New York, 18 June 2013: UNICEF Executive Board opens its annual session
“When we put our strategic plan in motion, we’re opening a new chapter in UNICEF’s efforts to weave hope, health and safety into the lives of all children.”
NEW YORK, United States of America, 18 June 2013 – The Executive Board of UNICEF opened its annual session in the newly renovated Economic and Social Council chamber at United Nations headquarters today.
The UNICEF Executive Board convenes for its 2013 annual session to discuss the organization's strategic plan for the upcoming four years. Watch in RealPlayer
Every child has the same rights
In his opening remarks, the Executive Board President, H.E. Mr. Jarmo Viinanen, the Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, made particular reference to UNICEF’s annual flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children, which this year focuses on children with disabilities.
“A study in my own country, Finland, in 2010 showed that youth with disabilities or chronic illnesses faced more than average discrimination by adults,” he said. “I would like to underline the key message that rights are inherent – that is, that every child has the same rights irrespective of disability or other status.”
Progress made in key areas of child well-being
In his opening statement, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake introduced his annual report to the Executive Board, emphasizing progress and achievements against the current medium-term strategic plan, particularly in reference to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Mr. Lake highlighted the progress made in improving the well-being of children worldwide, noting that under-5 child mortality had continued to fall steadily, to 6.9 million deaths in 2011 – a 42.5 per cent drop from 1990 levels. The number of out-of-school children of primary school age had also dropped, he said, to an all-time low of 57 million. And a combination of emergency interventions and greater use of breastfeeding had contributed to a 36 per cent decrease in the number of underweight children under 5 years old, from 159 million in 1990 to 101 million in 2011.
Results and constraints in humanitarian action
Mr. Lake elaborated on key results and constraints in humanitarian action, recovery and fragile situations, highlighting the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. “The Syrian conflict is fast becoming a regional crisis,” he said. “Our hard-working staff and our resources are stretched to their limits, already not equivalent to the growing needs.”
The Executive Board heard that the mounting number of natural disasters and complex humanitarian crises during the years has resulted in UNICEF sending 481 surge deployments to a number of regions, including the Sahel and the Middle East. The UNICEF response has supported nutrition, measles campaigns, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, safe water and access to education and learning opportunities, as well as improved sanitation.
UNICEF has also contributed to the reunification of separated children with their families, provision of safe access to community spaces for children and reintegration of children associated with armed forces or groups. Mr. Lake noted that UNICEF had helped to reunite nearly 20,000 children with their families after they were separated during an emergency or conflict.
Equity, efficiency and transparency efforts continue
Mr. Lake highlighted UNICEF’s continued focus on developing and mainstreaming the Monitoring Results for Equity System (MoRES) throughout the organization, a process to help improve interventions that will lead to better and more equitable results for the most disadvantaged communities.
Mr. Lake acknowledged that progress towards greater efficiency and transparency requires continued effort. “This is a challenging process, but a necessary one, as we continue seeking out the most effective ways to improve the lives of millions of children still going to bed hungry, still living in unsafe conditions, still being denied a place in the classroom, still suffering and dying from preventable diseases, still clinging to the lowest rung on the ladder of progress,” he said.
“We can do so much more to help these children, and because we can do it, we must do it. Their rights demand it.”
Tomorrow, the Executive Board reviews the draft Strategic Plan, 2014-2017. Following revisions based on feedback received from Member States, the Strategic Plan will be presented in its final form to the Executive Board, along with an integrated budget, for approval at its next session, in September. The new plan will commence on 1 January 2014. Also on tomorrow’s agenda are the progress of gender equality work, and the discussion of new country programmes.
The Executive Board is the governing body of UNICEF, comprising 36 members representing the five regions of Member States at the United Nations. The Bureau of the Executive Board consists of five officers: the President and four Vice-Presidents.
In addition to serving as a liaison between governments and the organization, the Executive Board provides oversight and intergovernmental support, reviewing and approving all UNICEF activities, policies, country programmes and budgets. The Executive Board ultimately ensures that all of UNICEF’s initiatives and strategies are consistent with the overall policies implemented by the United Nations General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.