Former UNV head receives top German honour
Bonn, Germany: A former head of UNV was decorated by the German Government today in recognition of her efforts in bringing the UN to Bonn.
Brenda Gael McSweeney, Executive Coordinator of UNV from 1988 to 1997, was awarded the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz, Erste Klasse) at Bonn City Hall on 23 October for "greatly enhancing relations between the United Nations and the Federal Republic of Germany".
UNV was the first UN agency to set up headquarters in Germany after the partial relocation of the Federal Government from Bonn to Berlin. "It formed the core of the new city of Bonn by placing a special emphasis on development and environmental issues," said the Lady Mayor of Bonn, Bärbel Dieckmann, during the citation ceremony.
Ms. McSweeney was instrumental in bringing UNV to the former capital. "The City of Bonn gained from her expertise and assessment," added the Mayor, "…she has always been an 'ambassador for Bonn'."
The evening before the award ceremony, Ms. McSweeney delivered a lecture on 'Making United Nations history in Bonn' during which she reminisced about the transition from Geneva to Germany. In 1996 UNV set up in Bonn's 18th-century castle Haus Carstenjens, and later expanded to an ex-Government building. "I found my eyes moist to see the United Nations flying from the former German Parliament," Ms. McSweeney remarked.
During her lecture she paid tribute to the "dedication of volunteers in helping to prevent conflict, to recover from natural calamities, and to start life anew in a sustainable way." Referring to successful examples such as India's 'barefoot female solar engineers', who UNV help train in the use of solar panels for electricity generation, she also emphasised the importance of integrating gender and environmental issues into development programming.
Much of the groundwork this gender and environment programming was laid during the early years in Bonn, she said, when UNV and the German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) freely traded expertise on the subjects.
The decoration itself was presented by the Lady Mayor on behalf of the President of the federal Republic of Germany. The audience comprised former State Secretary at the BMZ and current head of the Bonn Sparkasse Foundation for International Dialogue Wighard Härdtl, plus current UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri, and a host of officials and dignitaries from German political institutions and the UN system.
"This is an award earned by many," commented Ms. McSweeney, referring to the staff and volunteers of UNV who had attracted the attention of the German Government through their humanitarian and electoral work in the 1990s.
Thanking the BMZ, City of Bonn and German Government again for helping her "make UN history", Ms. McSweeney remarked that bringing UNV to Bonn "really had been inspiration in action".
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