|A woman holds a baby and boxes of high-energy biscuits she has just received from a UNICEF-supported NGO in Bangladesh. At the Executive Board’s second regular session of 2008, maternal and child health were cited as key factors in development.|
By Amy Bennett
NEW YORK, USA, 6 June 2008 – Executive Director Ann M. Veneman yesterday made closing remarks at the UNICEF Executive Board’s second regular session of 2008, which began Tuesday at United Nations headquarters in New York.
Ms. Veneman summarized the key achievements reached so far under the organization’s medium-term strategic plan for 2006-2009. She went on to thank the board members for their contributions to significant improvements in children’s health, development, education and rights during the past year. She also stressed several issues that still need urgent attention, including gender parity and the global food crisis.
In addition, Ms. Veneman spoke about the importance of missions to the field, which enable board members to see UNICEF’s programmes on the ground.
Dual emergency responses
Two large-scale disasters – Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the Sichuan earthquake in China – have already posed major challenges to UNICEF and the children it serves in 2008. In both cases, the humanitarian response brought swift relief to children at risk.
UNICEF’s Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Anupama Rao Singh, reviewed emergency strategies in both countries for the Executive Board. In Myanmar, she said, UNICEF and its partners have been establishing child-friendly spaces at temporary shelter sites in cyclone-affected areas. In Sichuan, UNICEF is part of a high-level Chinese Government mission to provide psychosocial support for children who are suffering from stress.
After outlining the strategies already in place, Ms. Rao Singh explained the ongoing threats to children in Myanmar and China, and the areas in which UNICEF must work to ensure recovery. The next steps will include a comprehensive assessment of each emergency and creating a plan for a long-term recovery.
Achieving gender equality
Earlier in the board session this week, Ms. Veneman noted that UNICEF needs to do more to achieve gender equality. In her closing remarks, she drew a parallel between gender issues and a broader development agenda.
Gender equality and development go hand in hand, she said – pointing out that girls’ education and protection, and attention to maternal and child health, exemplify the work that UNICEF does to help women and girls thrive in their own communities.
“So much is lost if we do not take care of our women and children,” added Executive Board President Anders Lidén, Sweden’s Permanent Representative to the UN.
Effective collaboration, tangible results
The board meeting ended on a positive note of collaboration in the service of common goals.
Effective collaboration means more than entering into partnership agreements, Ms. Veneman said. Instead, success should be measured by tangible results and sustainable solutions at the community level.
That level of engagement will lead to a better future for the world’s children, she concluded.