Skip to main content

Diversity is valuable

Photo: Several people are sitting in a room. Some are sitting at desks with laptops. One person in a wheelchair is speaking.
© GIZ / Sabrina Asche

Diversity enriches GIZ

Social diversity is typical of life and work at GIZ – both in Germany and in our partner countries. As an implementing organisation for German development cooperation with worldwide operations, we not only have a diverse workforce of our own. Diversity also plays an important role for our target groups, partners and commissioning parties. For us, that means taking a responsible approach to differences within the company, because we value diversity.

In October 2019, GIZ signed the Diversity Charter, an employer initiative designed to promote diversity in companies and institutions. Signing up to the Charter underlines our conviction that different talents, abilities and life experience can be combined to advance and enrich a shared task. We believe that diversity means actively providing the same opportunities and openings for each individual, thereby creating a working environment that is free of prejudice and characterised by a climate of acceptance and mutual trust.

Various initiatives have also been set up by GIZ staff to raise awareness of diversity issues within the company, for instance the Rainbow Network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and/or questioning (LGBTIQ+) employees. Another example is the Cultural Diversity Initiative – an informal group that brings together employees and managers from Head Office and the field structure with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and people of colour.

In September 2020, a Diversity Week was held. The online action week that addressed the many different dimensions of diversity was designed by various employee initiatives and the Corporate Equal Opportunities Commissioner and the Disabled Persons’ Representation. Managing Director Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, Director General of the HR Department Lutz Zimmermann and Gender Ambassador Dirk Assmann were involved, as were external experts. As well as intersectionality, Diversity Week addressed other issues including gender equity and inclusion of people with disabilities. The German Federal Foreign Office’s Diplomats of Colour Initiative was presented and a workshop on LGBTIQ+ organised.

Inclusion of people with disabilities

Disability is one of the seven dimensions of diversity. German law provides special protection and support for employees with severe disabilities. Companies with more than 20 employees must ensure that a minimum of five per cent of posts are held by persons with a severe disability or otherwise must pay a government levy.

In 2019, we drew up an inclusion agreement with a view to further improving the inclusion of people with disabilities at GIZ. The agreement was signed in 2020. It aims to increase the participation of individuals with a severe disability in working life and to make GIZ a more attractive employer for people with disabilities. The agreement sets out the following objectives:

  • Create an inclusive environment: We at GIZ want to be a more inclusive company.
  • Offer employment: We will improve the working environment so that we can offer more jobs to people with severe disabilities.
  • Raise awareness: We will strive to raise awareness of inclusion on an ongoing basis.
  • Establish contacts: We will create an inclusion network.
  • Make use of external support: We will consistently harness the external support available.

The objectives set out in the agreement are to be implemented with the help of action plans that lay down practical measures to achieve a barrier-free, inclusive working environment at all levels. That is the basic prerequisite for participation on the basis of partnership, for feeling valued and for equal opportunities.

To create a barrier-free working environment that enables the inclusion of people with severe disabilities, we provide equipment and other support to meet individual needs. The company’s Inclusion Officer and disabled persons’ elected representatives oversee implementation of GIZ’s inclusion policy.

Together, inclusive and without barriers – a shared journey and a shared experience

GIZ’s Central Disabled Persons’ Representation and the local spokespeople in Berlin, Bonn and Eschborn together represent the interests of people with (severe) disabilities. They ensure that nobody is disadvantaged or treated less favourably because they have a disability. They do not focus only on individuals with severe disabilities but on all people with disabilities under the provisions of the German General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG).

It is their duty to ensure that people with disabilities are treated equally and given the same career development opportunities and can undertake the same assignments as all employees within the company, both in Germany and in our partner countries. GIZ recognises that it has a special responsibility here and our inclusive approach also embraces national staff. Another concern of ours is to enable more young people with severe disabilities to join the company, which is why we specifically offer them traineeships.

Matters concerning the company as a whole are referred to the Central Disabled Persons’ Representation. Issues affecting individual sites are dealt with by the local representative in Berlin, Bonn or Eschborn. GIZ requests advice from its disabled persons’ representatives on a range of matters that are relevant for people with severe disabilities, for example when reviewing the barrier-free status of new and existing properties as well as rental properties. To safeguard the interests of employees with disabilities, we also consult their representatives on HR matters. The company’s disabled persons’ representatives are also members of the staff representation. We make it clear that people with disabilities are welcome at GIZ.

One of our main concerns as we move forward is to offer our support at sites outside Germany too, and to ensure inclusive and barrier-free action there, benefiting national staff. People with disabilities are an integral part of GIZ’s workforce and must be included and valued.

Protecting staff against discrimination

In 2019, GIZ adopted a new Code of Ethics. The Code sets out GIZ’s values and convictions and applies to all staff worldwide. It is designed to serve as a guide to ethical conduct for every single member of the workforce. With regard to diversity issues, it specifies what is expected of employees and what is not permissible, explaining the company’s main values and convictions. As well as providing information about how to access help and advice, the Code sets out the action GIZ may take against employees who fail to observe the guidelines.

The Code of Ethics explicitly prohibits and protects against discrimination and clearly states that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated by GIZ. We expect all members of GIZ’s workforce to cooperate in such a way as to not discriminate against others ‘on the grounds of background or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation’. In accordance with Germany’s General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG), GIZ has a duty to take necessary measures, including preventive ones, to ensure protection against discrimination on these grounds.

Any employees affected by discrimination within the company can refer the matter to the integrity advisors, the staff representatives or the discrimination complaints committee set up in accordance with the AGG. Some groups have dedicated contacts including the equal opportunities commissioners and the disabled persons’ representatives. The three equal opportunities commissioners in Berlin, Bonn and Eschborn are also responsible for ensuring compliance with the principles set out in the General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) in terms of protecting individuals against gender-based discrimination and fostering and monitoring protection against sexual harassment in the company.

Information on the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be found on this page:

Graphic: GIZ: SDG 5 Gender equality
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 10 Reduced inequalities

Information on the following sustainability standards can be found on this page:
GRI standard 102-16, 102-17, 405, 406; UNGC 6; The Code 15