Images and Hopes at the time of my departure from the Dominican Republic
(Tad Palac´s Farewell Speech Extract)After having served in several posts in Paraguay, Mozambique, India, Bangladesh and our headquarters in New York, my arrival in the Dominican Republic in 2004 represented a high point in my career, but also the transition towards a new stage in my life. These four years - especially the last - have flown past, since we decided to retire after 31 years of work.
For us itinerant international officials, every country represents a different stage in our lives: more than just a different country, or a different post, more than the country represents in economic, social or cultural terms – we will always associate it with a new phase in our personal and family lives.
The memories of these years will be a series of vignettes, images, events, faces, processes, moments of great joy, satisfaction, of being with friends and colleagues, of having achieved something important, of having suggested an idea that got accepted, but also some moments of frustration, of lack of satisfaction with my own efforts for what still remains to be done.
I was delighted to learn that 96% of births in this country take place within hospital premises, but I was even more surprised to find out that the maternal mortality rate was so high despite such a positive factor. It was the same feeling as discovering that the infant mortality rate is not being reduced at the pace that it could be.
I also remember the joy and hope that I saw in the faces of small children and their mothers when they have access to integrated child development services.
I was impressed and inspired by young people and adolescents’ commitment to practicing democracy and social commitment through taking part in the Municipal Youth Councils, while defending and exercising their right to participation.
It also gave me hope that this would probably become reality in the next few years and that my colleagues and friends may confirm this when I speak to them.
I hope that the complex problem of the issue of who has a right to a birth certificate, which has caused so much anguish over the last year, will be resolved soon because every child – and adult – has the right to be recognised as a person, with a name, a surname and a nationality.
I hope that the idea that every child has the right to a good start in life goes on to become reality as a result of the promised universal childcare services, as this can also tackle other problems that start at an early age.
I hope that the existing laws will be fulfilled and respected. Nothing new needs to be invented here, just to ensure that the ones that are already in place are fulfilled, whether it be the breastfeeding promotion law or law 136-03, which has been a focal point of our work over the last few years.
I remember the women and children affected by the trauma of Noel and Olga Tropical Storms who received some small amounts of food and hygiene items that helped them through several precarious weeks of recovery, but with a little bit of dignity.
And I will never forget the faces and voices of the two young women who spoke to the first ladies from Central America and the Dominican Republic about the discrimination suffered by children and adolescents infected with HIV, as well as about the dreams they have of being able to lead a ‘normal’ life one day.
Many images come to mind when looking back over these four years that I have spent among colleagues, friends, people who are committed to the cause of children and their rights, but also some who still don’t accept that a girl or a boy have the right to be protected and that we should only help them because we feel sorry for them.
UNICEF is a political organisation. It fights for political change to benefit children. I’ve never accepted the idea that we are a welfare or charitable institution, which is how some people see us. We strive for the development of each individual as well as of the country.
It is not possible to mention all the officials from the government, municipalities, NGOs, Civil Society, cooperation agencies and other sectors and state entities I’ve worked with.
I thank the entire government, headed by Mr. President Fernández Reyna, all the government ministries, mayors, lawmakers, international cooperation agencies, my colleagues in the United Nations System, my friends in the diplomatic and consular corps and my colleagues in the media.
I would like to thank my team of colleagues who work in UNICEF. It has been a privilege and an honour to have the opportunity to support, teach a little, encourage and sometimes push. I hope I’ve done it well enough, because what I did was because I wanted – no more and no less – to bring out the best our organisation could offer in support of Dominican children.
Thank you very much.