About UNICEF: Who we are

How UNICEF has evolved through emergency work

Interview with Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam

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© UNICEF/2004/Toutounji
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam

NEW YORK, 14 January 2005 - UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam has been with the organization for 32 years. During this long tenure, he has acquired a unique perspective on how UNICEF’s work in emergencies has informed its ongoing work in programmes, and vice-versa, through the decades.

In an interview with UNICEF Radio (available in audio format – please see ‘Audio’ box), Gautam discusses UNICEF’s role in emergencies throughout its history.

“UNICEF was born ... to deal with a crisis right after the Second World War, when millions of children in war-ravaged countries of Europe and China and Japan needed help,” Gautam says. Since its birth, UNICEF has played a key role in providing aid during major world emergencies. “Every time there is an emergency, children and women are often the main and primary victims. That is true, whether it is natural disasters, or man-made disasters, like wars.”

He tells stories from many emergencies in which UNICEF offered front-line aid, such as water for victims of the drought in Bihar, India in the 1960’s, and vaccinations for children in El Salvador during the civil war in the 1980’s. “So UNICEF has had a track record, a history, of working in situations where most other UN agencies cannot work, where there are wars and conflicts. UNICEF helps children on all sides of the political divide.”

Gautam points out that UNICEF’s work is not limited to the ‘loud emergencies’ of floods, earthquakes and wars. Instead, the organization’s work is ongoing, also helping to fight the ‘silent emergencies’ of disease, famine, poverty, lack of education and other chronic global problems. But he indicates that UNICEF’s programmes are informed by the experience gained in loud emergencies. “So, we have learned something from one emergency that can be helpful in other emergencies as well as in normal situations,” he says. “Emergencies also offer us an opportunity to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things.”

As Deputy Executive Director, Kul Gautam provides leadership in strategic planning, programme development, and resource mobilization, and promotes partnership for children and development among UN agencies, donors and civil society organizations. Mr. Gautam has been with UNICEF since 1973.

To learn more about UNICEF’s evolution and the role of emergencies, listen to the interview with Kul Gautam (please see ‘Audio’ box). Or for more audio features, visit UNICEF Radio.


 

 

Audio

5 January 2005:
UNICEF Executive Director Kul Gautam tells the history of UNICEF in emergencies
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