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Laura Nicol, MA GGR Student Blog #GSP61
MY PARTICIPATION AT THE UNITED NATIONS GENEVA 61ST GRADUATE STUDY PROGRAMME (#GSP61)
I am elated to announce that I was selected to participate in the 61st Graduate Study Programme at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, between 3rd-14th July 2023. The theme for this year’s programme is “All Rights for all People”: Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 75.
Walking through the magnificent halls of the world’s most powerful global governance system is a dream come true. This two-week-long summer seminar gave me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the United Nations and the “international Geneva” through first-hand observations, lectures, research, and visits to Geneva-based institutions. This year’s cohort comprises fifty-eight (58) students and young professionals from fifty (50) countries worldwide from various fields, backgrounds, and expertise.
I attended lectures from many specialists on topics like gender equality, climate change, sustainable development, rights to development, peace, and security, refugees and migrants, humanitarian action, disarmament, trade, global health, and AI, to mention a few, which offered me direct knowledge of how the UN functions.
Through my participation, I came to realise the relevance of my current master’s at the University of Galway’s Centre for Global Women’s Studies: Gender, Globalisation and Rights course. My course concurrently blends studies about international development, human rights, gender, sustainable development, sexuality, religion, armed conflict, and global health, to mention a few within an unequal globalised world. This fits aptly into the curriculum of the #GSP61 which deals with recognising the human rights of all people, international development, and environmental concerns in a globalised world. I felt confident in all the sessions as my current master’s better equipped me with the emerging global themes around human rights.
Participating in the #GSP61 not only allowed me to meet and network with various professionals and experts but also gave me a renewed sense of direction and purpose and confirmed my desire to continue being human rights and gender justice advocate, thereby making a positive impact on people’s lives primarily women and girls.
Through my incessant pursuit to contribute to ways to deal with social inequalities and promote sustainable development, I am determined to leverage the insights, the platform, and the multiple networking connections that the #GSP61 has accorded me to be an agent of change wherever I am.
My profound gratitude goes to the University of Galway’s Centre for Global Women’s Studies: Gender, Globalisation, and Rights for their financial, academic, and moral support in ensuring I participate and represent the University of Galway in the #GSP61.
Opening of the #GSP61
MY WORKING GROUP EXPERIENCE
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has acknowledged that racism exists at the UN, making the anti-racism agenda one of his main priorities. As part of the Graduate Study Programme 61st curriculum, I was placed in the ‘Fighting racism within UN Geneva” working group with twelve other members. Being placed in a working group on policy and development and charged with providing recommendations for dealing with racism within the UN was daunting but rewarding.
Working Group Presentation
The working group was tasked with the following:
- Review existing practices in different international organisations in Geneva and, if possible, in selected large private companies in Geneva, about their fight against racism and racial discrimination.
- Suggest practical means to fight racism and racial discrimination at the UN Geneva
- Draft a communication strategy to raise awareness about the need for more diversity to fight racism and racial discrimination at the UN Geneva.The Communication Strategy should include:
- Material for an internal web page dedicated to the fight against racism.
- Social media posts related to the celebration of international days that deal with the issues of racism and racial discrimination.
- A video series will feature several UN Geneva staff sharing their ideas about fighting racism and racial discrimination.
To undertake the assigned tasks, my working group used the following methodology:
- Sixty-five international organisations based in Geneva were analysed for anti-racism and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and practices, with relevant information obtained from twenty-three organisations.
- Eleven interviews on racism at UN Geneva were conducted with different categories of UN staff and other professionals, generating around fifty-five minutes of recordings, of which seven were used, generating about 10 minutes of video series.
- Background information on racism in UN Geneva was also drawn from the 2022 Review on Racism and Racial Discrimination in the UN system,
- Further research was undertaken to establish types of racism, including microaggressions and effective communication strategies to promote anti-racism.
Some of the recommendations proffered by my working group included but not limited to the following:
- Media strategies and campaigns, includinga monthly podcast with guest participation by staff from different backgrounds or cultures; UN digital media, i.e., UNTV, to conduct campaigns or advertisements on anti-racism; staff testimonials of racism via short videos and how it could be addressed in the UN.
- Using the arts: Creating arts and activities to promote special celebration days focused on eradicating racism (performances, photography, pop-up exhibitions, etc.), creating an artwork committee to display anti-racism art within the UN, and developing a short mantra/slogan about ending racism in the UN.
- Education and training; compulsory training and developing an e-learning programme, Massive Open Online Courses, and resources toolkit available for staff.
- Human Resources processes: Develop a diversity and inclusion module as part of the Code of Conduct, grievance mechanisms, sharing of data on disciplinary action, and other accountability measures.
- Governance, quality assurance, and compliance; Cultural ambassador against racism, routine inspection in offices assessing compliance with policy and procedures concerning non-discrimination and staff wellbeing. Creating a system that enables the protection against retaliation and strengthens whistleblowing of racist incidents and develops staff surveys on experiences of racism and precise recording of anti-discrimination or anti-racism activities. Create a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council.
- Staff wellbeing: Formulate a mental health support team professionally trained to deal with victims of racism.
The UN Geneva Information Service and the Anti-Racism Department would publish my working group’s final paper. I am grateful for this life-changing and impactful experience.
Graduation Day with the Director-General of the UN Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya