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?
Miwa Kato: During the past four years, we made many previously unseen concrete steps in advancing gender equality in Vienna and across our field offices. As a result, we are well on track to translate the UN Gender Parity Strategy introduced in 2017 into actual reality of UNODC.
The biggest achievement that stands out to me is the fact that we managed to appoint highly qualified women as Field Representatives to head our operations in UNODC offices in Afghanistan, Brazil, Colombia, Panama and Southern Africa - a sharp increase to where we were before 2018. Especially for Latin America and the Caribbean region, we have made big strides, from having 0 women representatives (among 6 Representative positions) to now having 3, therefore reaching complete parity for the LAC region, and also appointing a woman from a country of the region as the Regional Section Chief. These appointments bring important ripple effects, as the selected female managers often bring change in leadership style and further enrich our instiutional culture.
These concrete hiring decisions testify to UNODC Senior Management's strong collective commitment towards gender equality and the empowerment of women principles. And it is heartening that we receive big thumbs up to these appointments by countless staff and from Member States as well. In addition to the importance of ensuring diversity at all levels, bringing diverse perspective through attaining parity also for positions with decision making and resource management/allocation authority is key to advancing organizational change. That is why, I beleive these changes are the most memorable achievements as I look back at the past four years.
Gender Team: What do you think are the next big steps towards closing the gender gap in the work that your Division does and where would you like to be in 2026 in terms of gender equality?
Miwa Kato:In addition to increasing women in leadership positions, we also made advances in gender mainstreaming in our programmatic activities. There are many initiatives developed since 2018 to specifically address gender inequality through UNODC operations implemented across the globe. We have worked with the most marginalised groups of women supporting their access to justice and through medical treatment and rehabilitation services. We are also helping women and girls in crisis situations with livelihood assistance, including in the most challening environments like Afghanistan 2022. But we know we can, and must, do so much more in integrating the gender and empowerment lens to all support activities across UNODC's mandates and expertise. In addition to enhancing our support to marginalised and vulnerable women, we aim to do more in assisting women as agents of change, especially by working with women in law enforcement and in the justice sector.
Some of our flagship global programmes (like the Container Control Programme (CCP) and the Global Maritime Crime Programmes (GMCP)) already brought some important progress in this direction over the past four years, for instance through establishing professional networks among female customs and border control officers. But we should significantly scale these up.
At a more fundamental level, I believe that going forward, during the next four years, our focus should also be on advancing an institutional culture of inclusion and empowerment. This means creating a workplace and programme environment where everyone feels respected and appreciated for who they are and have equal opportunity to contribute with their full potential. Ensuring diversity should lead to respect for various forms of identities, going beyond the sole focus on women. Appreciative leadership respecting different contributions people of different identitities and backgrounds bring is essential. These wider commitments will help us overcome any notion of reverse discrimination and take us further in brining the full benefits of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.
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?
Miwa Kato: Looking back at the past four years since the adoption of our first UNODC Gender Strategy in 2018, we have come a long way. Behind the significant increwase of appointments of women in leadership positions across DO, both in the field and in HQ, as managers we provided countless informal mentoring and outreach, especially to staff with profiles that are less represented (women and people from the Global South). We looked concretely at how the Organization can support the professional growth of female staff through tailored advice on how they can be a competitive candidate for the positions that they aspire for.
AS DO management we also placed emphasis on facilitating staff (of all gender identities and levels) to experience different functions, including through temporary appointments and special assignments so that they can increease their experience and enhance their profile through performing diverse functions. We did this as we saw that a lot of staff were in the same position for a very long time and felt stuck in terms of capacity and expertise. We also had many conversations on how to better promote an understanding of what career development meant from the viewpoint of hiring managers with in the UN wide emphasis on valuing diverse experiences. There are many benefits of not equating 'staff development' only with a promotion and getting frustrated.
At the bottom off all of this, leadership engagement is key and I am certain that we can further advance on all of these areas over the next four years. As noted by the independent evaluation of UNODC Gender Mainstreaming Strategy, strong leadership is essential in triggering further transformational shift towards an inclusive organisational cutlure in everyday office life too. DO will continue investing in promoting diversity and empowerment through career development, supporting work-life balanced, strenghtening skills and knowledge, for all who work with UNODC, including locally recrioted staff who enable our field operations.