UNICEF Executive Board takes a close look at work in Bhutan and Uganda and sets course for 2019
By Naomi Lindt
NEW YORK, United States of America, 17 September 2018 – On Friday, the UNICEF Executive Board ended its second regular session of 2018 after three days about discussions and deliberations of issues relating to the programmes, policies, finances and oversight of the organization.
United for children in Bhutan
A delegation made up of members of the Bureau of the Executive Board visited Bhutan from 17 to 22 April. Led by Executive Board President H.E. Mr. Tore Hattrem, the group visited several UNICEF projects and met with government officials, including the Prime Minister, H.E. Mr. Lyoncheon Tshering Tobgay; users of health facilities and health workers; teachers and students; community groups and civil society organizations; religious leaders and young monks; and UNICEF staff.
“We observed that the various levels of Government were united around the cause of children and improving their lives,” said Ambassador Hattrem, while presenting the report of the visit.
He further remarked that UNICEF’s engagement with partners, the private sector, civil society, communities and faith-based organizations demonstrated “the multiplier effect” UNICEF can produce by bringing different partners together.
Women’s and children’s health in Bhutan
In Bhutan, newborn deaths account for one in two under-five deaths. UNICEF is working to increase the number of rural women who schedule regular health check-ups, an important measure towards safer pregnancies and childbirth.
One in five Bhutanese children under 5 years old are stunted, and 44 per cent are anaemic. UNICEF and partners are committed to improving mother and child nutrition by ensuring that increasing numbers of newborns receive optimal care for their survival and growth.
UNICEF has helped to bring improvements to Bhutan’s water supply and child-friendly, gender-sensitive sanitation for more than 5,000 girls and boys, adding to a cumulative total of 12,600 schoolchildren since 2014.
Important progress has been made in strengthening the policy and legislative environment for child protection. UNICEF will continue its focus on programming across sectors, and to support partners to provide disaggregated data that reveal social disparities and help to pinpoint the vulnerable populations.
“Our view is that the UNICEF programme in Bhutan has…a meaningful impact on the well-being of the country’s children,” said Ambassador Hattrem, while also welcoming UNICEF’s strong emphasis on national ownership of the programme.
A student of the Bright Centre Early Childhood Development Centre in the Bidibidi refugee settlement in northern Uganda. The UNICEF-supported centre has more than 515 students.
Joint visit of the Boards to Uganda
From 30 April to 4 May, members of the UNICEF Executive Board joined delegates from the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS, UN-Women and WFP Boards on a joint field visit to Uganda.
The delegation examined the UN’s effectiveness on the ground and took a close look at partnerships, including with the Government, NGOs, civil society and the private sector. In Kampala, the delegation met with several high-level officials, and visited several UN-assisted projects, including a vocational training institute, a women’s economic empowerment programme and a youth centre.
The delegation found strong links between the work of the UN in Uganda, national development priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Refugees in Uganda
A key area of discussion between the Executive Board delegation and the President of Uganda, H.E. Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, was the refugee situation. Uganda currently offers sanctuary to the highest number of refugees in Africa and the third largest globally: 1 million from South Sudan and more than 430,000 from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries in the region. Over half of the refugee population is female and three in five refugees are children.
Presenting the report of the joint field visit, H.E. Mr. Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sudan said, “[t]he delegation welcomed the government’s open refugee policy and its demonstrated leadership in tackling this challenge. The government’s approach has included the principle of refugee integration into the society rather than its exclusion.”
The delegation observed the work of UN agencies in refugee settlements, where they provide infrastructure and immediate, logistical and broader development support, such as health care, education, entrepreneurship and agriculture. Communities were found to be engaged in programmes tackling gender issues.
“Challenges include balancing support for refugees and locals, scaling up interventions, improving communications and developing appropriate infrastructure,” said Ambassador Mohamed.
On 12 September 2018, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore and President of the UNICEF Executive Board H.E. Mr. Tore Hattrem participate in the special focus session on innovation.
Forging ahead around the world
The Board approved 15 new programme documents from six UNICEF regions, paving the way for continued work with these Governments in the coming years. The new programmes encompass low, lower-middle and upper-middle income countries.
While responding to individual economic, political and environmental situations, all of the country programmes prioritize UNICEF’s commitment to bettering the lives of children, and mitigating the ill effects of poverty. The programmes cover a number of issues that support national priorities and align with UNICEF’s expertise in the areas of child health and nutrition; child protection; education; water, sanitation and hygiene; and social policy.
Leveraging technology toward the fulfillment of children’s rights – a topic covered during the Executive Board’s special focus session held during the first afternoon of the Board meeting – is another global priority, whether in generating high-quality evidence to influence programming for children, or engaging directly with young people.
The Executive Board adopted a total of nine decisions during its meeting, including a joint item on cost recovery harmonizing the approaches of UNICEF and its sister agencies UNDP, UNFPA and UN-Women; and a decision on working methods, aimed at promoting inter-agency efficiency, coherence and collaboration, while keeping the autonomy and independence of each Board.
A decision adopted on the UNICEF Strategic Plan: updated financial estimates will help UNICEF to determine the level of expenditure from core resources, thus informing new country programmes that will come to the Board for approval. A decision was adopted on the Structured dialogue on financing the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018–2021, which aims to improve the quality and transparency of funding and to better match resources to the outcomes of the Strategic Plan. The Board also adopted decisions on the Private Fundraising and Partnerships financial report for the year ended 31 December 2017; on an evaluation of its response to the outbreak of cholera in Yemen as well as its management response; and on the 15 new programme documents.
In closing remarks, Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore thanked the President for his leadership, stewardship and advice over the year. She aptly summed up issues covered over the three days, stating “thematically this session has travelled far, from innovation to financing our work, to the inner workings of the Executive Board, to UNICEF’s action on the ground and to continued efforts to make a real commitment to zero tolerance for all forms of sexual exploitation, abuse, harassment and abuse of power.”
Closing the session, Ambassador Hattrem reviewed the achievements made during the session as well as the work done by the Board over the year. “I leave this session with increased admiration for UNICEF and for its dedicated staff,” he said. “As a Board, we guide, we critique, we encourage. But it is the staff of UNICEF who do the hard work. It is because of their dedication, determination, innovation and their optimism in the face of difficult situations, that millions of children all over the world can look forward to a brighter future. Their brighter future is ultimately a brighter future for all of us.”
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