UN Brussels Chief: UN-EU cooperation key, as no one nation can solve global challenges 

The European Union and United Nations must come together to solve global challenges, Camilla Brückner, Director of the UN/UNDP Office in Brussels and Representative of the UN System in the EU told UNRIC in an interview as the European Development Days (EDD) take place in Brussels.

This year’s EDDs, a forum on international partnerships organised by the European Commission, focuses on the Global Gateway, a new European strategy to invest up to 300 billion euros of investments in digital, climate and energy, transport, health and education, and research. For Camilla Brückner, who took up her role in September 2021, it is essential the strategy includes the perspective of young people and supports the Sustainable Development Goals.


What is your message at the European Development Days, which this year focuses on the Global Gateway?  

The Global Gateway must support the SDGs. We as the UN can play a crucial role in measuring impact, as well as providing legitimacy and a wealth of knowledge and experience to feed into this priority of the EU. The EU is an important partner to us. The UN has a global presence, as well as an intimate knowledge of national and local conditions.


Why is the European Union an important strategic partner to the United Nations? 

We have the same values, principles and idea of multilateral cooperation. With the challenges we have to address, we must come together because no one nation can solve the climate crisis, the food security crisis; no one nation can overcome the digital divide alone. We are so interconnected, that something which happens on one side of the world will soon come to the doorstep of the other, as we saw with the Covid-19 pandemic. This is our collective task, to keep the blue flags flying, and to keep demonstrating the value of cooperation.


What is your academic background and how did you come to join the UN? 

I studied International Business with a focus on the EU at Copenhagen Business School, and then I did a Master’s in European studies at the London School of Economics. I had tried to shy away from this area in my early youth, because my father is also a diplomat, but I had to admit to myself that you are affected by your environment and your heritage, and you cannot run away from that. This really was where my interests lie.

The first step was to be an EU intern, and from there I went to the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies with a short stint in the private sector. I just could not get excited by profit. It was not in my DNA. I got a contract with DG AID (now known as the Directorate-General for International Partnerships). That was when my world opened onto development. I was in the EU for some years including the DG for Crisis Management and joined the Danish Foreign Service. I was posted to the UN Mission, and then made the jump to Deputy Chief of Staff in UNDP’s Executive Office.


What are your priorities as the UN Director in Brussels? 

When I took up office here and was sent off by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, strengthening partnerships with the EU was very much on her list of priorities. It is about finding ways to strengthen policy dialogue, to identify shared priorities that will have transformational meaning for human development. The SDGs, digital, youth and the planet are central to our priorities as a UN family. On peace, security and humanitarian aid, it is about tackling and clarifying how we operate in this nexus between peace, security and development and humanitarian support.


2022 being the European Year of Youth, how is the UN cooperating with the EU on this? 

At the EDDs, we proposed to the EU that we focus on a joint event on youth, bringing the voices of youth forward to see what their thinking was in how the Global Gateway can contribute to promoting the SDGs. It is amazing to see the innovation, creativity and energy from this group. We have seen real transitions in society, and often the root is anchored in youth. At the same time, there has been a tendency to put too much responsibility on their shoulders. We must be the responsible party, but we have to include their perspective, voices and ideas and help them with their implementation.


Finally, what is your message to young people? 

For their careers, I always say to young, aspiring candidates that you should never close off unexpected opportunities. You can plan your career to a certain extent, but you should always remain open.

My main message is: Do not give up! You might not always feel it, but there is a high level of awareness that we need to include your points of view, solutions, and what’s more, we want to include your solutions. We are very aware this is your future. Don’t give up and trust yourselves. Your intuitions are most probably right.

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