|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (centre) addresses attendees at the Annual Session of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board at UNHQ. With her on the dais are: (L to R) UNICEF Deputy Executive Directors, Omar Abdi and Hilde Frafjord Johnson; President of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board, Ambassador Oumar Daou; Secretary of the UNICEF Executive Board Kirsi Madi; and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry.|
NEW YORK, USA, 8 June 2009 – UNICEF's Executive Board convened the first day of its annual session today at United Nations headquarters in New York City where Executive Director Ann M. Veneman presented her annual report against the backdrop of a global economic downturn.
In her annual report to the Executive Board, Veneman noted that the global economic slowdown, coupled with food and fuel price volatility, are affecting the world's most vulnerable groups, in particular, children and women.
"This crisis could plunge millions of children into poverty and worsen the deprivation they already suffer," said the President of UNICEF's Executive Board Oumar Daou. "Clearly the impact of this crisis on development and poor countries, including difficulties in access to public and private international financing are a major concern."
Impact of Global Financial Crisis on UNICEF's work
Even before the crisis erupted in 2008, millions of children were already at risk. A recent study estimated that 219 million children under the age of five already fail to reach their full potential in cognitive development because of poverty, poor health and nutrition and insufficient care. If public and private funding is disrupted or suspended, children could fall into deeper poverty, harming not just today's children but also future generations.
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (left) speaks at the Annual Session of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board at UNHQ. President of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board, Ambassador Oumar Daou is beside her.|
There is an urgent need to monitor these vulnerabilities, to reduce the financial costs of access to basic services and to implement robust social protection measures. In response to the initial food price increases in 2008, UNICEF focused attention and directed additional resources to strengthening national actions for the management of malnutrition and for scaling up proven interventions to improve household nutrition security. UNICEF is also promoting the design, implementation and monitoring of social protection measures that will help safeguard children and women during these difficult times.
"This is why it's important in order to respond this crisis and act in an effective manner, we have to assess its real impact on food security, health, well-being, the education of children, areas in which UNICEF's efforts are concentrated," said Mr. Daou.
Rebuilding infrastructure, supplying services
In her opening address, Veneman highlighted UNICEF's recent work in areas affected by conflict, such as Jordan, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. UNICEF, she said, continues to help rebuild infrastructures and provide the necessary services to shattered families despite the current economic climate.
|L to R: UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, President of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board, Ambassador Oumar Daou and Secretary of the UNICEF Executive Board Kirsi Madi at the Annual Session of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board at UNHQ.|
Especially in areas of conflict, Veneman noted, children and women are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance. In Pakistan, more than two million people have been forcibly displaced, the largest displacement since the 1994 conflict in Rwanda. UNICEF has already reached out to families in the area and is providing educational support, building child-friendly spaces, and food, clothes, bedding and other basic supplies.
The Role of the Executive Board
The Executive Board is the governing body of UNICEF, comprised of 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.
The work of the Executive Board is manifold. In addition to serving as a liaison between governments and the organization, the Executive Board provides oversight and intergovernmental support, reviewing and approving all of UNICEF activities, policies, country programs 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.
Other issues that the Executive Board will focus on at this session include UNICEF's strategic framework for partnerships and collaborative relationships; a special focus session on global health, with a focus on polio eradication; the review and approval of new country programmes; and reports on the Executive Board's field visits to Cambodia, Nepal and Kenya earlier this year.