“Thinking About Gender and Diversity Improves the Lives of All People”

International Futures is a program featuring young aspirants from across the globe. In our interview series, we discuss the work and ambitions of the program’s participants. The third in our series is Diego Zubillaga, a Mexico-based consultant in the field of sustainable development. Here he talks about transcending identity issues to foster peaceful communities

What kind of work are you involved with at GIZ Mexico and the UN Volunteers?

I work as a consultant for GIZ Mexico and UN Volunteers in a project to articulate the offers and demands of volunteering for sustainable development. To do this, I facilitate workshops around the country, bringing together civil society organizations and young potential volunteers, providing them with tools and guidelines to promote volunteering for the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

You provide workshops on gender and diversity. What importance does this hold for the future?

I believe that thinking about gender and diversity is a prerequisite to improving the quality of life of all people. Gender is embedded in every single aspect of our societies: from occupation to food preferences, to legislation, to voice pitches, to reproductive and civil rights, and in all forms of interaction and stratification. What that means is that gender – the social construction of biological sex – plays a crucial role in the justification of social systems, especially as an element which informs discrimination and violence, access, and privilege.

A couple of years ago, I came across an article about the actual and symbolic role of men in rape culture and gendered violence. As a sexual and racial minority, discovering this literature allowed me to structure my thoughts and experiences of gendered and racial discrimination and abuse. Since then, I became truly invested in examining systems of oppression: how they are normalized, their everyday manifestations, and ultimately the ways in which we take action to counter them.

Understanding the roles of gender, race, and class – among other elements of identity – can lead us to transform current power arrangements. And this is precisely what is fundamental for our present and future: to facilitate cohabitation among different people, to foster peaceful interactions, to reduce violence and armed conflicts, to minimize societal stress, to provide equal economic opportunities, and to counter abuse in all its forms.

Understanding the roles of gender, race, and class can lead us to transform current power arrangements. And this is precisely what is fundamental for our present and future.

Do you think policies are now formed to mobilize women in global politics?

Unfortunately, no. We are living in a unique context, where marginalized voices are finally having the opportunity to have platforms of expression and action; from politics to cultural products we see more diversity, more demands for justice and more alternative narratives than ever before. But that does not mean we are moving at the necessary speed.

All over the world people are suffering and dying on the basis of their biological sex, gender performance, race, income, or religion. At the same time, if we look at who governs in politics, the private sector, academia, the United Nations system, and in most institutions, we still find that an overwhelming majority of decision makers, at least in the Western hemisphere, are white, heterosexual, wealthy men – and unless this drastically changes, we can’t talk about policies that successfully mobilize women in global politics. What we need are better and more impactful policies that address political representation, equal pay, the disproportional weight of emotional labor on women, reproductive and sexual rights, and access in general.

How do you define ‘identity issues’? How could we resolve them?

I think of identity issues as contingencies that spring from the denial of otherness. There are so many elements that determine identity issues – ethnicity, gender, class, religion – and therefore every situation requires specific interventions. I do, however, believe in certain components that can promote beneficial behavioral change, either at macro and micro levels, such as: having non-discriminatory systems of social interaction, ranging from state legislation to a classroom community agreement; facilitating peaceful communication through active listening, empathy, and will to overcome differences – for which it is important to highlight or generate incentives; providing a mediator in the case of conflict; engaging different groups of individuals in regular and low-pressure interactions to foster peaceful community building.

We are living in a unique context, where marginalized voices are finally having the opportunity to have platforms of expression and action.

What’s your takeaway from the International Futures training program?

For me, International Futures has been an incredible experience as a participant and as a collaborator. I am truly surprised about a program that has provided me with interesting insights on subjects which were completely foreign to me, such as cybersecurity. At the same time, it has allowed me to express my concerns in terms of gender inequalities and to have the opportunity to address these issues with an international network of young leaders. To me, that vision of learning is precisely what makes this program unique – to view knowledge not as a linear operation, but as a circular process in which we can all participate and build on.


The International Future Program

Every year we open two slots for German civil society.

If you are interested in the programme please contact programme manager Isabel Reible (isabel.reible@diplo.de) to get more information or visit our websites:



This year’s program will take place from September 14 – September 28
(Deadline to apply will be June 30)

We are looking forward to hearing from you!


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