By Rebecca Zerzan
NEW YORK, USA, 7 February 2012 – The UNICEF Executive Board opened its first regular session of the year at United Nations Headquarters in New York, with an emphasis on the role of innovation in strengthening UNICEF’s ability to carry out its work under tight financial constraints.
|VIDEO: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake focuses on innovative approaches to achieving results for children with equity during his opening statements at the first regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board for 2012. Watch in RealPlayer|
The week-long meeting will help to form a roadmap for UNICEF’s programmes and interventions in the years to come.
‘Big picture’ thinking
“Let us strive to achieve the ideal: a world where no child is left behind,” said His Excellency John W. Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and newly elected President of the UNICEF Executive Board, during his opening remarks. His statements underscored the need for bold efforts to promote sustainable development in a changing world.
“If the future is to hold real development for children, this issue requires ‘big picture’ thinking, emphasizing the need for equity and addressing the many trends that will continue to shape children’s lives well into the future, including urbanization, youth unemployment and vulnerability to natural disasters, to name a few,” he said.
Mr. Ashe also reflected on the rapid approach of the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“As the countdown to 2015 continues, we must continue the urgent priority of helping governments achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Much encouraging progress has been made in many countries… However, even reaching the targets will not be enough in many cases. The MDGs must be met with equity for all people, especially those most disadvantaged. We cannot stop until every child is reached.”
A year of ambitions and challenges
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake followed Mr. Ashe with a review of UNICEF’s innovative programmes, products, processes and partnerships – which will prove essential as the organization embarks on a year of tremendous challenges and enormous ambitions.
The crisis in the Horn of Africa and the looming malnutrition crisis in Africa’s Sahel region are foremost among these challenges.
|VIDEO: UNICEF's new Executive Board President, His Excellency John W. Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations opens the first regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board for 2012. Watch in RealPlayer|
“The continued financial crisis, rising food and fuel prices, violence, conflict and humanitarian emergencies are all taking a great toll, especially on the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable children and their families. We see this most urgently in the Horn of Africa,” he said.
“But these are also times of real promise for the world’s children – if we keep working together and delivering as one to overcome the barriers and bottlenecks that prevent too many children from realizing their rights to survive, thrive and reach their full potential. We believe innovation can accelerate our progress across all of UNICEF.”
Recent UNICEF-supported innovations include the development of vaccines that have greatly advanced the effort to eradicate polio, as well as the development of dispersible amoxicillin tablets, antibiotics more easily ingestible by children.
UNICEF is pursuing the use of SMS technology in community clinics to speed early infant HIV diagnosis, improve healthcare access, and systematically assess humanitarian needs and monitor results in the field. This technology was recently employed to monitor the response to last year’s devastating floods in Pakistan.
In child protection, the organization is spearheading the development of Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification, or Rapid FTR, which enables caseworkers to share real-time information about unaccompanied children, hastening the reunification of separated families in emergency situations.
UNICEF’s Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure(CEAP) has assisted UNICEF’s response in the Horn of Africa, enabling the rapid deployment of staff and supplies. And the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, an innovative global partnership, is mobilizing efforts to address under-nutrition and stunting.
“We will work to build on the enormous progress SUN has already made to draw global attention to this silent emergency – and, more broadly, to the impact of the global food crisis on food and nutrition security,” Mr. Lake said.
|UNICEF Executive Board's first regular session of 2012 convenes at United Nations Headquarters in New York.|
Continued support needed
But UNICEF requires continued support to sustain these efforts.
“To achieve the full promise of the moment, we must have the flexible funding that makes our work possible,” Mr. Lake said.
He noted that, following three years of declining resources, 2011 saw a slight increase in core resources revenue. Still, further income growth will be critical for the year ahead, enabling the organization to continue implementing its country-level programmes while also responding to emerging crises and fostering yet more innovation.
Mr. Ashe’s statement also emphasized the need for increased support.
“The organization has proven time and again its innovation, resourcefulness and resilience, even in the face of the global financial crisis,” Mr. Ashe said at the conclusion of his remarks. “But make no mistake: During these difficult times, it is more crucial than ever to support UNICEF.”
UNICEF Executive Board 2012