In her opinion piece for Inter Press Service, Shihana Mohamed from the United Nations emphasizes the importance of inclusive leadership that respects diversity and rejects discrimination. The UN Charter outlines these principles, including the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction. However, racism and racial discrimination remain deep-rooted issues within the UN system, with staff perceiving national or ethnic origin as the primary grounds for discrimination.
A recent review by the United Nations’ external oversight body, the Joint Inspection Unit, found that racism and discrimination are major, under-recognized problems that require urgent system-wide responses. This review also highlighted the lack of diversity in senior managerial positions, with the majority held by staff from the global North. Furthermore, UN staff from countries in the global South tend to be in lower, less well-paid grades and hold less authority in decision-making.
To address these issues and promote collective leadership, staff interest groups focusing on anti-racism, gender equality, diversity, and inclusion are essential. Staff resource groups build bridges between staff and management and play a significant role in bringing about effective change in organizational culture. Mohamed also emphasizes the importance of speaking up if treated unfairly and focusing on specific initiatives that create change.
To support Asian talent in the workplace, the creation of a staff resource group, such as the UN-ANDI established in 2021, is crucial. Mohamed stresses the need to speak up loudly and proudly as Asian members of an interest/resource group and to explore solutions within and outside the UN system through collective leadership.