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Ann M. Veneman - Executive Director

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Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director.
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Ann M. Veneman became UNICEF’s fifth Executive Director on May 1, 2005.  Appointed by the United Nations Secretary General, the Executive Director works on behalf of the United Nations children’s agency to help children around the world survive and thrive by advocating for and protecting their rights.  UNICEF’s mission is accomplished by over 11,000 staff on the ground in more than 150 countries, advancing programs that support child health and nutrition, quality basic education, the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and access to clean water and sanitation, among other priorities.

At UNICEF, Veneman oversees annual program resources of around $4 billion, funded entirely from voluntary contributions.  She has stressed a culture of continuous improvement to help achieve lasting results for children. Under her management, UNICEF has launched initiatives to improve business practices, transparency and collaboration to ensure the agency’s programs reach those most vulnerable and that its resources are utilized efficiently to protect, save and improve the lives of children around the world. These strategies include establishing a results-based approach to program management and scaling up the use of integrated packages of interventions to the health and development of children.

Since becoming Executive Director, Veneman has traveled to more than sixty countries to review the plight of children and UNICEF’s work to assist them. She has first-hand knowledge of how children’s lives are being saved and improved as a result of programs and assistance provided by UNICEF and its partners.  Veneman has witnessed the devastation caused by natural disasters, conflict, disease and exploitation. These experiences have redoubled her sense of hope, passion, and urgency in advocating for children when administering programs, meeting with government leaders, international agencies and strategic partners, or speaking at conferences such as the World Economic Forum and Clinton Global Initiative. Veneman co-chairs Mothers Day Every Day, a campaign launched by CARE and the White Ribbon Alliance supporting access of basic health care and maternal services for women around the world.  
 
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© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2009/Myhren
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman with Zimbabwean children at a water point in Budiriro, site of one of the 70 UNICEF-supported treatment centres set up in response to a cholera outbreak.

Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), overseeing 110,000 employees and an annual budget of $113 billion. Among her responsibilities at this diverse agency, was the management of the nation’s food and nutrition programs, including services for food stamps, school lunch programs and nutrition assistance for women, infants and children.  In 2003 she hosted the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology, bringing together leaders from 120 nations to explore new approaches to global hunger and the better use of science and technology to reduce hunger and poverty in developing countries.  Veneman held various other positions at USDA, including Deputy Secretary, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs and Commodity Programs, and Associate Administer of the Foreign Agricultural Service. She also served as Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

A lawyer by training, Veneman has practiced law in Washington, DC and California. Earlier in her career she served as a deputy public defender.  Veneman earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Davis; a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley; and a juris doctorate degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law. She has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from several universities and colleges.
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© UNICEF/HQ05-1621/Zaidi
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visited the children's hospital at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). Some 2,000 children have been brought there for treatment.

In a personal capacity, Veneman serves on the Board of the Close Up Foundation, a nonpartisan civic youth education organization. She has previously served on a number of advisory councils and committees, particularly those involving children and higher education.  Veneman has received numerous awards and distinctions throughout her career, including the Outstanding Woman in International Trade Award; Food Research and Action Center Award; Dutch American Heritage Award; Junior Statesman Foundation Statesman of the Year Award; California Council for International Trade Golden State Award; Goldman School of Public Policy Alumnus of the Year Award; The History Channel’s Save Our History Leadership Award; Main Street Partnership John Chafee Award for Distinguished Public Service; American PVO Partners Award for Service to People in Need; Richard E. Lyng Award for Public Service; Sesame Workshop’s Leadership Award for Children; and as an Honorary Member of Rotary Club.

Veneman’s leadership and vision at UNICEF has been recognized both nationally and internationally.  In 2009, she was named to the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list, ranking #46.

Updated: November 2009

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