By Rebecca Zerzan
NEW YORK, USA, 5 June 2012 – Sustainable development took centre stage as the UNICEF Executive Board opened its 2012 Annual Session at UN headquarters in New York today.
|VIDEO: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks about children as the key to sustainable development at the 2012 Annual Session of the UNICEF Executive Board. Watch in RealPlayer|
“We have much to be proud of in the achievement of both national and international goals and targets, especially the Millennium Development Goals. However, meeting goals will not be enough in many cases,” said His Excellency John W. Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and President of the UNICEF Executive Board, during his opening remarks. “In order to have lasting value, they must be achieved with equity, especially for the most disadvantaged.”
He stressed that while significant progress in reducing child mortality and boosting child health and education has been made, global efforts must now focus on promoting sustainable improvement to children’s welfare, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Children central to sustainable future
“The survival, development and protection of this generation of children are central to sustainable development, the well-being of future generations and the healthy future of our planet,” Mr. Ashe continued.
|VIDEO: UNICEF Executive Board President John Ashe delivers his opening remarks at the 2012 Annual Session of the UNICEF Executive Board. Watch in RealPlayer|
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake elaborated on this theme in his opening statement. “We believe it’s not enough simply to argue that, in principle, children must be at the heart of what sustainable development produces – although that is indeed an important principle. We need to show how placing children and equity at the heart of sustainable development is also a good investment in practice.”
This is particularly true of interventions targeting the poorest children, who have the most to gain from development.
“There is mounting evidence to suggest that investing in the social sectors and in children equitably, especially in their health and their education, breaks the intergenerational transmission of poverty, creates more stable societies and contributes to sustainable growth,” Mr. Lake said.
Preserving children’s dignity
Mr. Lake also spoke of the humanitarian emergencies and financial pressures that are pushing UNICEF to become more efficient and cost-effective than ever. However, these efforts must not come at the expense of children’s privacy or dignity, he stressed.
|VIDEO: Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta presents the Annual Report of the Executive Director to the UNICEF Executive Board. Watch in RealPlayer|
“As we continue to press for the funds that can save so many millions of children who are suffering, let me take a moment to address one aspect of how we must do so. We must not use images of dead or dying children in our campaigns because it’s exploitive. Children one day old have the same right to privacy that we would want if we or our children were dying,” he said.
“Surely the public is more responsive to pictures of recovering children, children who have the hope of a future – as well as hopes for the future – thanks to the work of UNICEF and so many others.”
Notable progress and the path forward
Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta followed by presenting the Executive Director’s Annual Report, highlighting UNICEF’s recent achievements, which were accomplished despite the limited resources and global challenges.
“We’ve seen notable progress in the global situation of children. Under-5 mortality fell to 7.6 million deaths in 2010, down from 8.5 million in 2005, and the world met the MDG target of halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source,” Ms. Gupta said.
|The UNICEF Executive Board, UNICEF's governing body, convenes its 2012 Annual Session in New York.|
“However, disparities in some areas grew wider,” she noted. Many communities continue to lack access to safe sanitation, and children in the poorest quintile – the bottom 20 per cent – continue to face staggering deprivations. “More work is needed to address these and other disparities,” Ms. Gupta said.
In 2011, UNICEF responded to 292 humanitarian situations in 80 countries, including major nutrition crises in the Horn of Africa and Sahel belt. The organization is now increasing investment in disaster risk reduction programmes, which promote safer and more resilient communities that are better able to contend with future hardships.
UNICEF has also improved child protection and monitoring systems, and is increasing support for early childhood education – interventions expected to yield benefits for children and their communities well into the future.
UNICEF Executive Board 2012