|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman, sits with the new President of the Executive Board, Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunas, at the beginning of the First Regular Session of the Executive Board in 2006.|
By Rachel Bonham Carter
NEW YORK, USA, 16 January 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman is warning that the rate of progress towards increasing child survival rates around the world to date has been unacceptable. At this year’s first regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board in New York, she told delegates that a study of 60 countries by the British medical journal ‘The Lancet’ revealed that the majority were not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing under-5 mortality rates by two thirds by the year 2015.
“Only seven countries are on target,” she said. “Thirty-nine have made either insufficient progress or no progress at all and 14 countries have actually sustained increases in their under-5 mortality rates.”
Ms. Veneman also spoke of the challenges facing countries which are trying to improve child survival. “First, integration of service delivery, which also includes integrated plans, budgets and mechanisms at country level,” she said. “Next is a renewed commitment to partnerships. But above all else, there must be a focus on measurable and equitable results.”
It was this list of priorities, she continued, which had prompted the Chief Editor of ‘The Lancet’ to describe UNICEF as “a crucial protagonist for child survival.”
“We often talk about goals, targets and indicators; about surveys, strategies and plans,” she said. “But when we talk about results, we are really talking about children.”
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman, presents the outgoing President of the Executive Board, Ambassador Danesh-Yazdi, with a ceremonial gavel as his successor, Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunkas, looks on.|
New President and Vice Presidents
The Executive Board meeting was opened by the outgoing President of the Board, Ambassador Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi of Iran, who thanked his colleagues for their “invaluable support” during his tenure. He praised Ms. Veneman and her predecessor, Carol Bellamy, for their strong leadership and introduced the Executive Board’s new President for 2006.
The President of the Board is elected from a different group of countries each year. This year the Central and Eastern Group of States nominated His Excellency Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the United Nations.
Ambassador Dapkiunas said he felt “humbled and inspired” upon taking on the role, and then began his first task: overseeing the election of the Vice Presidents of the Executive Board.
The following were elected to serve as Vice Presidents: Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti from the African Group of States; Ambassador Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury of Bangladesh from the Asian Group of States; Ambassador Ernesto Araníbar Quiroga of Bolivia from the Latin American and Caribbean Group of States; and Mr. Dirk-Jan Nieuwenhuis of the Netherlands from the Western European and others Group of States.
Annual Report of the Executive Director
As an introduction to the week ahead, the Board was shown a video presentation of UNICEF’s work around the world in 2005. The presentation summarized the wide variety of work UNICEF is doing in saving lives and promoting the rights of children everywhere.
Two key items were discussed as the first Regular Session got underway: the Annual Report of the Executive Director to the Economic and Social Council, which was introduced by Ado Vaher, Director of UNICEF’s Office of United Nations Affairs and External Relations; and the Biennial Support Budget for 2006-2007.
Topics addressed by the Annual Report include UNICEF’s response to UN reform; capacity building; partnerships; working with the World Bank; follow-up to the Special Session for Children; gender mainstreaming; common premises; common services; resident coordinator services; and monitoring and evaluation.
“The member states have agreed with what we’re doing and are supporting it,” said Mr. Vaher. “Now this Report, with the blessings of our Executive Board, will go on to the Economic and Social Council in July, then on to the General Assembly in the fall. This will be our contribution to the Millennium Development Goals and making the world a better place for children.”
Jane O’Brien contributed to this story.
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