And of course, we will continue to find solutions, together with administrations of the UN system, to individuals who have been hampered by policies that negatively impact LGBTIQ individuals.
I’ll continue to keep you posted.
Please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can write to UN-GLOBE at email@example.com, for any suggestions, comments, or complaints.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
PS – I should add that helping us over the next few months is Evangelia Siska (aka Lila), an intern who will be doing research for us on various subjects!
UN PENSION BOARD FINALLY GRANTS EQUAL BENEFITS TO ALL LEGAL COUPLES!
At its annual meeting which has just concluded, the United Nations Pension Board has endorsed a new policy recognizing all unions according to the law of the country where the union took place, not the staff member's country of nationality.
All staff who are in a legal union will now be able to designate their partners as the recipient of pension benefits when the staff member dies. This is an important change from the previous policy that only granted these benefits if the staff member’s country of nationality recognized the legal union, resulting in unequal benefits for some couples who had married in another country.
It was a policy that disproportionately impacted LGBTI couples, and I am glad to see it gone.
This is one more step towards equality and inclusion in the UN system. It also signals that UN-GLOBE is slowly succeeding in pushing the UN system to become a more embracing workplace for all people.
Change in pension policies has been one of the top priorities for UN-GLOBE and it’s finally here. LGBTI staff members should not die without assurances that their spouses will be taken care of by a pension scheme to which they have contributed so much money.
The intent to change the policy was announced to me at a meeting I had with the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board (UNJSPF), the Secretariat body of the Pension Board, a few months ago. I am grateful to them for delivering on their promise.
I am also grateful to all those who of you who, following UN-GLOBE’s call, wrote to the UNJSPF asking for recognition for your partner. Your letters helped put pressure on them to change their policies. I am also grateful to individuals like Christophe Monier and Pierre Sayour who represented the interests of staff before the Pension Board and who played an instrumental role.
With this step, the UNJSPF will finally align its policies with the policies of the majority of the UN system when it comes to recognizing all legal unions.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
PS - In the short term, the UNJSPF , following this decision by its Board, will now update its current guidelines. Some more patience may be needed until they do.
Senior leaders of the UN System participate in SOGI workshops at UNHQ for the first time + other updates – July 21 2016
For the first time in UNHQ, at the invitation of UN-GLOBE, Under-Secretary-Generals (USGs), Assistant Secretary-Generals (ASGs), and senior managers of the UN system attended 3 workshops dedicated exclusively to LGBTI issues, to concepts such as gender expression, gender identity and the meaning of queer,.
The workshops were also an opportunity to engage in frank discussions with UN-GLOBE on the current realities for LGBTI staff in the field.
I attended all 3 workshops and can say that for quite a number of attendees, a number of the issues we discussed, such as the need for the UN to be a place LGBTI staff can call a safe haven, was revelatory to them.
I believe that it was a good first step to get senior leaders to understand issues related to sexual or gender identity, in a way that goes a bit deeper than any public reciting about their support for the equality of all people.
The first workshop was targeted to USGs and ASGs, and was attended by the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; the USG for Field Support, Mr. Atul Khare; the ASG for Field Support, Ms. Lisa Buttenheim; and the ASG, Assistant Administrator for UNDP, Mr. Magdy Martínez-Solimán.
The other workshops were attended by D1s and D2s from UNDP, UNICEF, DFS, DPA, as well as the ASG for Safety and Security, Ms. Fadzai Gwaradzimba.
In addition to the frank discussions on issues, participants also engaged in a series of exercises such as matching terms with their meanings; taking a quiz on human rights standards; or hearing testimonials from gay and trans staff members.
We hope to be able to do more of these workshops later this year, both in New York and Geneva. I would also really like to do these workshops with senior leaders of the peacekeeping missions, and UN offices in countries with high levels of homophobic and transphobic incidents. I will keep you posted.
I am grateful to the UN Cares team leader, Laurie Newell, for facilitating these workshops, and for being a great partner during the organizing stage. The LGBTI workshop was part of the UN for All trainings on diversity from UN Cares. I hope we can continue to collaborate together.
In other developments, please know that the UN-GLOBE Working Group on Trans and Intersex issues continues to develop recommendations for an inclusive workplace for trans staff, and for intersex staff. We hope we can share these with senior leaders of the UN system in the fall.
In the meantime, we continue working hard to bring the LGBTI voice from inside the UN in places such as Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Mozambique, the North Africa region, and the South East Asian region to name a few.
If you are serving in a peacekeeping mission, or UN office in a country where instances of homophobia and transphobia are known to be high, and want to help, please get in touch. You can reach us at UN-GLOBE firstname.lastname@example.org, or myself at email@example.com
I will continue to keep you informed.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
Update on the work of UN-GLOBE (10 May 2016) + UN-GLOBE's IDAHOT 2016 message and poster
As you know, IDAHOT 2016 is coming up, to be commemorated next Tuesday, May 17. UN-GLOBE has picked a theme for the day: the cost of hiding one’s sexual or gender identity in the UN workplace. We aim to highlight the cost to the UN of homophobia and transphobia, and bring attention to the issues faced by LGBTI staff in the field, in particular.
As part of our IDAHOT 2016 campaign, we have reached out to all the heads of organizations of the UN system with a UN-GLOBE statement for IDAHOT 2016, and our poster. Please feel free to use either as you see fit. It would be particularly useful if you could help disseminate the message, or put up the poster in a visible place at your workplace. It may not be the most stunning poster you’ve ever seen (or for the wrong reasons it actually is), but I believe it effectively makes a point.
In other developments, please know that I was in Geneva this March where I met with the heads of ILO, UNOG, and WIPO; the deputy head of OHCHR; and the Director of HR at WHO. Together with Nanoo (Sandhu Gurchaten), our Vice-President, we asked for a commitment to incorporate an LGBTI perspective in all their policies. Our issues, our concerns, the ways certain policies such as mobility to certain countries impact us should never be ignored. When drafting policies, we should be consulted. The meetings were successful, and going forward, it would be a matter of holding them accountable.
While in Geneva, I also moderated a panel discussion featuring UN parents who had adopted or had children through surrogacy. This was part of our efforts to bring attention to the need to change parental leave policies at the UN so that all children – whether adopted, born through surrogacy, or given birth by a staff member – are treated equally. The stories told by parents at this event were very moving, and I would encourage all of you to watch the video at www.unglobe.org/events.
On other matters: the project with the Fordham Law School, together with Mala Kumar who is building an interactive map for us where LGBTI staff can record their experiences in countries they have served, continues to move forward. Please bear with us as it takes time to do the research, and time to bring a map to reality when our resources are so limited.
Finally, we continue drafting the proposals on an inclusive workplace for trans and intersex staff, and the Working Group established to examine these proposals will soon be debating them. I hope we can send them out by June to all organizations of the UN system.
Next, we will tackle proposals for an inclusive workplace for staff members with HIV and AIDS, plus a survey of all staff of the UN system on sexual and gender identity matters.
UN-GLOBE continues to operate under one overarching goal: to create a true culture of diversity and inclusion in the UN system. LGBTI advocacy in the UN has to start at home.
Hyung Hak Nam
Update on the work of UN-GLOBE (23 February 2016)
UN-GLOBE continues to pursue one overarching goal: to change the cultures of the organizations of the UN system so that they truly embrace diversity and inclusion. This change has to be felt in even the most remote UN offices.
I am fully aware that, particularly in the field, many of you are tired from having to hide your sexual or gender identity, or having to face inequalities in treatments and in policies.
We are pursuing our goal along five tracks:
Encouraging open and honest discussion on sexual and gender identity.
Seeking genuine commitment from senior leaders, through actions, not words.
Increasing visibility for LGBTI staff.
Calling for protections for LGBTI staff, from discrimination to physical integrity.
Calling for equality of opportunity for LGBTI staff that take into account their realities.
And when it comes to specifics, this is the work of the past month:
We continue to partner with the Fordham Law School to gather the experiences of LGBTI staff serving in the field: from not being able to secure visas for same-sex spouses, to facing hostile work environments. A white paper with recommendations to the UN system will be issued in May.
We continue to put together a world map detailing country by country the realities faced by LGBTI UN, foreign service and private sector employees, thanks to the help of Mala Kumar.
We continue to work with UN Cares to ensure that a training on diversity (with a very strong LGBTI component) is delivered to all staff.
The UN-GLOBE working group on an inclusive workplace for trans and intersex staff has already started work.
An event in Geneva on March 17 with parents, whether LGBTI or not, who have adopted or had kids through surrogacy is taking shape.
And we have established representation in Cote d’Ivoire, Mexico, and South Sudan.
We will continue working towards our goal day by day.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
Update on the work of UN-GLOBE (14 January 2016)
Last Thursday, for the first time in UNHQ, staff members who identify as part of the LGBTI community spoke publicly and openly about themselves.
The event was a great success, with over a 100 people in attendance, over a thousand people viewing our webcast (www.unglobe.org/events), and valuable connections made.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, even tweeted about the event calling it “very moving”, a sentiment shared by many of you, who also called it inspiring.
I am thrilled by the response, and I hope our next event in Geneva will be even more successful. If you still haven’t watched the event, please do! www.unglobe.org/events
In the meantime, we continue working on the five priorities that UN-GLOBE has established for 2015-2016. The priorities are available here: http://www.unglobe.org/our-issues/
One of our priorities is to push for inclusive parental leave policies in the UN system. For us, this means gender neutral policies that give the same leave time to all parents, whether LGBTI or not, whether adopting a child, having children through surrogacy, or giving birth to a child.
We have met with a number of senior officials on this, who generally have been resistant. And we are working with the staff federations of the UN system, who have agreed to support us.
I believe that if we continue pushing, we will manage to turn our vision into reality. I’m optimistic we can get this done.
We also move now to another priority: proposals for inclusive policies for transgender and intersex staff members.
This is very much needed in the UN system, which is often at a loss when it comes to handling the issues faced by transgender and intersex employees.
A call for volunteers to serve in a working group will go out very soon.
If you have expertise in this area, please volunteer. The aim is to come up with forward-looking and bold proposals that can make a difference.
Finally, our collaboration with the Fordham Law school continues. They have started interviewing all those who have volunteered to share your experiences serving in the field.
We will collect all your experiences, including those we are not able to interview, and those of LGBTI employees in the foreign ministries.
Eventually we’ll create a white paper on best practices, and an interactive map that will give visitors a snapshot of what it means to serve as an LGBTI individual in countries around the world, based on the experiences of those who have served there before.
This map has the potential to be an incredible tool for both UN workers and employees of the foreign services, and even those in the private sector.
Looking forward to a great 2016!
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
Update on the work of UN-GLOBE to push for inclusive parental leave policies in the UN system (5 November 2015)
As you know, UN-GLOBE issued in August guiding principles and proposals for inclusive parental leave policies.
We asked that all parental leave policies in the UN system focus on the needs of the child. No distinction should be made between a child who has been adopted, a child who was born through surrogacy, or a child born from a staff member. All children deserve equal parental leave time with their parents.
We also asked that all parental leave policies be gender-neutral. Policies should not grant 16 weeks to mothers, while only granting 4 weeks to fathers. This only reinforces old-fashioned and gendered ideas that mothers should stay home taking care of babies while fathers should go out and work. Parenting is the equal responsibility of both parents, and UN policies should reflect this.
We also asked in our proposals that 8 weeks of Special Leave with Pay be an option, in addition to 16 weeks of parental leave time, for all parents, male or female. We did this to ensure that staff members who have given birth, or staff members who have children with disabilities can have the time they need to ensure the well-being of their families.
Since sending our parental leave policy to all organizations of the UN system, we have seen a very positive response.
We have met with the Directors of Human Resources at UNDP, UN Women, and WHO. And we have met with the staff federations CCISUA, and FICSA; and with individual staff unions.
The responses have been positive and supportive, but tentative.
This type of response is to be expected. It was never my expectation that change in the UN system would happen right away.
What we have done, however, is to present a vision of how things should be, and of where we would like to be.
And we have managed to change the conversation.
