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LGBTI+ Inclusion: Where do we go from here?

by Elodie Leroy Le Moigne, Senior Risk & Safeguarding Advisor

Part 3 of a 3-part series on LGBTI+ safety and security. Click here to read part 1: Can LGBTI+ in the aid sector really bring their 'whole selves' to work? and part 2: Objections to LGBTI+ inclusion in humanitarian work.

The path to LGBTI+ inclusion in the humanitarian sector is one that we need to walk together. It is not possible for LGBTI+ to be the lone voices in organisations calling for inclusion. It’s not enough to simply have the HR manager on board. We need all of our voices in the conversation – senior managers, HR and Finance managers, security professionals – to name just a few.

And our first step together should be to increase our knowledge in what we’re attempting to change. Before pushing for a solution we need to have a better view on the extent of the problem. We simply don’t know enough about LGBTI+ exclusion to successfully address inclusion.

We need to know how many staff identify as LGBTI+, what their needs, concerns and coping mechanisms are. What risks do they face, the nature of those risks and how often do they reoccur?

How? We could work together to conduct a vast, sector-wide, anonymous survey and publish the results. This could then be followed by a workshop and discussion of the data and results.

This survey and workshop would be important for everyone involved in the discussion as it will empower us all to become involved.

Donor involvement

Donors are actively engaged in addressing challenges in this sector which they largely fund. They are interested in safeguarding, well-being, security and diversity. Given that an intersectional approach to duty of care – including security and safeguarding – will result in a healthy and safe organisations donors should be supremely interested in ensuring that every organisations they support proactively engages on LGBTI+ inclusion. At a minimum, their due diligence should include seeing LGBTI+ elements in organisational HR, security and safeguarding procedures. They should require LGBTI+ themes to be reflected in project proposals, trainings and the briefings. When monitoring and evaluation is funded they should be looking for evidence of LGBTI+ inclusion.

Management | Executive involvement

Humanitarian organisations are led from the top and without senior managers actively embracing LGBTI+ inclusion it is destined to fail. If they are not championing and holding their organisations to account we will revert to the status quo and take the path of least resistance. While we cannot imagine working with people who are religiously intolerant or openly sexist it remains acceptable in humanitarian aid to not embrace LGBTI+ inclusion.

When recruiting for senior posts, questions of diversity should be paramount for candidates. Interviews and tests should require candidates to demonstrate their track record of LGBTI+ inclusion and how they envisage continuing that in the organisation. Ideally, LGBTI+ candidates will be encouraged and increasingly reflected in the most senior levels. Inclusion, diversity, and intersectional approaches should colour all of our strategy, programme design, all-staff briefings and this should be led from the top.

Security Manager involvement

One of the departments where we are most in need of LGBTI+ inclusion is in our security departments. And yet, very rarely is any LGBTI+ individual recruited as a security manager. In fact, our security departments are some of the least diverse in our organisations. Why?

It could be that LGBTI+ individuals have no interest in managing organisational safety or security. It could be that LGBTI+ individuals are already security managers but need to hide that. Or, it could be some other reason - the question needs to be asked.

When we’re recruiting security professionals the recruitment process should contain technical and relational questions related to LGBTI+ inclusion. Candidates should be able to detail how they have worked practically with inclusion and diversity in their frameworks, policies and security packages and trainings.

At a minimum, the security manager needs to have considered LGBTI+ inclusion in the context and risk assessments for each country where the organisation works and brief all staff about this in a way that is not harmful or discriminatory for LGBTI staff.

In this blog I could go on, detailing ways in which every person, in every role, everywhere the organisations works can work toward LGBTI+ inclusion. It’s not difficult and it’s not time consuming. It’s time we changed the way we reshaped our thinking so that our staff truly feel part of something bigger than them. We must become humanitarians within our own organisations – promoting the idea of plurality in unity and championing our principles.


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