1st Regular Session of UNICEF'S Executive Board
New York, 22 January 2001
Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Board, Colleagues, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am delighted to welcome all of you to this, our First Regular Session of 2001 - a year of immense significance for the United Nations Children's Fund - and most of all, for the children we serve.
For just as this year marks the true beginning of the new Millennium, I have every expectation that it will also be remembered as the dawn of a new era in human development - a turning point that began when the whole world said "yes" to all rights for all children.
Mr. President, before I go any further, I want to welcome our new Bureau members.
I also want to express my sincere appreciation to our outgoing Board President, Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, whose seasoned leadership and wise counsel have helped guide UNICEF as we work to shape a new global agenda for children in the 21st Century. I know I speak for everyone in applauding his contributions.
At the same time, I want to congratulate his successor, Ambassador Movses Abelian of Armenia, into whose able hands the gavel has now been passed. UNICEF is fortunate to have people of such calibre leading our Board - especially as we embark on the final hectic months of preparation for the General Assembly's Special Session on Children.
Distinguished Delegates, last week brought fresh reminders of the urgency of our mission, of the vulnerability of the many millions of children and women we are pledged to serve - and of the risks faced by UNICEF staff members and our UN and NGO colleagues, especially in the humanitarian emergencies that have become so much a focus of our work.
In El Salvador's devastating earthquake and mudslide, the world has once again witnessed UNICEF at its best, moving quickly to help ease the suffering of children and their families. There, young people themselves are helping, working in damage-assessment teams as UNICEF staffers and our partners fight disease, reunite separated children - and help to get schools up and running again as centres not only for learning, but for healing and rebuilding.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere in Africa, new violence and instability has thrown children and families into new peril - and raised fresh concerns about the day-to-day safety of UNICEF staffers, who continue to work valiantly to reach the most-affected children.
Mr. President, all of us recognise that humanitarian work is becoming ever more dangerous, and that some losses are inexplicable.
Yet the growing number of deliberate attacks on UN staff have made it clear that decisive action by the international community is needed - not only to see to it that host countries ensure the security of humanitarian workers, but to provide additional resources to ensure better training, better communications, and better equipment.
I intend to speak to the important issue of staff security in more detail on Friday, when we will meet jointly with the Executive Boards of UNDP, UNFPA and WFP.
Finally, Mr. President, there was one more piece of staff news: last week's wrenching report of the helicopter accident that killed our UNICEF colleague and friend Matthew Girvin and three other UN staffers during a humanitarian relief mission in northern Mongolia. Five others, Mongolian and Japanese nationals, also died.
Matthew was a talented and loving member of the UNICEF family, as courageous as he was dedicated to the hard work of giving every child a better future.
His tragic death - a month before his 37th birthday - is a terrible loss for UNICEF and those we serve.
Yet I know that Matthew and his colleagues would have wanted us to forge onward. And so I can think of no better way to honour their memory than for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the cause for which they gave their lives.
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Distinguished Delegates, we have much work ahead of us, not only this week, but in the eight months that remain before the Special Session.
In that connection, you will be hearing an update on preparations, including a preview of next week's session of the PrepComm, whose agenda will include discussion of steps to hasten the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols; girls' education; approaches to fighting HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases; and the overriding importance of cross-sectoral coordination among agencies and departments on issues concerning children.
Distinguished Delegates, we have also prepared for your consideration a series of Country Notes describing programmes of cooperation to be implemented beginning in 2002 - and our Regional Directors will be providing brief overviews on the programme strategies and priorities involved in each, as well as overviews of their regions.
On another matter, you will find before you the Annual Report of the Executive Director to the Economic and Social Council, about which we invite your comments.
The Report, which reflects the Board's request for more analysis of key issues and discussions of lessons learned, looks at the progress we have seen in coordinating UNICEF's field-level activities with other parts of the UN System.
This includes a review of ongoing efforts to promote the UN Girls' Education Initiative, in which the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) is playing an increasingly central coordinating role; and of the continuing utility of such instruments as the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).
Indeed, the same spirit of collaboration that is flourishing under UN reform is also animating UNICEF's involvement, as chair of the committee of co-sponsoring organisations of UNAIDS, in preparations for the General Assembly's Special Session on HIV/AIDS in June - an event that is itself aimed at securing a global commitment to better coordination in combating the pandemic at global, national and local levels.
Mr. President, I want to draw particular attention to Item 5 of our Agenda, the Pledging Event, at which we will be asking governments in a position to do so to announce voluntary contributions to UNICEF regular resources, as well as payment schedules and projections for future contributions.
I cannot stress enough the importance of this undertaking.
For the hard work ahead of us must include moving urgently to create a vast mosaic of alliances for children, not only in the countries where UNICEF is active, but through the active help of donor countries and the private sector.
To this end, our development partners and our dedicated National Committees are reaching far beyond traditional sectors and arms of government to include, as equal partners, groups that have a genuine concern for human progress, including private sector entities, community-based organisations, people's movements and other diverse elements of civil society.
It is an effort that has already created partnerships like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), a coalition of businesses, philanthropic foundations, development banks and national governments, all of them dedicated to ensuring that all the world's children are immunised, using every effective vaccine available.
Mr. President, it is thanks to such collaboration that the world has witnessed triumphs for children and their families on a scale never before seen - triumphs like the global drive that has all but eradicated polio - a drive that is being dramatised, as we speak, in Nigeria, where the Government has mobilised tens of thousands of health professionals and volunteers to immunise every single child under 5 over three days - a total of 40 million children.
Nigeria's National Immunisation Day (NID) follows a synchronised immunisation drive late last year in 17 African countries that saw more than 70 million children immunised against polio.
The Nigeria immunisation drive got under way Saturday with the high-profile help of Mia Farrow, UNICEF's newest Special Representative, and her 13-year-old son Seamus - and involves partners like Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.
Distinguished Delegates, the task before us now is to help replicate that same kind of partnership, but on a truly universal scale - a partnership that will set the world on a path to end, at long last, the poverty, ill health, violence and discrimination that has blighted and destroyed so many young lives.
To do that, we must begin at the beginning: to make sure that every child gets the best possible start in life, in a family environment that offers the love, the care and the nurturing that children need to grow, to learn - and to develop to the fullest.
That is why UNICEF is calling on governments to reduce the burden of external debt so that impoverished countries can invest in children instead of debt service; and why we are urging them to redirect resources within their national budgets for early childhood development programmes.
It is why we are pressing the international community to work harder to end armed conflict - and to ensure that resources are invested in children, not armaments.
It is why we are asking leaders at all levels to redouble their efforts to end discrimination against women.
It is why we are asking governments, civil society organisations and the private sector, including corporations and the media industry, to help wage an all-out battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
And it is why UNICEF and many NGO partners are asking governments and citizens of every nation, including families, communities, and civil society organisations, to join in a universal partnership - a Global Movement for Children - to give every child that better future that governments promised more than a decade ago.
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates: The world has the knowledge, the resources and the legal imperatives to guarantee that all the world's children are able to grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.
Some have called this a dream. Many still do.
But with your leadership and support, we can make it come true, for every child.