Gender Team: What are some of the changes and progress you have seen in terms of promoting gender equality since the adoption of the first UNOV/UNODC Gender Mainstreaming Strategy? Are there any moments and achievements that stand out?
Amado Philip de Andrés: When the first Strategy was launched in 2018, I was still the UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa based in Kenya, and I saw this Strategy as my mantra. For that reason, I was also happy to become an International Gender Champion in the Nairobi Hub. One of the main impacts of the Strategy is how we approach recruitment. Not only did we include well trained Gender Focal Points in the recruitment process in UNODC Kenya, but we also had a designated Gender Focal Point in Nairobi that was trained by other UN agencies. This helped us change the way we position our operations and programmes at the country level.
The second impact of the Strategy is in our communication campaigns. What stands out for me in my current position as the UNODCRegional Representative for West and Central Africa based in Dakar is the campaign designed and co-sponsored by the Sahel Program which focused on the recruitment of women in the justice, defence and security sectors in the Sahelian Member States. This achievement was also recognized at an institutional level as the programme won the 2022 Gender Award. Part of its success is that we worked closely with the Governmentof Niger, for example, which supported us in making the campaign understandable to a local audience. The contextual implementation of gender mainstreaming is very important and was a key factor in the project excelling.
Gender Team: What do you think are the next big steps towards closing the gender gap in the work that your Regional Office does and where would you like to be in 2026 in terms of gender equality?
Amado Philip de Andrés: I believe one of the gaps we need to focus on is balancing gender equality with geographical diversity in our recruitment. We must remember that most of the growth for UN civil servants will happen in Africa, coupled with Latin America, and Eastern Europe and Asia;and such afact needs to be recognised in our recruitment. Both men and women can and should be gender champions, so when we recruit, we need to take this into account. If we don’t, we risk derailing the actual philosophy of gender mainstreaming, which is how both men and women can push forward gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Secondly, we need to make sure that more women become UNODC’s representatives and regional representatives as there is a noticeable gender parity gap in this respect. Fortunately, Ms. Waly is focusing efforts and appointing more women leaders to become UNODC representatives in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, which sends the right message to an audience ready to be inspired by men and women who are gender champions and leaders. It is also important to recognise the impact that being a UNODC representative has on our family. So, the next step should be to create an enabling environment for the whole family and for instance support the spouses of both male and female candidates to also get a job – as it is the case of non-UN Secretariat Agencies in Geneva.
Thirdly, we need to start to recruit strategically and recognise the importance of age and gender. This means hiring experts from what I call “generation A”, from 24-34, and “generation B” from 35 to 45. To achieve this, we need to openly share information on how to start a career in the UN system and encourage them to go to the field, because this is where 95% growth of our programming and operations will take place in 2022-2030.
In UNODC West and Central Africa, we have developed something called the Efficiency Agenda, where we ensure, among other matters, the sustainability of jobs for every person that we recruit –provided that the Staff embodies the UN core and professional competencies and she or he performs well. This is very important for gender mainstreaming because it considers not only socio-economic gender-roles and the impact they have on professional careers, but it also considers intersectional factors such as disability and sexuality. For example, if a staff member is part of the LGBTIQ+ community, we should help find the most suitable location for them and ensure that they do not have to live in a country where the legal framework discriminates against their sexuality.
Gender Team: How do you view the role of leadership in successfully promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in UNOV/UNODC’s work and its working environment?
Amado Philip de Andrés: Leaders need to be role models and lead by example. We want to create a culture where people can admit it if they are not good at gender mainstreaming and want to get better.
Communication from senior managers is also key, especially through the use of social media and meaningful messaging to staff. For example, our Executive Director has been spearheading the posting of one-minute videos on what has been happening in the organisation - the same can be done on gender mainstreaming. Beyond that, we can also promote our gender work through targeted videos on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and other social media in different languages. This can go a long way, beyond briefing notes and can also attract stakeholders outside of the UN system, such as a thriving private sector and skilled entrepreneurs in Africa.
Finally, there should be increased recognition of gender mainstreaming champions, and this should be done beyond communication campaigns. Gender champions could be fast tracked in their careers as it is the case in some of the European Union member States where the Prime Minister is a gender champion and civil servants who are also gender champions obtain adequate recognition even when they need to be posted in a different duty station. This should be the case for both men and women.