UN-GLOBE meeting with Secretary-General António Guterres
I'm happy to report that yesterday, UN-GLOBE had a very productive meeting with Secretary-General António Guterres in his office.
Attending the meeting with me was Gabe Scelta, who is the Secretary of UN-GLOBE, and Jennifer Rumbach, who is the UN-GLOBE representative at IOM.
I made 3 key asks:
- That Secretary-General António Guterres speak up about the violence faced by many LGBTI individuals around the world— whether it is through torture, killings, or imprisonment, or any other form of violence. The UN is an organization whose fundamental mission is and should be to ensure every human has a fair chance at life.
- That the United Nations practice what it preaches, and that it establish itself as an employer where a trans-identified staff member can start as a clerk, and end as the Secretary-General. Establishing equality and inclusion as the guiding principles under which this Organization will operate is key to achieving this.
- That the United Nations reach out, in all the countries it serves, to all vulnerable populations, including the LGBTI, and that its programmatic work incorporate the framing of helping all vulnerable populations. In this regards, I stressed that LGBT-identified staff want to contribute to helping the LGBTI communities in the countries where they serve.
Gabe then addressed the Secretary-General and spoke about his experiences as trans staff member working for the UN. He highlighted some of the challenges and concerns of trans-identified staff in the field, from possible detainment by security forces in countries where trans identities are illegal, to harassment in the workplace. He asked that the UN provide institutional support to trans-identified staff, including when assigned to the field, and ensure their security.
Jennifer addressed her experiences working as the LGBTI-focal point for IOM, and her experiences designing and implementing a training for UNHCR and IOM staff on how to better handle claims from LGBTI-identified beneficiaries.
She spoke of situations that she had faced, from a Nepalese couple that was not allowed to migrate together but were separated instead; to IOM staff being overwhelmed by the number of LGBT-identified Iraqis who called the hotline they had set up following a wave of anti-LGBTI violence in Iraq that killed hundreds of gay-identified men; to training sessions where trainees admitted mishandling cases brought forth by LGBTI-identified beneficiaries by laughing, belittling or showing discomfort at their presence.
Following our intervention, Secretary-General António Guterres, looking touched, turned to his Senior Advisor Ana Menendez, and the ASG of Human Resources (both present), and asked for the following:
- That the UN develop a set of guidelines for LGBTI-identified staff in consultation with UN-GLOBE that can then be brought up for discussion at the UN system-wide level.
- That the UN produce a compilation of good practices of training modules on the protection of LGBTIs at the field level – drawing on Jennifer’s IOM-UNHCR training module for refugees and migrants.
It was also agreed to work on a modality that would give UN-GLOBE a seat at the table when matters relevant to LGBTI-staff are to be discussed. This includes during annual meetings of the staff federation with Administrations, and during annual meetings of the staff unions with Administrations.
These are commitments that UN-GLOBE will work towards locking into place in the days and weeks ahead by working with the Senior Adviser.
What I am most happy about the outcome of the meeting is that we managed to bring forth arguments to the Secretary-General in a way that he had not heard before, that did not entirely follow the expected “no one should be criminalized for who you love” scripts, that managed to bring a fresh perspective.
I believe this was a good step forward towards changing minds and attitudes in the UN system, and by doing this establishing a lasting culture of equality and inclusion in the United Nations. I believe very much that establishing this latter is key, for it is what can turn the UN and its thousands of on-the-ground staff around the world into credible and passionate advocates for the right of everyone to have a fair chance at life, including the LGBTI.
Please feel free to contact me individually for further clarification at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso)