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?
Roberto Arbitrio: UNOV and UNODC have come a long way when it comes to gender equality and women´s empowerment. Before the first Gender Strategy was adopted, we were more or less “gender blind” and not fully aware of the gender dimensions in many areas of our work; especially in those areas that are still male dominated in most parts of the world such as law enforcement.Four years on and I am happy to see the progress that we have made. Not only do we recognize that gender is an integral part of achieving sustainable progress, but we have also tackled the specific challenges that exist in UNODC mandate areas, such as equal access to justice.
The integration of gender aspects throughout UNODC’s work has made a noticeable difference, not the least in terms of management where we have successfully transferred all relevant policies from New York on gender parity, in line with Article 101 of the UN charter ensuring the “highest standards of efficiency, competency and integrity”. We demonstrated that gender is a core part of achieving the Charter and that we can easily combine competencies, geographic representation and gender in all of the work that we do.
When looking back on our achievements, one that stands out particularly, is the revision of the Management Instructions on the development and implementation of programmes and making the UNOV/UNODC Gender Team part of the programme approval process. The reason that this is so significant to me is because the integration of gender was so readily accepted by all. It means that everyone understood the added value that the integration of gender brings. UNOV/UNODC are finally fully aware of the importance of gender in our thematic areas. It demonstrates that we have moved away fromgender mainstreaming only being a theory to actually making it an integral part of our management cycle.
Gender Team: What do you think are the next big steps towards closing the gender gap in the work that your Office does and where would you like to be in 2026 in terms of gender equality?
Roberto Arbitrio: What I see as our next important milestone is the encouragement of female beneficiaries to participate in all of our activities and programmes in order for them to be able to utilise our programmes as a vehicle towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
We also need to have a cultural shift in our Offices. We need to move away from considering women as only victims and instead see their potential as agents of change. More and more women are in leading positions and this should be reflected in the roles women play in UNODC’s work.
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?
Roberto Arbitrio: Leadership is fundamental in creating role models, and I believe that this is vital for the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. In UNOV/UNODC, we have improved a lot in terms of female representation, especially at senior management level; the UNODC Executive Director is a woman and at the D1 level we have achieved gender parity.
But currently, staff from the western hemisphere are overrepresented in UNOV/UNODC, making us miss out on the voices of women from other areas, such as Asia, Africa and Latin America. Against this background, leadership needs to play a key role in advancing an intersectional approach where we combine gender with geographic representation. To do so, we need to maximize our outreach and to identify, especially in the field, women who may not yet know that a career at the UN is possible for them and to encourage them to apply.