UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake brings a wealth of experience to his new role
An Agenda for Children
Appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon following what Mr. Ban called "a long and distinguished career with the United States Government," Mr. Lake has worked on a wide range of foreign policy, national security and humanitarian issues. He succeeds Ann M. Veneman, who has served as Executive Director since May 2005.
Decades of service
The new UNICEF chief's accomplishments span five vigorous decades. In 1962, he started out as a Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department. In 2008, he was a senior foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In the intervening years, he held high-level posts in the Clinton and Carter administrations; was a presidential envoy to Haiti, Ethiopia and Eritrea; and played a key part in shaping policies that led to peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Northern Ireland, among other hotspots.
His commitment to on peace-building informs Mr. Lake's approach to the problems facing the world's children – especially the millions who live, often in poverty and fear, in zones of conflict.
"Peace and security are the foundation of a world fit for children," he said. "Wars not only kill children, they breed disease and destroy economic hope. And in the end, real peace is not found in a piece of diplomatic paper. It is found in the secure and healthy lives of girls and boys."
Support for development goals
Even beyond his long record of government service, Mr. Lake is well-versed in the intricacies of global development. His involvement in the non-governmental sector began in the 1970s, when he directed International Voluntary Services, a 'private Peace Corps' operating in impoverished communities. He has also served on the boards of Save the Children and the Overseas Development Council, as an adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross and as Chair of the Marshall Legacy Institute.
Against this backdrop, his strong support for the Millennium Development Goals – the internationally agreed improvements in human development that are meant to be reached by 2015 – comes as no surprise.
Like his emphasis on peace, Mr. Lake's determination to help achieve the development goals is integral to his vision for UNICEF's immediate future. Fittingly, the period between now and the MDG target date coincides with the Executive Director's initial five-year term.
"At their heart, the Millennium Development goals are about giving the world's most vulnerable children a better chance to reach their full potential," he said. "We've got a lot of urgent work ahead, leading up to, and beyond, the 2015 MDG targets we've set for ourselves. And I believe we can do it."
Long-standing UNICEF ties
Although he is new to the helm at UNICEF, Mr. Lake's ties with its work are long-standing. In 1993, he collaborated with UNICEF's third Executive Director, James P. Grant, on the White House launch of the flagship publication, 'The State of the World's Children'. He later served as an active Executive Board member and Chair at the US Fund for UNICEF – one of 36 national committees that support the organization through fundraising, advocacy and education in industrialized countries.
As a US Fund board member, Mr. Lake embarked on several missions to observe UNICEF's programmes in the field. One trip took him to Swaziland, where UNICEF was working with its partners to address the impact of a tragically high HIV-prevalence rate. The US Fund delegation met children and adolescents who had been orphaned by AIDS; many were heading households composed of younger siblings, or living alone, on their family homesteads.
During the mission, Mr. Lake sent the US Fund website a slideshow of photographs depicting the resilience of the young people he encountered.
"We were inspired by the caregivers and inspired by the works of the UNICEF staff," he said in his commentary on the images. "But most of all, we were encouraged still more by the children." Clearly moved, he added that the Swazi orphans showed "tremendous courage and an extraordinary ability to cope with these extraordinary circumstances."
UNICEF welcomes its new Executive Director in the spirit of courage and hope that he honoured in Swaziland, placing an agenda for children front and centre in our responses to the extraordinary challenges ahead.