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My Stroll with Michael Møller, Director General, United Nations Office Geneva

15 September 2016
My Stroll with Michael Møller, Director General, United Nations Office Geneva

My Stroll with Michael Møller, Director General, United Nations Office Geneva

15 September 2016

Author: Ebenezar Wikina

“Luck is something that you create.” – Michael Møller

The World Economic Forum has really become a huge part of my international life and exposure, seeing that the two occasions I’ve had to travel out of Nigeria has been for WEF events—Last year in Cape Town for the World Economic Forum on Africa and last August for the Global Shapers Community’s Annual Curators Meeting (ACM) in Geneva, Switzerland.

ACM was explosive. It was the bomb! (Pardon my millennial vocab) It was a lot of sparks and a lot of learning. Meeting Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum, one-on-one for the first time and discussing with Mr David Nabarro, Adviser to the UN Secretary General on the 2030 Agenda, on the work we’re doing at the Government of Rivers State SDGs Office in Nigeria, were top on the list of high points for me. However, the icing on the cake came on August 23rd, when I had a 12 noon appointment with Mr Michael Møller, Director General of the United Nations Office Geneva (UNOG).

Mr Møller is such a cool guy. I can’t even say that enough. He embodies humility and that curiosity to learn new things which he actually described as one of his core values in course of our conversation. For the first time, I streamed a stroll to the global audience in real time, thanks to Facebook Live. Shout out to Alessandra who volunteered to act as a tripod because my selfie stick got broken one day to the interview :( Alessandra saved the day! Lol

We discussed how the over 12,000 meetings held at UNOG annually affects the lives of people all around the world as well as his thoughts on the Selection of the Next Secretary General, the SDGs as well as exchanged gifts :) Which was the coolest part!

You can watch, download the podcast, or read the summarized transcript below. So right now you don’t have any more excuses :)

What Happens Here at the United Nations Office Geneva?

DG Michael Møller: Quite a number of things happen here. For example we manage close to 12,000 meetings a year—now that’s not the interesting part. What is interesting is what happens in those meetings. In all of these meetings there are a number of activities that cover every aspect of human life. The work that happens not just in this building but in Geneva more broadly, what we call International Geneva, affects the life of every single person on this planet every single day.

When you wake up in the morning, when you go to bed, there are a number of things that happen to you in course of your day that you’re not even aware of. Those are some of the things discussed and decided in this town—most of them in this building just a floor above us.

#NextSG: Expectations for the Next United Nations Secretary General

DG Michael Møller: What we need in my mind is what we always need for this post, perhaps more so in today’s fragmented world than ever before is somebody with a moral voice. Somebody people can trust; somebody that embodies the fact that the UN is more than the sum of its parts; Somebody with a strong managerial experience; strong diplomatic capacities; somebody that is not afraid to speak the truth but at the same time is a team builder. We are facing a world in which we are going to have to change the way we work—the whole UN system and partners—and in order to do that it has to be a collaborative effort within the organization; between organizations; and between systems and members states and that will require some strong leadership from the top.

Whether the person is a man or a woman, it is important that he/she has the experience and strength and the moral voice that will bring back trust of people.

Early Life: What Was Growing Up Like for You and How Did You Get to the UN?

DG Michael Møller: My dad was a diplomat, we moved around the world a lot; I grew up in different parts of the world. My Father was Danish, my mother was French, and my Grandmother was Polish; so I already started to experience the United Nations in the family.

We moved around a lot, and in the process I picked up a few languages that have been very helpful. After my University studies which I both did in different places, in Italy and the United Kingdom, I entered the UN and started at the bottom of the food chain. The very lowest you can possibly be in terms of professional grade in the High Commission for Refugees here in Europe. Then I made a move to apply for jobs both in headquarter settings and in field settings, so I gave myself a broad range of expertise and experience as possible; I’ve done Humanitarian, Political, Economic, Social, and Human Rights issues. I’ve done Managerial work as well, and as you move up the ladder the Pyramid narrows and the more competencies you give yourself within the system.

I was also very lucky when I started my work in the UN. I was given responsibilities that under normal circumstances, someone at my level and my age would not have gotten. There was a huge refugee explosion at UNHCR at the time and so my work expanded very rapidly.

3 Values That Have Helped You in Your Journey So Far

DG Michael Møller: The first one is tolerance, which is very important particularly when you work in different cultural settings. You cannot afford to look at the way other people live with your cultural glasses. You need to be open and accept the way other people act, live, and think. You need good social skills, you need to be able to interact and create friendships; do not to judge. Also you need to be able to communicate and give all your experiences and skills that will be helpful to those you’re working with and those you’re working for.

I think Language is also very important, although English of course becomes more and more ubiquitous. Nevertheless if you can speak to someone in his/her maternal language, in shows that you’re ready to learn about his/her culture and creates a connection between both of you—it gives you a major advantage.

The third one will be, preparation, things don’t come falling from the sky. You need to study, you need to work, and you need to keep your knowledge up-to-date. You need to keep looking out for learning opportunities throughout your life and have that curiosity and ingenuity alive.

I think also, one more principle that you have to keep in mind especially when you work in big organizations, it may sound partial but it’s the truth. There’s only one person that looks out for you, and that is yourself. You have to keep that in mind. If you rely on others to move you forward; take care of your career and your wellbeing, it may not happen. Of course there will be good people who will want to do so, but don’t take it for granted. You have to create your own public profile so that you are palatable to your bosses and the entire organization you work for.

Luck is something you create.

#MySDGs: What is your favourite SDG(s) and How Will you Personally Contribute to its Achievement by 2030?

DG Michael Møller: Do you have a few hours? (Hahahah) It’s a very difficult question to answer because; the more I work on the SDGs the more I discover that they are all completely interlinked. But if I should pick one, I would pick Goal 17 which is the one that encompasses all of them, and which pushes us to work in a more collaborative and integrated way, and I do a lot of that here.

The SDGs encompass all the other global frameworks that the international community came up with in this past year; COP21, Sendai Framework for Risk Reduction, the Financing for Development, all come together under the umbrella of the SDGs and that is our collective road map.

Everybody on this planet has a role to play. It’s not something that we delegate to our government, although they of course have a very important role to play, but businesses, academics, the media, you and I, everyone of us all have something to do.

To read the article on The Huffington Post’s website, click here.