Diversity and inclusion at NATO

  • Last updated: 30 Aug. 2023 15:21

NATO highly values inclusion and perceives diversity as a strength. As such, NATO strives to ensure that its workforce reflects the distinctiveness and variation of its Allies. NATO’s proactive strategies aim to attract, develop and retain a mix of people with different skills, backgrounds, experiences and cultures. This variety and access to a broader range of talent is essential to generate innovative ideas and insights, and greatly contributes to NATO’s efficiency.


  • NATO aims to ensure its workforce reflects the diversity of its Allies and strives to maintain a work environment that is inclusive and free from discrimination, harassment or bullying.
  • Today, there are approximately 1,100 civilian International Staff (IS) members in NATO Headquarters and another hundred civilians serve in the International Military Staff (IMS).
  • NATO’s policies and programmes provide the framework for inclusive, fair and equitable application of employment conditions in support of NATO’s mission.
  • The North Atlantic Council endorsed the 2019-2023 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan for the International Staff, which serves as a roadmap for NATO in creating and sustaining a high-performing workforce that embraces diversity and inclusion, promotes gender equality and empowers all staff members to achieve their full potential.
  • Both IS and IMS civilian staff operate under the Civilian Personnel Regulations, which provide that members of staff shall treat their colleagues and others with whom they come into contact in the course of their duties, with respect and courtesy at all times.


Programmes and plans

The following diversity programmes and plans guide NATO’s overarching diversity and inclusion agenda.

Diversity and Inclusion Programme and Action Plan
The NATO Diversity and Inclusion Programme espouses policies and practices to promote the development of a diverse and inclusive workforce, and leverages the differences to achieve organisational goals. NATO takes proactive and measurable steps to ensure all staff members are treated fairly, respectfully and are given equal access to opportunities and resources. The North Atlantic Council – NATO’s principal political decision-making body – approved the 2019-2023 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan for the International Staff at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The Action Plan serves as a roadmap to guide organisational efforts that improve diversity, equality and inclusion, and promote cultural change.

Gender Balance and Diversity Task Force
The Gender Balance and Diversity Task Force (GBD TF) was established according to the mandate agreed by member countries at the 2002 Prague Summit. The Task Force works to coordinate policies, identify barriers and promote activities to build a diverse and inclusive workforce in the IS and civilian IMS workforce.

Under the direction of the Deputy Secretary General, the Task Force started work in February 2003. The first report proposed an original Action Plan, which was noted by Foreign Ministers on 2 June 2003. In consultation with national delegations, the IS and the IMS, the Task Force defined four guiding principles for actively pursuing a diversity policy at NATO Headquarters:

  • Ensuring fairness in recruitment and promotion;
  • Ensuring the high quality of NATO personnel;
  • Respecting the diversity of all Alliance members; and
  • Agreeing only to set goals and use methods that embody a reasonable challenge.

The Task Force therefore recommended a pragmatic approach with achievable goals. It focused on diversity issues that could be objectively defined and started its work by addressing the question of gender balance. It agreed no quotas would be set since recruitment in NATO is merit-based, and proposed the following objectives:

  • To increase the overall number of women employed in the IS;
  • To increase the overall number of women applying;
  • To increase the overall number of women in managerial positions.

Staff Resource Groups
NATO’s first Staff Resource Group (SRG), PROUD@NATO, was officially established in 2020 to further LGBTQ+ perspectives at NATO. NATO’s SRGs provide opportunities for personal and professional development through mentoring, networking and community involvement. They also deliver cultural engagement events to raise awareness for specific issues. At the first conference on LGBTQ+ perspectives in the workplace hosted at NATO Headquarters on 19 March 2021, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of who we are and what we do... drawing on all resources and all experiences makes us stronger, and better equipped to face the future”.

Flexible work arrangements
NATO offers flexible working opportunities to improve work-life balance and create an environment where people can grow and thrive. This increases productivity, builds employee morale and improves overall staff member engagement.

NATO-wide Mentoring Programme
The NATO Mentoring Programme is designed to remove potential structural barriers while building bonds and connections across organisations and generations to create a sustainable culture that is open, inclusive and non-discriminatory. NATO mentors help participants navigate the unknowns, identify new opportunities and innovative solutions, and develop professionally and personally.


Calendar of events

21 February
International Mother Language Day
 To celebrate multilingual diversity and create an awareness of the richness of languages through activities and events.

8 March
International Women's Day
To bring awareness to the call to action for accelerating gender parity.

20 March
International Francophonie Day
French is one of two official working languages at NATO. This day celebrates the French language and Francophone culture through activities and events.

17 May
International Day Against Homophobia
Objective: To raise awareness of LGBTQ+ rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBT rights work worldwide.

21 May
World Day for Cultural Diversity
To increase the understanding of issues around cultural diversity and development among governmental and non-governmental organisations.

World Breastfeeding Week
To demonstrate NATO's support and commitment to nursing mothers.

Global Diversity Awareness Month
To strengthen our understanding and pay tribute to the diverse minds and beliefs held by all NATO cultures.

3 December
International Day for People with Disabilities
To increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities.