|© UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Mwangi|
|UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy (centre) in discussions with UNECA Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary Abdoulie Janneh (right). At left is the Head of UNICEF’s Liaison Office and Special Representative to the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa, Akila Belembaogo.|
By Anthony Mwangi
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 15 October 2009 – Millions of African children live in a state of almost permanent crisis brought on by conflict, instability, disease and the impact of the global economic downturn.
UNICEF is seeking ways to help political organizations provide a coordinated, continent-wide response to these challenges.
The need for such a response was recently highlighted in Uganda, where reports of new polio infections in the north – likely transmitted from Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – came to light during UNICEF’s celebration of achievements made in the eradication of the disease.
UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy recently visited the African Union (AU) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) headquarters here to discuss the capacity of African nations to respond to cross-border crises.
“These Africa-wide challenges need to be collectively and strategically addressed through building and strengthening partnerships with regional institutions, and fostering closer cooperation with the AU and UNECA for the benefit of disadvantaged children,” said Mr. As Sy.
UNICEF has a history of working with both the AU and UNECA, dating back to 1993, when it began coordinating efforts with what was then known as the Organization of African Unity.
|© UNICEF Ethiopia/2009/Mwangi|
|UNICEF Regional Director Elhadj As Sy (third left) speaks with African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology Jean Pierre Onvehoun Ezin (centre) and his team about on how to encourage deeper collaboration between UNICEF and the AU.|
Today, the AU seeks to help build stronger and more resilient African nations that can tackle the implementation of crucial international treaties and related policies – including pro-child policies. While a number of nations have progressed well in the ratification of treaties and the application of policies, many more have seen slow or limited implementation.
“The AU is a credible institution, and leadership standards have been consistently high,” said UNECA Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary Abdoulie Janneh. “More and more people today believe in it.”
Mr. Janneh sought UNICEF’s leadership to help build on gains that have already been realized for African children. Mr. As Sy emphasized the importance of doing fewer but better-focused activities that are more in depth and sustainable – and that have a lasting, positive impact on children.
“The AU shares common values with UNICEF, and hence the need to address continental challenges together by developing joint strategic and concrete actions on areas of mutual interest,” said AU Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology Jean Pierre Onvehoun Ezin.
Besides working with the AU, UNICEF has reinforced its relationships with the eight African Regional Economic Communities to secure high-level political commitments and priority actions for children at the regional level.
The UNICEF Liaison Office to the AU and UNECA was set up in January 2009. The office works closely with all the departments of the AU and is currently exploring joint initiatives in policy and advocacy.
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