International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2024: Interview with Marie Diur, Chair of the UNOG Working Group Against Racism

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the International Gender Champions Secretariat spotlights the need for action to address and stand against any form of racism, racial inequality and racial discrimination in the workplace. To illuminate a voice in this space, we sat down with anti-racism advocate Marie Diur. Ms Diur is Chief of the Interpretation Service at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), and chairs the UNOG Working Group on Addressing Racism in the Workplace. She founded the Geneva Alliance Against Racism to highlight the importance of addressing racism and racial discrimination within institutions.

Geneva Alliance Against Racism

The Geneva Alliance Against Racism was established on 5 October 2023 at the Palais des Nations to combat racism and racial discrimination within the UN system. The Initiative aims to address the issue of racism and racial discrimination at the workplace by sharing good practices among U.N organizations on creating safe and equitable working environments for all.

IGC Secretariat: What is the importance of having the Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as well as initiatives like Geneva Alliance Against Racism, especially in International Geneva?  

Marie Diur: Such days are important because this means that nobody can now say that they did not know that racism existed at the United Nations. This has been recognized by the SG [Secretary General] and there is no denying it anymore. The Geneva Alliance means exactly that: It means that together we are stronger.

IGC Secretariat: How can we identify and address structural and systemic biases within our institutions to avoid continued institutional racism within our workplaces?

Marie Diur: Before addressing systemic biases in our institutions, we first need to address our own biases and recognize that we all have biases. Once we recognize that, then we can address institutional biases. Institutional biases are the direct results of our own biases.

IGC Secretariat: How can we engage our International Gender Champions, leaders of International Organisations, UN agencies, Civil Society Organizations and other institutions, in ensuring racism and racial discrimination is not perpetuated in our workspaces?

Marie Diur: The Gender Alliance paved the way! It is thanks to the Gender Alliance and the International Gender Champions that we have had the idea to create the Geneva Alliance Against Racism. We are all in this together and this fight is our fight so the more we are the better. Kudos to the gender alliance and the International Gender Champions movement! You have been real pioneers, and we are following your footsteps!

IGC Secretariat: What do you envision as the future of safe and equitable working environments? Are you positive we can achieve this vision?

Marie Diur: A safe and equitable working environment means that everyone feels welcome and at ease. Everyone. I would not be working on this if I was not positive and optimistic! It is going to be hard and it will take time  but as they say in French: Rome ne s’est pas fait en un jour.