|UNICEF’s newly appointed Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Steven Allen, presents draft country programmes for that region at the Annual Session of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board, held at UN headquarters in New York.|
By Vivian Siu
NEW YORK, USA, 11 June 2009 – The last day of the Annual Session of UNICEF’s Executive Board began on a sombre note yesterday morning. Executive Director Ann M. Veneman eulogized Perseveranda So, Chief of Education in UNICEF’s Islamabad office, who was killed in a hotel bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on 9 June. The Executive Board followed with a moment of silence in Ms. So’s memory.
The Executive Board went on to conclude its session with the presentation of 16 country programme documents by UNICEF’s five regional directors, as well as highlights from several Executive Board field visits.
Response to the economic crisis
Children and families worldwide are struggling during the global economic downturn, especially in areas of transition and countries emerging from conflict. In their presentations, the regional directors outlined their goals for the coming years and the challenges UNICEF and its partners face in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, given the current financial climate.
Only a year ago, for example, the majority of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) were making progress on a number of MDGs, including poverty reduction, education and child survival, Mr. Allen noted. However, it is now estimated that 35 million people will again fall under the poverty line due to the global recession.
“The weight of the crisis is already being felt by vulnerable girls and boys,” said the CEE/CIS Regional Director Steven Allen.
|Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag presents the draft country programme for Lebanon and the draft Gulf Area sub-regional programme at the Annual Session of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board.|
Food insecurity has “severely affected parts of the region in the recent past, and continues to affect the most disadvantaged families,” he added. “It is not yet known when a full economic recovery will take hold. What is known is that it will take a long time for the poorest to return to levels of domestic employment and overseas remittances reached before the crisis.”
Countries emerging from conflict
The effects of conflict are also an obstacle to child survival and development, Executive Board members heard.
At yesterday’s meeting, Burundi presented its first full UNICEF country programme since 1992, after emerging from 16 years of conflict. While this is a positive sign of increasing normalcy, Burundi still faces complex political, economic and social challenges that have an enormous impact on children. Instability and insecurity still exist, impeding social rehabilitation, reconstruction and development.
“The different measures for children in Burundi have been taken in a global context marked by an economic crisis, coupled with a food and energy crisis, which are unprecedented,” said Ambassador Adolphe Nahayo of Burundi, an official at the country’s Ministry of External Relations and International Cooperation.
“Burundi has not been spared and must more and more confront the reintegration of repatriates, the reintegration of demobilized people and internally displaced persons,” he continued. “The presence of these crises could bring poverty to a large number of children and exacerbate the deprivations they suffer already.”
Executive Board field visits
Each year, members of UNICEF’s Executive Board make visits to better understand UNICEF’s programmes in the field. The trips are an opportunity for members to see firsthand UNICEF’s work on the ground and gain a better understanding of the issues that children face.
|A delegate from Burundi speaks at the Annual Session of the 2009 UNICEF Executive Board at UN headquarters.|
This past year, Executive Board members travelled to Kenya, Nepal and Cambodia, visiting primary and secondary schools, childhood development centres, hospitals and maternal shelters, among other sites.
“Particularly in areas of water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as in the areas of health and education, in many instances we noted that UNICEF was ready to take on responsibilities beyond the specific call of duty,” said Executive Board Vice President Ismat Jahan, Permanent Representative to the UN of Bangladesh, speaking about the field visit to Kenya.
In her closing remarks for the Annual Session, Executive Director Ann M. Veneman reminded the Executive Board that UNICEF’s staff is the backbone of the organization. Every day around the globe, she noted, these thousands of men and women work tirelessly to reach children and families in need.
UNICEF’s lifesaving work would not be possible, in other words, without dedicated staff members like the late Perseveranda So.
In memoriam: Perseveranda So, 1956-2009
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