Executive Director Anthony Lake delivers closing remarks at the 2010 Annual Session of UNICEF's Executive Board, held on 4 June at UN headquarters in New York. At right is H.E. Dr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative to the UN of Bangladesh and President of the Executive Board.
By Vivian Siu
NEW YORK, USA, 7 June 2010 – On Friday, 4 June, the final day of the UNICEF Executive Board’s 2010 Annual Session, delegates were briefed on the progress of the organization’s efforts to promote gender equality and heard Executive Director Anthony Lake reaffirm UNICEF’s dedication to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The day began on a sombre note, however, as His Excellency Dr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN and President of the Executive Board, mourned the loss of over 100 people who perished the preceding day in a devastating fire that engulfed several apartment complexes in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Throughout the ensuing meeting, speakers expressed condolences to Dr. Momen and the people of Bangladesh for their loss.
Progress towards gender equality
When discussion moved on to the day’s first official agenda item – UNICEF’s mandate to incorporate gender equality into all aspects of its programmatic work – the Executive Board received an update from Principal Advisor on Gender and Policy Practice Maie Ayoub von Kohl.
Principal Advisor on Gender and Policy Practice Maie Ayoub von Kohl delivers a progress report on the implementation of UNICEF's gender policy on the closing day of the Executive Board's 2010 Annual Session.
Ms. von Kohl outlined the agency’s strategy for raising gender-equality awareness among staff members and helping them develop new skills and tools to help implement gender initiatives in the field.
“We’ve made significant progress and note a significant increase in the number of country programme documents that meet quality assurance standards for gender equality,” said Ms. von Kohl. “We can say confidently that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Beyond UNICEF’s own organizational policies, of course, eliminating gender disparities and empowering women is one of the Millennium Development Goals. At the meeting on Friday, Executive Director Anthony Lake asserted that UNICEF remains fully committed to meeting this goal by providing an enabling environment for both girls and boys.
“We are making very strong progress on mainstreaming gender issues within UNICEF, but that does not mean that we can relax,” he said.
Field visits to Rwanda and Tajikistan
In order to gain a better understanding of UNICEF’s work in the field, and its progress on the MDGs, Executive Board members visit selected programme countries each year. The final day of the 2010 Annual Session included highlights of the Executive Board’s field visits to Rwanda and Tajikistan earlier this year.
His Excellency Andrei Dapkiunas (third from left), Permanent Representative to the UN of Belarus and UNICEF Executive Board member, with other delegates on a field visit to Tajikistan in April 2010.
His Excellency Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative to the UN of Belarus, led the delegation to Tajikistan. During their week-long trip to Rasht and Khuroson districts, Mr. Dapkiunas reported, Executive Board members visited hospitals, clinics, rural health centres and local schools. They also observed water-and-sanitation interventions – including a new water-supply system – that are helping Tajik families who were displaced as a result of severe flooding in 2009.
UNICEF and its partners, Mr. Dapkiunas said, continue to provide essential equipment, micronutrient supplements and life-saving vaccines for women and children in Tajikistan, where the economic downturn and a recent polio outbreak have exacerbated already difficult conditions.
Mr. Dapkiunas noted, however, that it appears that “Tajikistan is forgotten by donors.” The dire nature of humanitarian challenges faced by the country, he said, had serious implications “not just for the well-being of children of Tajikistan but also for the development and humanitarian security of this entire region.”
Finding solutions, shaping priorities – for results
In his closing remarks at the 2010 Annual Session, Mr. Lake – who took office as Executive Director on 1 May – expressed gratitude for the warm welcome he had received at this, his first Executive Board meeting. He commended delegates for not just lauding progress but addressing problems and working together to find solutions – thereby helping him shape UNICEF priorities in the early part of his tenure.
Mr. Lake vowed to be accountable in monitoring and evaluating UNICEF’s work to achieve the best possible results for children worldwide.
“In the end, results are all that matter. So we’re going to work hard ... on speeding up the pace of the systems we’ve put in place,” he told the Executive Board. “We owe it to you, we owe it to the National Committees, to be able to tell you where your money is going and what it has achieved. And we owe it to ourselves, because unless we can properly monitor and evaluate what we are doing, we can’t properly set priorities.”
Resources for emergency response
Mr. Lake stated that integrated approaches are needed to effectively reach the most vulnerable children and achieve the MDGs. At the same time, he called attention to the urgent need for additional funding to support UNICEF emergency programmes.
Given the impact of the global economic downturn, climate change, food insecurity and multiple natural disasters, said Mr. Lake, UNICEF is especially in need of international financial assistance for it crisis-response operations.
“We are into June now,” he said. “We are running way behind, and if we cannot get a response to our appeals on these emergencies, then I’m going to have to make some horrible choices that could seriously erode all of the priorities that you’ve been discussing and that I’m working on.”
Achieving a world fit for children
Finally, in his own closing statement at Friday’s meeting, Dr. Momen, the Executive Board President, revealed that he had been a beneficiary of a UNICEF programme as a child in Bangladesh. His personal story exemplified UNICEF’s mission of helping all the world’s children reach their fullest potential.
“Under your dynamic leadership,” Dr. Momen told Executive Director Lake, “we look forward to achieving our vision of a world where the rights of children are guaranteed.”