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The second highest-ranked official at the UN trade body,Dirk Jan Bruinsma, dies

Dirk Jan Bruinsma, the second highest-ranked official at the United Nations' trade body, has died. He was 56.

Bruinsma died in The Hague, Netherlands, on Sunday, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said in a statement. The agency gave the cause of death as "a brief illness," but it was known that Bruinsma had cancer.

The Dutchman had served as the agency's deputy secretary-general since January 2006, when he was appointed as the No. 2 for Supachai Panitchpakdi.

"Within that short time ... through his dynamism and his commitment to UNCTAD's mission, he made his mark on the organization," Supachai said of Bruinsma. "He will be greatly missed."

Before joining UNCTAD, Bruinsma held the post of director-general of foreign economic relations in the Dutch Economics Ministry from 2000-2005. He held various posts in the Finance Ministry from 1976-1991.

UNCTAD said Bruinsma played a key role in the agency's work on science and technology, technical cooperation and communications. He also headed UNCTAD's management division and was closely involved in efforts aimed at reforming the entire U.N. system.

Bruinsma was born in The Hague in 1950 and graduated from Leiden University with degrees in mathematics and Dutch and international law.

He is survived by his brother, Jan, and his sister, Eva.