UNICEF Executive Board begins first regular session of 2011New leadership and a focus on equity
NEW YORK, USA, 8 February 2011 – At the start of its first regular session of 2011, the UNICEF Executive Board today elected Her Excellency Sanja Štiglic, Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the United Nations, as its new President. Meeting at UN headquarters in New York, the Executive Board delegates set their sights on implementation of an equity-based approach to UNICEF’s programmatic work in 2011 and beyond.
The outgoing Executive Board President, His Excellency Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, thanked colleagues from the 2010 Executive Board for their contributions to UNICEF’s “remarkable and rewarding” journey during his tenure. He expressed confidence that the organization’s activities this past year – particularly its increased emphasis on reaching out to the world’s poorest communities – have positioned UNICEF well for future challenges.
“We are in the final push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed goals for children,” said Dr. Momen. “With time running short and much to accomplish, accelerated action is imperative.”
In her opening remarks as Executive Board President, Ms. Štiglic echoed Dr. Momen’s call for picking up the pace of development. While the international community has made significant strides towards meeting the development goals by their 2015 deadline, she said, “it is increasingly clear that our progress is uneven in many areas. We must try to do better in ensuring the survival and health of children, especially in adverse circumstances.”
In her first official act as President, Ms. Štiglic oversaw the election of the Executive Board’s four new Vice Presidents, who will help lead these stepped-up efforts in 2011: His Excellency Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the UN; Peter van der Vliet, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands; Gillian Joseph, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda; and Grata Werdaningtyas, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia.
‘A full agenda’UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake followed Ms. Štiglic with a review of the Executive Board’s work since his appointment last spring and a preview of upcoming initiatives.
“It has been a critical time for children, and a pivotal time for UNICEF,” he said, citing the threats faced by children caught in the Haiti earthquake, the Pakistan floods and other major emergencies last year. He went on to reaffirm UNICEF’s call for universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, which ban the worst abuses against vulnerable children – especially those in crisis situations.
“The past year also brought with it disturbing new evidence of widening gaps between rich and poor children, even in many countries that have made overall progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” added Mr. Lake. To narrow those gaps, he noted, UNICEF is now implementing its equity-based strategy, which aims to maximize resources – and results – by targeting the most disadvantaged children and women with cost-effective, integrated interventions.
“We have a full agenda, not only over the next few days but in the year ahead,” said Mr. Lake.
Theme of transitionIn keeping with the theme of transition, today’s Executive Board meeting featured announcements of changes in senior management at UNICEF, with Martin Mogwanja introduced as its newest Deputy Executive Director. Mr. Mogwanja replaces outgoing Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi, who will now serve as UNICEF’s Comptroller.
New directors of research and evaluation, and a new advisor on disability, were announced as well, overseeing functions that Mr. Lake called “increasingly critical to UNICEF’s ability to deliver results for children.”
The meeting also included a special tribute to Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry, who is attending his last Executive Board meeting this week after three decades of distinguished service to UNICEF. “Saad speaks softly, but his words are weighty, and his opinions are invaluable,” said Mr. Lake.
Working in partnershipFollowing the opening statements by Dr. Momen, Ms. Štiglic and Mr. Lake, the Executive Board reviewed highlights of UNICEF’s annual report to the UN Economic and Social Council.
Presented by Director of Policy and Practice Richard Morgan, the report provides information about the steps UNICEF is taking to work in closer partnership with other members of the UN system – and to ensure that development assistance produces sustainable results for children.
The Executive Board then went on to approve six revised country programme documents that had been discussed at its second regular session of 2010. The documents comprise plans of action for UNICEF’s work on the ground in Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Maldives, Somalia, Uruguay and Zambia over the next several years. Executive Board members also discussed a draft country programme document for the United Republic of Tanzania.
The current session of the Executive Board continues through Friday.