UNICEF Executive Board finds opportunity in moment of global transition
By Rebecca Zerzan
NEW YORK, USA, 7 June 2012 – The UNICEF Executive Board reviewed the performance of its policies and programmes in light of a rapidly changing global environment.
Tremendous gains have been made in child survival and well-being since 1990, but recent global challenges and the uncertain financial environment threaten to undermine this progress. With the right partnerships and policies, however, these challenges can serve as opportunities to strengthen the capacity of governments and local communities to protect children and promote their rights, said Robert Jenkins, Associate Director of UNICEF’s Division of Policy and Strategy.
VIDEO: Associate Director of UNICEF’s Division of Policy and Strategy Robert Jenkins discusses the importance of data collection and analysis as UNICEF refocuses on equitable development for children.
“We are currently experiencing a challenging global economic climate... with food and financial crises, together with climate change, rapid urbanization, demographic shifts, and other challenges,” he said. “But this worrying trend can present opportunities at the global level.”
Partnerships and policies for children
A strengthened focus on research, along with strategic partnerships with governments, non-governmental organizations and international financial institutions, places UNICEF in a unique position to influence policies to advance the rights of children, even in the face of emerging global concerns.
“UNICEF plays a leading role in data collection... Additional emphasis has been placed more recently on disseminating a wealth of information on children, particularly on its use,” Mr. Jenkins said. “Engaging in the planning process with evidence has resulted in improved effectiveness and more public resources” for meeting the needs of vulnerable children. Policy reform at the national and subnational levels empowers communities to make lasting, cost-effective improvements to children’s health, nutrition, education and protection.
UNICEF is currently engaged in legal and institutional policy reform in 124 countries, public finance initiatives in 102 countries, and social protection policies in 93 countries, and is conducting poverty analyses in 55 countries.
VIDEO: UNICEF Director of Programmes Nicholas Alipui discusses the importance of equity in UNICEF programmes worldwide.
“It is useful to note that most poor people live in middle-income countries, making it ever more important for UNICEF to engage with countries on a policy level,” Mr. Jenkins said, highlighting the vulnerabilities that persist even in rising economies.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake underscored the importance of pursuing local and community-level partnerships to reach vulnerable children where they live. “This is a tremendously important topic... All partners – governments, the international NGOs – are playing a huge role. But even more important is how we work with, and need to nurture, national NGOs and local NGOs, without which none of us could do what we’re doing,” he said.
A period of rapid transition
The Executive Board also reviewed new and continuing country programmes, which are operating in “a period of transition in the global development sphere,” said Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Director of Programmes.
A nutrition crisis is currently affecting eight countries in the Sahel belt of Africa, leaving over a million children under age 5 at risk of deadly severe acute malnutrition, for example, while the global economic downturn continues to affect resources for children and development. Yet advancements in information and communication technology, as well as other emerging innovations, offer to change the development landscape for the better.
UNICEF Central, Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States Regional Director Marie-Pierre Poirier speaks at the Annual Session of the 2012 UNICEF Executive Board. Beside her are UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, Minister Counsellor of Finland Nina Nordström, UNICEF Secretary of the Executive Board Nicolas Pron and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.
“It is clear that the mega-drivers of change – the lingering food, fuel and financial crises, demographic shifts, with a youth bulge emerging at the same time that information and communication technologies are becoming universal – will impact on the programming environment as these country programmes get underway,” Mr. Alipui said. It is imperative that the UNICEF remains committed to its current goals while also accounting for these emerging global issues, he stressed.
The country programmes, which outline their key development priorities for 2013 to 2017, aim to do this, notably demonstrating a renewed focus on UNICEF’s equity agenda – the organization’s emphasis on ensuring that all children, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, receive the health care, protection and education required to thrive.
Altogether, 15 country programmes, as well as a multi-country programme for the Pacific Islands, were presented to the Executive Board. The Regional Directors who introduced the country programmes for their respective regions highlighted how the equity focus had been brought to bear in UNICEF’s programmes in the field. “It is now clear that our refocus on equity is a practical expression of the organization’s commitment to the universality of children’s rights,” said Mr. Alipui.