My friend Michaela Bergman, who died of cancer at the age of 60, was a social development expert whose work has taken her to more than 40 countries.
In institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) he has demonstrated incredible powers of persuasion, convincing policy makers from national governments, local authorities and the private sector to supporting projects that would have an impact while safeguarding the livelihoods of women, girls, the marginalized and vulnerable.
That could mean anything from persuading them to come up with robust resettlement plans for people affected by infrastructure projects, to supporting poverty reduction programs or working to provide identification documents to displaced people.
Michaela was born in London to Viorica (née Seiff) and Alan Bergman, both dentists. She did her secondary education at Queen’s College Westminster and received a law degree from King’s College London in 1983, subsequently completing a Masters in social anthropology from the LSE in 1995.
After starting her career at the Institute of Child Health on Great Ormond Street in London, she studied Mandarin in Taiwan and returned to London in 1989 to work at Help Age International, setting up services such as meals on wheels and podiatry clinics for elderly in Eastern Europe, where social services had collapsed with the fall of communism. She was then senior democratization officer for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (2001-2002), before working as a social affairs consultant with the UN, DfID and the Asian Development Bank.
She joined the EBRD in London in 2005 as its first social specialist, working to ensure bank-funded projects did not negatively impact local communities, and was appointed as the EBRD’s Chief Social Adviser in 2012, representing it on matters relating to the social aspects of its environmental and social policy.
She then went on to lead the development of the EBRD’s first ever strategy for the promotion of gender equality.
In 2017 Michaela joined the AIIB in Beijing, taking on the role of lead social development specialist, leading the bank’s work on social issues and its liaison with civil society, as well as developing its approach to promoting social development. gender equality in infrastructure.
She was an intelligent, quick-witted woman who had a zest for life and a great sense of fun, someone who was loyal and generous to her friends and deeply committed to her customers and stakeholders.
Michaela died of a kind of cancer, linked to a mutation of the BRCA gene, particularly widespread in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, and for which unfortunately no screening remains.
She is survived by her parents, her brother David, her niece Laleh and her nephew Zizou.