Nationality

Belgium

Education

Doctoral Candidate in Business Administration, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Master of Science in Global Human Resources Management, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Diploma in Specialization on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Ha'Universita Ha'Ivrit Bi'Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, Israel

Master’s Degree in International and Public Relations, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium

Bachelor’s Degree in Social, Economic, and Political Sciences, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium

Languages

French, English, Serbo-Croatian, Dutch, German

From the time I was young, I knew that my destination was at the United Nations. As soon as I graduated, I sought an opportunity to engage in fieldwork and gain relevant experience. I joined Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and had my first exposure to the field in Rwanda in 1994, assisting the Head of Mission as a Field Coordinator and Administrator. I worked closely with national authorities in Rwanda and Burundi on healthcare issues such as opening health dispensaries in various regions. I also worked in refugee camps in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was willing to go to a difficult living environment because I knew that was where I was going to get the best experience in civil service. 

There were times when I thought about working in Belgium again, but I could not bring myself to leave the field where I had a daily impact. I travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina with MSF in 1995, where I helped organize direct food distributions and manage daily security systems. In close coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I assisted national authorities in locating shelters for and resettling internally displaced persons fleeing from Srebrenica, Zepa and Prijedor. 

Being on the frontline in Bosnia was a turning point for me. The experience reinforced my desire to contribute to helping people live in a better world. I learned about the work of the United Nations Civil Affairs Office and after completing the recruitment process, I became a Junior Civil Affairs Officer in Bosnia. Later on, I reported directly to the Police Commissioner and provided recommendations for rule of law reforms. 

Seventeen years and many experiences later, I am a Special Assistant for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in Brindisi, Italy. It would be impossible to look at my job description as an actual indication of what I do; simply put, I respond to challenges that come up in the field. I am extremely invested in our team; people on my team affectionately call me “mother-in-law”. If there’s anything that I can do to help, I look for ways to get it done so that the staff can focus on the important tasks at hand. 

Depending on the situation on the ground, my day could be focused on writing briefing notes to senior leadership, dealing with new recruits, compiling various documents, solidifying expected accomplishments, or advising the local leadership on political trends as they arise. I thrive on the fact that my days are never routine, and that’s precisely what I love about this organization. It gives you the chance to make a difference in an endless number of ways.

Working with societies in transition is a part of my DNA. I have spent a lot of time working in countries that are in transition, during that critical period either during or after a war when they need help making that political transition towards the stability of peace. DPKO is a key component in this process because it deals with emergency programs and focuses on sustainability and further development, as opposed to simply mitigating the immediate crisis. Trying to find a model that fits the situation is crucial because when the United Nations leaves the field, one way of measuring the impact of peacekeeping efforts is by how the national authorities take over. If they say they never fully embraced the changes, the conflict is destined to start again. Local ownership is extremely important. 

There are young people out there who want to be a part of the United Nations, and they need to relentlessly pursue their dreams. I accomplished my dream of being on the frontline and enacting change because I strongly believed in it. My impact may be small but together all of us as UN staff members make a difference.


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