As long as we can secure the agreement of UN agencies and staff unions that our vision is the end goal we all want to strive for, as long as we can engender enthusiasm, then we would have taken a big step forward.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
The next 2 years for UN-GLOBE (24 September 2015)
Dear UN-GLOBE colleagues,
It’s been about a month since we held the UN-GLOBE Board elections. Thank you to all those who voted.
The new UN-GLOBE Board is already hard at work. I wanted to let you know of our agenda going forward.
We will work on 5 priorities for the next 2 years.
1. We will continue to push for new parental policies across the UN system that treat all families equally. We believe parents are parents. They deserve equitable parental leave time whether their children are adopted, born through surrogacy, or given birth by the staff member.
2. We will continue to push for equal pension benefits for all staff members. At a time when the majority of organizations of the UN system now recognize all legal same-sex unions, the UN provider of pension benefits, the UNJSPF, should do the same. No same-sex spouse of a staff member should go unrecognized. We have recently written to the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General on this. She has promised to look into it.
3. We will introduce proposals for inclusive workplaces for transgender and intersex staff members. All staff members deserve dignity and equal opportunities.
4. We will introduce proposals for inclusive workplaces for staff members with HIV/AIDS. A stigma-free workplace is our cause, and we’ll embrace it.
5. We will introduce a survey to measure the satisfaction of LGBTI staff in the UN system, and to measure attitudes towards LGBTI issues. Having hard numbers can benefit us all, staff and administrators alike.
Attitudes take time to change. Policy changes can take even longer.
What is important is that we start by changing the conversation. When we open people’s minds; when we make them see a problem where they thought there was none before; when we make administrators realize that our policies cater to heterosexuality, and not to diversity, we would have taken a big step forward. And we would be that much closer to our ultimate goals.
The UN system may rarely change overnight.
But we will continue to push for our causes until the changes do come.
Hyung Hak Nam
ILO adopts policy recognizing all same-sex unions! (31 July 2015)
ILO is now the last remaining big UN organization to now recognize all same-sex unions!
The process was long and arduous, but we are glad that it’s finally official.
A big thanks to our colleagues in the ILO Staff Union who worked closely with UN-GLOBE to get this passed.
This is much needed change for our ILO colleagues, and one more step towards equality.
Click here for the ILO policy.
UN-GLOBE Guiding Principles and Proposals on an Inclusive Parental Leave Policy (30 July 2015)
After two months of deliberations within UN-GLOBE, I’m proud to finally share with you the UN-GLOBE Guiding Principles and Proposals on an Inclusive Parental Leave Policy.
I believe we have a paper that is strong, bold, and forward-looking. One that can change the conversation around adoption and surrogacy, and the care and responsibility we have for our children.
Ultimately, our goal is this: to change UN policies so that they become inclusive of all families, and treat them equally.
Currently, couples trying to start a family through adoption or surrogacy often encounter bureaucratic nightmares, and decisions that depend on the interpretation of the human resources officer, or apply for this one time only.
Parents who adopt or have babies through surrogates are often granted reduced parental leave time.
And because the adoption of a child can takes years, even if the child is under the custody of a staff member, that child can be without insurance coverage from the UN for that period of time.
The current policy is antiquated and needs to change.
I hope this paper will get us moving in the right direction.
We hope you will agree.
Please share this paper widely, with your staff union officials, and with colleagues.
We will be sharing it with the heads of UN agencies, funds, and programmes; and the heads of the staff unions.
And as always, please feel free to share your thoughts. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to me at email@example.com
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)
Top ten images of UN-GLOBE at NYC Pride 2015 (28 July 2015)
Dear UN-GLOBE colleagues,
Last month, we marched in NYC Pride under the UN-GLOBE banner as proud LGBTI staff serving for the UN system.
It was a fun day. We were mindful of the historic feel that the day had, on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States. A right that we have now earned across the UN system (with the remaining holdout agencies to fall very soon).
About 40+ UN-GLOBErs joined the celebrations.
Next year, we’ll aim for an even bigger crowd, including celebrations in the other duty stations, where UN-GLOBE is increasingly present.
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)