Brussels: the Centre of Europe

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After a late flight in from Copenhagen the previous night, the delegation was excited to see what Brussels had to offer. After a short night’s sleep, our first stop was the EU Parliament where we were given a crash course in the inner workings of the Union. First, there was an informative lecture focused on explaining the processes needed to pass a bill through “Brussels” (the informal name given to the Parliament by Europeans). It was particularly interesting learning about the voting practices of the the three differing sectors and how they work independently to pass resolutions. Following this, we were able to view the EU Parliament Conference Room in which many of the most pivotal pieces of European legislature have been debated upon in previous years.

The powerhouse of European politics itself

After a tasty lunch of baguettes and biscuits in the brisk winter morning, we made our way to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) liaison office in Brussels, where we had a meeting with Dagmur Schumacher. The main objective of this office is to work with the EU to make recommendations and implement policy in regards to women in Europe. It was inspiring to see the large amount of progress they have made over the past few years, especially with regards to the change in the way that women’s rights are perceived. A highlight of the meeting was hearing the work that UN Women have started to do in university campuses among Europe, headlined by the #heforshe campaign, and presented to the public by one of UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassadors, Emma Watson. UN Women’s work has been heavily influenced by the implementation of the SDGs, and their current operating framework is underpinned by the 17 goals. The largest take away from this most enjoyable meeting was the tagline: “50/50 by 2030”, which appeared to resonate strongly with the delegation.

UN Women

We then made the short trek to the International Crisis Group (ICG) headquarters. When we arrived, we were greeted not only by the wonderful hospitality of the ICG but also an incredible view from the 17th floor. We could see the entire cityscape, which was truly fantastic! From the Atomium sculpture, to the golden dome of the Palais du Justice, it was the perfect setting to the fascinating meeting that would follow. We were hosted by Amelia Branczik, the manager of the Brussels-based research unit. She shared with us the amazing work that the Group does, primarily in analysing conflicts worldwide to then advise Governments and NGOs on related policy. The Group release hundreds of reports annually covering 45 conflicts with almost entirely primary evidence gathered by correspondents all over the globe. It was a very enlightening meeting as we learnt of new and dynamic diplomatic tools used to diffuse conflicts.

International Crisis Group

Following this, the delegation made our way through the charming city of Brussels (having a singalong to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ on the UE Boom en route) to our dinner venue: Chez Leon. There, the group was treated to some local Belgian cuisine and soaked up the most of the quintessential European setting.

Strolling through Brussels

– Ishan Kokulan, Romaine Crawford and Rafael Clarke

The Global Development Tour takes young New Zealanders to see cities leading the charge on the Sustainable Development Goals. The trip culminates in attending the Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, a conference that aims to transform vision into action – empowering young people to apply all they know into meaningful change in their communities. Read more…