The Consulate General of Denmark In New York is excited to announce that on September 1st, 2020, Ambassador Berit Basse of Denmark will commence her tenure as the new Consul General of Denmark in New York and take the helm of Denmark In New York’s multifaceted sustainability, climate and public diplomacy efforts in the Big Apple and across the East Coast of the United States.
Ambassador Basse has enjoyed an expansive diplomatic career that has taken her around the world — from Senegal and Munich to Singapore and Uganda. From 2012 to 2016, in fact, Ms. Basse served as Denmark’s Ambassador to Singapore and Brunei, successfully overseeing key commercial and diplomatic relationships between Denmark and the two States. She has also served as First Secretary at the Embassy of Denmark in Uganda andConsul General of Denmark in Munich, Germany. Meanwhile, from 1992 to 1996, the Ambassador worked on several development projects for the United Nations Development Programme in Senegal. Immediately prior to her New York posting, Ambassador Basse also led the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ department in charge of client relations and global commercial opportunities.
Ahead of her arrival in New York City, Denmark In New York spoke with Ambassador Basse to sound out her impressions about her upcoming posting in The City That Never Sleeps amid the COVID-19 pandemic, its consequent after-effects, and the final charge towards a more sustainable, zero-emissions future in which Denmark will play an inevitable leading role.
Denmark In New York: You arrive in New York at a particular time, amid an ongoing pandemic and its consequent after-effects. At the same time, such periods of tumult offer opportunities for renewal. In which direction would you like to lead Denmark in New York as the Big Apple bounces back from the COVID crisis?
Ambassador Berit Basse: I firmly believe that no matter how hard this pandemic has hit us, we have learned a lot about how we as a global community should approach our many present and future challenges. We must emerge from this COVID-19 crisis as a strong international collective with innovative solutions for reducing CO2 emissions — not just locally but globally. I am very keen to begin working closely with New York-based stakeholders to ensure that we carve out a new path and a new way of doing business that ultimately brings us to our climate objectives.
At the same time, in these past months, the climate crisis has not gone away and continues to remain one of the most pressing issues we as a global community are called to face. I would like to keep the momentum to pursue real change on urgent issues with Denmark In New York’s Green Reboot strategy, encouraging a green and sustainable recovery from the pandemic and greater collaboration between US and Danish stakeholders to ensure a successful exchange of know-how on greentech, urban solutions, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, we are already planning a significant number of virtual events in which we will engage with both Danish and international private and public sector actors to increase dialogue and share experiences on new and innovative solutions to achieve the SDGs.
In any case, I am very aware of the context and the expected after-effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic amid which I take up my new position and, especially, how it has affected the global economy, the way we work and, not least, peoples’ lives. I am confident that New York, as it has done many times before, will re-emerge as the place where the world comes to meet, to find inspiration and to be challenged. The city is a unique and exciting fusion of ideas, innovation, diversity and a cultural anchor for the global community.
From 2012 to 2016, you were Denmark’s Ambassador to Singapore. Singapore, of course, is a completely different cultural reality compared to New York, but there are also many similarities between the two cities, especially in their roles as centers of finance and innovation. What are some lessons learned during your time as Ambassador there that you would like to bring with you to New York City?
Ambassador Berit Basse: My experience as Ambassador to Singapore was wonderfully illuminating. And while there are many similarities between Singapore and New York, there are also many key differences. For one, Singapore is a city-state that’s half the size of New York City. The sheer scale of New York and Denmark In New York’s role in the city and across the East Coast makes it an entirely new and exciting challenge for me. Nevertheless, both cities have global brand value and are open for business. Both are financial capitals. Both are hubs of innovation. And just as Singapore is the gateway to Asia, New York, in many ways, is the gateway to the United States. Of course, both cities are unique and do not represent Asia and the US, respectively, but they do offer key entry points for companies willing and eager to do business in these very important markets.
For many people around the world, New York retains a certain magical allure gleaned from the city’s outsize role in global popular culture. What’s one thing that you’re excited to experience once you arrive here?
Ambassador Berit Basse: Well, I honestly cannot think of one specific thing just because there are so many things that I am excited to experience and enjoy in the Big Apple once there. I have been to New York many times and visited all the iconic places. But one thing about the city is that it always offers new opportunities for discovery so I am certain I will uncover nuances and cultural elements of the city I never knew were there.
Of course, there are certainly many must-do’s that I’ll need to check off of my checklist including attending my first basketball and baseball games and exploring the city’s numerous jazz clubs. But I am also very excited to experience first-hand the Danish successes that contribute to making this city what it is, from the thriving New Nordic cuisine hotspots to the various Danish artistic and commercial phenomena that dot the urban landscape. In fact, one of the first things I’d like to do once I’m in the city is head over to LaGuardia’s brand new Terminal B and visit Jeppe Hein’s inspiring All Your Wishes installation featuring 70 balloons suspended from the terminal’s ceiling. It will certainly be a sight to see!
Most recently, you were the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ responsible for private sector relations and trade internationalization. What are some of Denmark’s private sector strengths that you think will meet with great success in New York City and across the East Coast?
Ambassador Berit Basse: Denmark has a sterling international reputation for being a global leader in energy transition and a first-mover on the SDGs. In fact, Danish companies are delivering state-of-the-art solutions across a broad scale of sectors, including urban renewal, through smart city technologies, flood control, the Internet of Things, sustainable building, and inclusivity and mobility solutions. This fits exceptionally well with New York’s ambitions of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. We also have a very strong tech sector and excel in areas related to govtech, edutech, and fintech — all of which have great potential in New York City.
That said, I’m very excited to work closely with Danish tech firms and start-ups as well as with Denmark’s leading exponents of the SDGs and ensure they maintain a strong foothold here in New York.
Tell us something that we would find surprising about you.
Ambassador Berit Basse: Well, one thing people would be surprised to learn is that during my time as Ambassador of Denmark to Singapore I developed a passion for making ceramics. It’s a relaxing hobby that requires skill, concentration, and profound focus and I feel that it pairs perfectly with the demands of diplomatic life. And it’s also a wonderful escape!
Andrew Zaganelli Giacalone is Head of Strategic Communications and Press at Denmark In New York.