New York, 1 February 2000
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is 24 hours later than I would have liked, but I am very pleased to be here to welcome all of you to this, UNICEF's first Executive Board Meeting of the 21st Century.
I am sorry that I was unable to join you for yesterday's opening session -- and I thank Karin Sham Poo, our Deputy Executive Director for Internal Management, Administration and Finance, for standing in for me.
As you probably know, I have just come from the World Economic Forum at Davos, where UNICEF helped mark the formal launch of the Children's Challenge, the inaugural initiative of the newly formed Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, or GAVI.
UNICEF, together with the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, and our partners in government and civil society and the private sector, are tremendously excited about the potential of GAVI, which we believe marks a giant step forward in the struggle to ensure that effective vaccines against major preventable diseases are made available to all children.
Indeed, GAVI is just one element in UNICEF's collaborative effort to accelerate the ongoing movement for the worldwide realisation of child rights. The diversity of the Alliance itself is emblematic of the broadened leadership that we must encourage -- leadership that represents government and civil society at every level.
As I have outlined in previous Board meetings, UNICEF is moving to mobilise a campaign to achieve three specific outcomes for children, outcomes that we are convinced are prerequisites for achieving a just and peaceful world: namely, ensuring the complete well-being of infants and young children; guaranteeing that all children get a quality basic education; and giving adolescents every opportunity to become caring and contributing citizens.
In a $30 trillion economy, it is clear that achieving these outcomes within a generation is well within our means. But to do it, we must build a truly global alliance of people committed to working for children and for child rights -- as well as finalise and implement a new agenda for children in the 21st century -- and that will demand every ounce of our energies and resources.
So I am very pleased, as we embark on that journey -- and prepare for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2001 -- that the helm of our Executive Board will be under the able hand of Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, whose distinguished career is a testament to his dedication to UNICEF -- and to the cause of children everywhere.
At the same time, I want to recognise our other new Board Officers, whose impressive credentials speak for themselves: His Excellency Mr. Alberto Salamanca of Bolivia; His Excellency Mr. Mubarak Hussein Rahmtalla of the Republic of Sudan; Mrs. Lala Ibrahimova of the Republic of Azerbaijan; and Mr. Luc Schillings of the Netherlands. I know I speak for everyone in welcoming them.
And before I go any further, I want to formally present Kul Gautam of Nepal and Andre Roberfroid of Belgium, who will be joining Karin Sham Poo as Deputy Executive Directors. Both will take up their new roles in the coming months.
As Deputy Executive Director for Alliances and Resources, Kul will oversee UNICEF's role in global advocacy for children, inter-governmental and UN relations, and resource mobilisation and alliance building, as well as spearhead UNICEF's preparations for the 2001 Special Session of the General Assembly.
Andre, the new Deputy Executive Director for Programme and Strategic Planning, will manage the overall direction of UNICEF's global planning and programming initiatives in the coming years, including the new global agenda for children.
Both of them will bring a wealth of experience to their new posts -- and I look forward to having them at my side as UNICEF charts a new path for children in the 21st Century, building on the progress and lessons of past decades.
Distinguished Delegates, governments have a central role in charting that new path -- and indeed, they have already made major contributions to building stronger and more broadly representative leadership for children.
But much more needs to be done if we are to make child rights a reality in deed as well as in law.
True, there have been encouraging signs. The breakthrough agreement by governments to raise from 15 to 18 years the age at which participation in armed conflicts will be permitted -- and to establish a ban on compulsory recruitment below 18 years -- is long overdue.
And while UNICEF is disappointed that this Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is less than an absolute prohibition on the use of children in war, it is nonetheless a major step toward ending the horrific exploitation and abuse of children in armed conflict.
Moreover, the spotlight that the Security Council has so helpfully shown on the plight of Africa this month, from the HIV/AIDS pandemic to the effects of war and civil strife, has helped focus the world's attention on the very issues that UNICEF has long argued must be at the very heart of the international peace and security agenda.
Indeed, in East and West Timor last week, I saw fresh evidence of the horrendous toll that violence and civil disorder has taken -- and continues to take -- on women and children -- but also of the important work that UNICEF and its UN and non-governmental partners are carrying out in the long and painstaking process of helping children and their families rebuild their lives.
But whether in Asia or Africa or any of the regions where we face daunting developmental and humanitarian challenges to child survival and well-being -- challenges made worse by the proliferation of armed conflict and instability and the spread of HIV/AIDS -- UNICEF's priorities remain firmly anchored in health and nutrition; protection of children from abuse and exploitation; basic education as a cornerstone of stability and long-term development; and immediate access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
UNICEF's efforts to rebuild and reopen schools in Dili and Kosovo and elsewhere are only the latest reflection of the overarching importance of asserting the right to education, especially in countries that are struggling to recover from humanitarian emergencies.
In every country, UNICEF has made the right to quality basic education for all, especially for girls, a centrepiece of our work, in collaboration with UNESCO and other partners, including the members of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG).With quality basic education so central to UNICEF's global agenda for children, we have high hopes that April's global conference on Education for All in Dakar, Senegal, will attract high-level participation.
Distinguished Delegates, we have much work to do in this year leading up to the Special Session of the General Assembly. We must ensure that there is substantial progress on the child survival and development goals laid down at the Summit -- while at the same time completing a clear new vision for children that will guide UNICEF's work in the next 10 to 15 years.
In this connection, the document before you on our proposed Multi-Year Funding Framework is vitally important, for it describes an innovative approach to strengthen results-based management for enhanced programme excellence.
The proposals before you grew out of intense debate and review not only at Headquarters but also within the regional management teams. They also reflect extensive consultations with UNDP, UNFPA and a number of bilateral agencies, as well as some Board members -- and we hope you will give them the most serious consideration.
Mr. President, we have much hard work ahead -- and that work must include moving urgently to mobilise all necessary resources, not only in the countries where UNICEF is active, but through donors and the private sector, which is where the efforts of our dedicated National Committees are so vitally important.
In all of these undertakings, Distinguished Delegates, we need your support as never before.
But we can be confident in the fact that we know exactly where we are going. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the World Summit goals for child survival and development; the priorities -- and now the global agenda for children -- all of these are the essence of what UNICEF has always been about.
For 54 years, UNICEF's successes have grown out of our recognition of the need to focus on the well-being of the "whole child" -- an all-embracing strategy that has made it possible for this Organization to emerge as a moral force for children the world over, achieving triumphs that were unimaginable only a few decades ago. With your help, we will stay that course in this fresh and daunting new century.