UNICEF Executive Board session opens, stressing equity and inclusion
The UNICEF Executive Board opened its second regular session of 2013 today, at United Nations headquarters in New York. Opening remarks by the Executive Board President and the UNICEF Executive Director highlighted the plight of the most vulnerable children in the world and the increasingly perilous situation for Syrian children.
NEW YORK, United States of America, 3 September 2013 –The second regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board opened today at United Nations headquarters in New York. A main agenda item of this final session of 2013 is approval of the UNICEF strategic plan and budget for the next four years.
An inclusive strategic plan
Informed by the findings of the end-of-cycle review of the UNICEF medium-term strategic plan (2006–2013), the UNICEF strategic plan for 2014–2017 will direct the future work of the organization, emphasizing the goal of achieving equity for the most vulnerable of children. For the first time, disability will be mainstreamed into all UNICEF focus areas – child survival and development, basic education and gender equality, HIV/AIDS, child protection, and policy advocacy and partnership.
During his opening remarks, the President of the Executive Board, H.E. Mr. Jarmo Viinanen, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, referred to the 2013 edition of The State of the World's Children, which focuses on children with disabilities, calling for an attitudinal change among communities, professionals, media and governments to see children living with disabilities as agents of change and individuals with their own voices.
H.E. Mr. Viinanen noted the lack of opportunities for education for children with disabilities and the numerous injustices they face. "Children have the right to education, irrespective of ethnicity, sex, language, religion, economic background, disability or other status," Mr. Viinanen said. "Nonetheless, boys and girls with disabilities are significantly less likely to be enrolled in school, and the same trend applies as regards the completion rate in primary school. In addition to confronting prejudice due to disability, many girls with disabilities are also hindered by traditional gender roles."
Reaching Syrian children
Both H.E. Mr. Viinanen and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake stressed the rising need to help Syrian children. The number of children affected by the conflict is staggering – one million children living as refugees in neighbouring countries, and more than two million children inside the Syrian Arab Republic suffering and vulnerable to the escalating conflict.
As a prelude to his opening remarks, Mr. Lake also acknowledged the efforts of UNICEF staff working within the Syrian Arab Republic and neighbouring countries in the midst of a dangerous and rapidly evolving situation.
"As you know, if two words can describe UNICEF's mission in situations of crisis and emergency, they are 'stay' and 'deliver', said Mr. Lake. "Our staff in Syria and neighbouring countries continue to do all they can. Thanks to their commitment to 'stay and deliver', both in Syria and in the region – and thanks to the generosity of global donors – millions are now receiving drinking water, children have been immunized, given access to education and provided counselling and safe places to play."
Equity a central tenet
In his opening remarks, Mr. Lake cited the United Nations Millennium Declaration's commitment to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level, especially for the most vulnerable and, in particular, children. UNICEF must organize itself in preparation for the post-2015 development agenda, he said. "This means preparing children to meet the greatest global challenges of the post-2015 era – climate change, urbanization, migration, resource scarcity – challenges that are likely to hit all children hard, and the most vulnerable children hardest of all."
Equity must be a central tenet of the post-2015 agenda, said Mr. Lake, adding that equity is the cornerstone of all stable, prosperous societies. He cited the Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals report, which shows that greater, more cost-effective results could be achieved when policies and programmes were designed to reach the most disadvantaged and marginalized.
"Our focus on equity, on the rights of children," said Mr. Lake, "represents our best chance to help all children unleash these gifts, develop their full potential, so they can change their world, brighten our world, and inspire future generations as they build their own."
The first day of the 2013 second regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board continues with a special focus session on the work of UNICEF for children with disabilities.
Video broadcast of the meetings can be viewed on UN Web TV, and session documents and statements can be found on the United Nations PaperSmart Portal.