In this episode of OutBüro Voices featuring LGBTQ professionals, entrepreneurs, and community leaders from around the world, host Dennis Velco chats with the United Nation’s LGBTQ+ personnel leader Gurchaten “Nanoo” Sandhu. His reach incorporates 70 UN organizations in a unique personnel bargaining way.
This is just the text description is just a brief overview, so be sure to listen or watch and post any questions you might have for Nanoo in the comments.
Nanoo who is a British citizen by birth, his parent immigrated comes from Northern Indian with Punjabi heritage and a with a Seik spiritual upbringing. See the separate short video of our discussion on being LGBTQ and Sikh by upbringing and faith which was an educational lesson for me.
Nanoo, which is what people close to him call him, started out as an intern at the United Nations. When he arrived in Switzerland 15 years ago it was just for that 6-month internship. Yet he hasn’t left – other than for holiday. He converted to a full-time employee of the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) in where he’s had the opportunity to work on the policy of international labor rights and equality.
His early career at the United Nations was fraught with homophobia and being specifically told by another gay colleague to stay in the closet, this is not a place you will thrive and be out as gay. Like all organizations, change happens over time. One of the additional challenges of working at the United Nations as personnel is that all policies and benefits for each of the 70 organizations are reviewed and fate determined by its operational board which consists of the member state/country representatives. So, if those happen to be countries that criminalize same-gender relationships, it can be difficult to achieve complete LGBTQ inclusive policies and benefits in those organizations.
As Nanno described, the United Nations GLOBE is quite interesting. It is not a traditional Employee Resource Group like what is found in many for-profit companies around the developed world. It operates on a completely voluntary basis with ZERO funding from the United Nations or any of its 70 organizations. It is a personnel lead, managed, and self-funded organization. It operates somewhere between an employee resource group and a staff bargaining union.
Anytime there is any discussion of human resource policy or benefits within any of the UN 70 organizations, the UN GLOBE demands a seat at the table to ensure for the benefit of all personnel that the needs of LGBTQ personnel are addressed, often to the benefit of their heteronormative colleagues as well. Being a truly global organization has presented many challenges. For example, when a staffer is offered a post in a country that is not LGBTQ+ friendly or it is criminalized in the potential destination country, what are the options the UN can achieve. In some cases, if the staffer chooses not to take the assignment it can be a career-limiting choice. We all have tough choices to make, but living as one’s authentic self as safely as possible is of course the best choice. There will be other job advancement opportunities in the future.
I am fascinated by this model and feel it can be an inspiration to others. Regardless of the employer’s buy-in, organize, educate, connect, and create change on your terms. Your and the UN Globe are an inspiration.
Join me and Nanoo on OutBüro, the LGBTQ professional and entrepreneur online community network for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, allies, and our employers who support LGBTQ welcoming workplace equality-focused benefits, policies, and business practices. https://www.OutBuro.com
Would you like to be featured like this? Contact the host Dennis Velco. https://outburo.com/profile/dennisvelco/