New York, 17 January 2005 – The Indian Ocean tsunami dominated the opening session of the UNICEF Executive Board’s first session for 2005.
Executive Director Carol Bellamy told delegates that the devastation caused by the disaster, following on the heels of the powerful hurricanes that hit the Caribbean last year, the massacre of school children in Beslan, Russia and the crisis in Darfur emphasized the “immense and growing burden” that humanitarian crises are placing on relief organisations.
Ms. Bellamy told delegates, “The environment in which we work has become more complex, more politicized and more dangerous for our courageous staff.”
But she added that the challenges had “brought out the best in all of us.”
Outgoing President Ambassador Lebohang K. Moleko of Lesotho called for a minute of silence in honour of the victims of recent disasters as well as those suffering because of violent conflicts in Africa, and emphasized that UNICEF must continue to advocate strongly for HIV/AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.
“More needs to be done if we are to reverse the population declines on the horizon in these countries,” he said.
Ambassador Moleko said that he pushed strongly to have the voices of poorer countries heard during his tenure as UNICEF President.
"Board debates were a monologue dominated mainly by the donor countries. We from the developing countries or the program countries were always quiet. But through my efforts that has changed. The African group members are now engaged," he said.
The incoming President, Ambassador Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi of Iran told delegates that the world presents “enormous challenges for children.”
“Poverty, HIV/AIDS and politics are among the most serious issues that see childhood under threat and children in jeopardy,” he said.
He called for a renewed focus on mobilizing and extending relief. “When calamity strikes we are all equal to be hit and it’s our duty to respond quickly and with generosity.”
Delegates to the first session of 2005 also heard Carol Bellamy present UNICEF’s report to the UN Economic and Social Councill which covered a broad spectrum of issues including gender mainstreaming, girls’ education, poverty reduction and the demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers.