A goodbye from Hyung Hak Nam; my last message as President of UN-GLOBE
I am writing to you my last message as President of UN-GLOBE before elections begin. I have decided it is time for me to leave.
I am immensely proud of what UN-GLOBE has achieved in the past few years. Same-sex unions are now recognized in the UN System. There is equality in pension rights. Organizations like IOM and UNHCR have adopted diversity and inclusion strategies. The health care needs of trans personnel have begun to be covered by health insurance. These are some of the achievements.
Most importantly, we have managed to achieve what led me to ran for President in the first place: to change minds and attitudes in the UN System. LGBTIQ+ identities are no longer a taboo subject in the UN System, even in peacekeeping operations, and this is a sea of change from when I first started. For example, in the UN Peacekeeping Missions in Iraq and in Haiti, broadcasts calling for the equality and inclusion of all LGBTIQ+ personnel have been sent, and our UN-GLOBE representatives there have met with senior leadership. And we have a seat at the table at Headquarters-level when policies such as on mobility are discussed. When we speak, senior leadership listens.
We changed minds and attitudes by changing the conversation, by changing how the UN System should think about these issues. We were the ones who changed the conversation on parental leave, for example. We advocated for equal parental leave time for all parents: four months for all parents regardless of gender identity or whether they had adopted or had a child through surrogacy. We argued this was the right thing to do to dispel the notion that men were breadwinners and women child raisers; and to acknowledge the diversity of families. We spoke up and we presented concrete, realistic proposals that the UN System is now seriously discussing and moving to adopt.
We were also the ones who issued comprehensive recommendations for inclusive workplaces for trans and gender non-conforming staff, some of which are already starting to be implemented. And in doing so we have made the UN System aware of the need to do more for trans and gender non-conforming personnel. And most importantly, the recommendations were a way to introduce in the UN System the concept of gender diversity, which I deeply care about, and which I believe gender parity strategies should account for.
And what I’m even more proud of is that UN organizations are now beginning to seriously look at their programmatic work and see how they can also better ensure the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ populations made vulnerable. They are the ones who suffer the most when it comes to discrimination and violence based on sexual and gender notions.
In the past two years, we have also launched an internship program to better support the careers of people who identify as LGBTIQ+ and to ensure a stronger family.
I know that much remains to be done. I’m sorry that I will not see through two ideas I really wanted to implement but due to their complexities could not see finished: a UN System-wide survey to see where we stand on LGBTIQ+ issues and people for all staff; and an interactive world map that captures country by country the experiences of LGBTIQ+ staff who have served there. This map can be a great tool for those of you who have been assigned to a country and have wondered what it would mean for you and your family to move there. We also have not managed to see fertilization treatments covered for LGBTIQ+ couples, particularly for women.
I hope the new board can complete these important projects.
When it comes to LGBTIQ+ identities, I believe the world is changing. People are increasingly refusing to identify or be identified by a label. I personally too have always disliked identitarian thinking along sexual and gender identities, and refused labels. I hope that the UN System will come to understand this new way of thinking and be able to move beyond the LGBTIQ+.
I also would like to send a message to all persons of color who work for the UN System and identify as part of the LGBTIQ+ family. Our experiences are marked by race within and outside the UN System and the LGBTIQ+ community. I hope there is a space for you facilitated by UN-GLOBE that will allow you to share your experiences.
I also hope more women, trans, and gender non-conforming people get involved with UN-GLOBE. Many have, already, and it has been fantastic to see.
I leave immensely grateful to all the UN-GLOBE Board members, Coordinators, and UN System personnel who have helped make change happen. And I leave enormously grateful to all of you for the very tough conversations we’ve had, and also the very heartwarming ones. I have learnt a lot.
With enormous gratitude,
Hyung Hak Nam,