It was with great pleasure that I witnessed conversations starting across the organization. Staff spoke, and senior managers listened. It was awesome for the Administrator to kick off the transformation process with a Townhall addressing our efforts on anti-racism and to later appoint a Corporate Anti-racism and Discrimination Team to lead the process of uncovering systemic racial issues. Since then, staff have come together to lead many initiatives around anti-racism, with three major activities launched to support our efforts:
Having frank and open conversations
Dialogues open up the mind – even though it may not feel like it at times – and that is where transformation begins. UNDP has begun to have deep, vulnerable and frank conversations around racism. It has been critical for our growth as an organization to allow space for listening, sharing, learning and challenging each other and ourselves. The initial conversation “Let’s Talk About Racism” that took place in 2020 in my department exceeded my expectation with the level of honesty, bravery and interest from staff to learn. This was confirmation that we were ready to fumble together through this uncomfortable yet critical conversation. Recently, the staff-led dialogues by the Anti-racism and Decoloniality Network on Peace Direct’s Time to Decolonise Aid have provoked candid discussions about our programmes and operations, and the conversation continues to challenge me and many other colleagues.
To further encourage conversations in the organization, The Anti-Racism and Discrimination Team produced a seminal report with recommendations on addressing racism and discrimination which will include a toolkit to conduct a variety of dialogues within a safe space.
Structural changes inside the organization
As part of the transformation, the report produced by the Anti-Racism and Discrimination Team also recommends internal structural changes (such as in human resources, managing staff grievances, procurement, programme policy, training, etc.) to alleviate racist outcomes.
UNDP executive leaders are very involved and holding managers to account. The Administrator has communicated the need to go beyond simply addressing racism where we find it to also take an active anti-racist stance within the organization, our programming, and engagement with partners.
These policy shifts are essential to help us monitor and report on our progress. However, in my view, these structural changes are only half the battle.
Continuously working towards an anti-racist environment
A critical goal is to protect staff against racism through structural changes, but I believe fostering a culture of true diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of the organization for any of this to succeed. I wonder how this can work and look forward to finding out what that would look like. My hope for now is to keep the conversations going while continuing to challenge and improve our internal policies and celebrating our diversity.
There is no better time – than right now – to reflect on the Durban Declaration and its importance in today’s discussion around racism. The work UNDP is doing aims to bring elements of this ground-breaking conference into our everyday culture and professional practices.
As a long serving UN staff member, it is important for me to see us continuously move the needle by putting our best foot forward in addressing racial equality inside the organization. By doing so, we will be better equipped to carry out our work helping communities everywhere to confront discrimination in all its forms. It is a true honour to be a part of this transformation that is happening at UNDP in front of our eyes.
Tiffany Moore is a member of the UNDP Corporate Anti-racism and Discrimination Advisory Board and the Anti-racism and Discrimination Team in the Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy.