Ghada Waly is the first woman, first Arab and first African to lead the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, a position which she took up in February 2020. She is also Director‑General of the UN Office at Vienna. Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Waly was Minister of Social Solidarity in Egypt.

Below are excerpts from her recent interview with the Department of Safety and Security:

Which gender-focused initiatives would you like to spearhead at UNOV/UNODC? How does being a woman from the Global South influence your leadership?

Diversity at the top should help develop greater diversity among staff. I am working hard with my team to promote gender parity and geographic diversity within UNOV/UNODC, through the implementation of our new enhanced Geography Action Plan, and of the UNOV/UNODC Strategy for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

I have pledged to improve the representation of women at the staff levels where parity is not achieved, as a significant step towards meeting the goal of gender parity at all levels by the end of 2021. My aim is that we build and cultivate an enabling working environment which provides the same chances and opportunities to male and female staff.

You assumed the function in February 2020. What was your experience with UNDSS?

I am grateful that in Vienna I could rely on an experienced security team in addressing the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic over these past months. Their dedication has helped to keep our staff safe, and was recognized and appreciated by our host country. I count on UNDSS to further strengthen our UN security community here in Austria.

Austria is the first major HQ duty station where both the Designated Official and the Chief Security Advisor (Chief Bonnie Adkins) are female. Do you see any unique challenges or opportunities for women working in the security field?

Currently, just over a quarter of our security staff in Vienna are women, and we are working to improve the gender balance. There is an immense opportunity for women in security to become strong role models, especially at senior levels, accelerating progress towards a more gender diverse work force, attracting new female recruits, and putting in motion a virtuous circle – for the benefit of all.