NATO officials and staff discuss racial diversity at NATO HQ

  • 08 May. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 09 May. 2023 09:55

On 8 May 2023, NATO HQ hosted a panel discussion titled “We Are All Allies in the Face of Racial Discrimination”. In the first event of its kind, participants explored the challenges and opportunities derived from racial diversity at NATO HQ. The Staff Group NATO Elevate Diversity spearheaded the event. Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee and Mr Angus Lapsley, Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning division are executive champions for the topic and they took part in the panel session with staff members, Ms Solange Ndagijimana-Munezero, from the NHQC3S and Ms Patricia Nguyen, from the IMS Gender Advisor’s Office.

NATO Diversity panel discussion

Ms Nydia Gormley-Russel, Chair of the Staff Group NATO Elevate Diversity, opened the event. She underlined the aim of the group, which “is to foster diversity and inclusion at NATO. It relies on the passion, commitment and tenacity of its members to get things moving. It is truly a group effort”. She underlined that this can only be achieved with the support of leadership and through a strong network of allies. “An ally actively supports and helps you when you need it the most. Being an ally is about listening and believing”, adding, “Allyship starts with individuals, but afterwards the system, the organisation must take over at some point”.

In his opening remarks, the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Bauer highlighted that “the call for racial justice and equity around the world has grown louder and louder over the years. And now that NATO has entered into a new era of collective defence, the urgency of that call has grown even more. We are defending not only the physical safety of our people, but also the democratic values we all hold dear. That means that not only should we practice what we preach… but we also have a responsibility to ensure that we create a safe, free, inclusive environment. Collective defence is truly a task for the collective, we cannot afford to waste talent… because we are not inclusive enough”.

Taking the floor next, the Assistant Secretary General for Policy and Planning Division, Mr Angus Lapsley underlined four main steps to achieving greater diversity: “We must start with demonstrating leadership and talking about it, which is what we are doing today. Showing that people at every level of the organisation are ready to get involved. The second thing we need to do, as an institution is give people permission to get involved, to advocate but above all to talk about these issues. We might potentially get it wrong and, we might have to learn and experiment before getting it right. Thirdly, you get into policy. Every institution needs policies that supports its commitment to diversity. Finally, you get into a fourth area of aspiration versus direction. We can aspire to be diverse or we can mandate more diversity. I believe that these are the four pillars that underpin a willingness to be more diverse but true change takes time”. 

Other panelists included Ms Solange Ndagijimana-Munezero, from the NATO Headquarters Consultation, Command and Control Staff and Ms Patricia Nguyen, from the IMS Gender Advisor’s Office, who shared personal stories and experiences from their professional life as well as their aspirations for NATO as a more diverse workplace. “I truly believe that diversity, equality and inclusion are strong values that help organisations reach their full potential and that contribute positively to creating a better society and fostering productivity. However, true change comes from the top. Leadership must set the right tone for inclusion and diversity; and we will all follow”, noted Ms Solange Ndagijimana-Munezero. Ms Nguyen underscored, “NATO has a responsibility to drive collective intelligence and fight the homogenous mind-set, and we would only be richer and stronger for it. Diversity and inclusion are about the opportunity to utilise each of our unique perspectives and talents to address complex challenges”. 

NATO Elevate Diversity is a Staff Resource Group created to foster diversity and inclusion at NATO by supporting the recruitment, retention and professional growth of racially diverse talent that represents the diversity of allied Nations.

The main objectives of ELEVATE Diversity are to:

  • Support and deliver initiatives contributing to the representation and progression of people of colour within NATO.
  • Raise awareness of and celebrate different cultures, backgrounds, and heritages.
  • Provide advice on NATO policies, practices, and culture for a more inclusive work environment for people of colour.
  • Curate forums that allow employees to learn and discuss cultural, social, and career related topics through the unique lens of employees of colour.