By Tim Ledwith
NEW YORK, USA, 7 September 2010 – The UNICEF Executive Board opened its second regular session of 2010 today with a focus on narrowing disparities in child survival and development within and among developing nations.
|VIDEO: 7 September 2010 - Executive Director Anthony Lake makes opening remarks at the 2010 UNICEF Executive Board's second regular session at UN headquarters in New York.|
Just such an equity-based approach offers the best hope of reaching the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, by their 2015 target date, according to the latest edition of UNICEF’s flagship ‘Progress for Children’ report. The launch of the report, at a press conference with UNICEF partner Save the Children, coincided with the start of the three-day Executive Board session at UN headquarters in New York.
In his opening remarks to the delegates, Executive Director Anthony Lake pointed to evidence of widening income and service gaps that have left the world’s poorest children at heightened risk of disease and death. But an extensive UNICEF analysis, reviewed by outside experts, has shown that extending essential interventions to the most vulnerable children and women – even if they live in remote areas – will result in accelerated, cost-effective progress towards achieving the MDGs.
“An equity-based approach will yield not only a moral victory, right in principle, but an equally exciting one, right in practice,” said Mr. Lake.
|VIDEO: 7 September 2010 - His Excellency Dr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN and President of the UNICEF Executive Board, welcomes delegates to the second regular session of 2010.|
“Our urgent task as Executive Board members is to help UNICEF optimize its contribution to accelerating achievement of the MDGs,” said His Excellency Dr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN and President of the 2010 UNICEF Executive Board. Because the health-related development goals are especially relevant to children’s well-being, he noted, UNICEF is in a position to serve as “a moral compass” for the world’s final push to meet the MDGs in the next five years.
Pakistan flood crisis
Delegates to today’s meeting also reviewed an even more immediate challenge: the flood crisis in Pakistan and the coordinated humanitarian response to that historic emergency.
|From left: UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson, Executive Director Anthony Lake, President of the 2010 UNICEF Executive Board, H.E. Dr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Secretary of the Executive Board Nicolas Pron and Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry on the dais at the Executive Board’s second regular session of 2010.|
“Rarely in my life have I seen such devastation,” said Mr. Lake, who visited flooded areas of Pakistan last week. He warned that “a second wave of suffering” could engulf the flood zone as a result of waterborne disease outbreaks unless aid agencies – including UNICEF – step up their work dramatically.
“I was shocked by the scale of what we are facing,” Mr. Lake added, referring to the flood damage that now has affected 21 million people, according to UN estimates. He reported being “deeply saddened” by the trauma he saw in the faces of children from displaced families.
Although UNICEF is providing safe water to 2 million flood victims daily, immunizing hundreds of thousands of children against disease and bolstering its presence with a surge of dedicated staff, only a fraction of the affected population has been reached, said Mr. Lake. “While we have done a lot, we have a very long way to go,” he acknowledged. “We face a huge longer-term challenge.”
‘Torment’ of dispossessed families
His Excellency Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, was on hand at the Executive Board meeting, as well. He briefed delegates on the situation in his country and underscored the desperate need for expanded international assistance there.
|Finance Section Deputy Director Barry Wentworth speaks about financial estimates for the period from 2010 to 2013 at the second regular session of the 2010 UNICEF Executive Board at UN headquarters in New York.|
Ambassador Haroon thanked UNICEF and other agencies for their support to date but stressed the need for much more help to stave off the feared second wave of illness and deaths. He suggested that the global response to this crisis pales in comparison to the magnitude of need, especially among Pakistan’s children.
“Words cannot capture the torment or desperation of a woman who cannot find food for her child,” Ambassador Haroon said, adding that damage to the country’s infrastructure – including thousands of farms inundated and schools destroyed – “will take years to overcome.”
Resources to meet needs
It’s clear that UNICEF’s ability to respond to catastrophic events such as the Pakistan floods, and to help meet the global MDG challenge, depends largely upon the resources at its disposal. Today’s Executive Board meeting, therefore, included reports on the organization’s current and projected financial status.
|US delegates confer during the opening of the second regular session of the 2010 UNICEF Executive Board.|
With the worldwide economic downturn leading to some declines in governmental support for development programmes, newly appointed Director of Private-Sector Fundraising and Partnerships Leila Pakkala highlighted the importance of fundraising by UNICEF National Committees in 36 industrialized countries. Ms. Pakkala reported, for example, that pledge donations by individual supporters of UNICEF have increased by more than 20 per cent since 2007.
Private-sector partnerships, too, are critical in this economic climate. At tomorrow’s meeting, Executive Board members are scheduled to approve the extension of one such global partnership, UNICEF’s joint effort on polio eradication with Rotary International.
“We’re looking for ways to make every dollar count, not only in UNICEF but in the entire UN system,” said Mr. Lake. “The more efficient UNICEF is, the better we can protect and improve the lives of children. This is what we work for every day.”
Progress for Children