From action to acceleration: UNICEF Executive Board pledges to take forward the agenda for children
NEW YORK, United States of America, 12 February 2020 ─ The UNICEF Executive Board opened its first regular session yesterday, welcoming its new President for 2020, H.E. Ms. Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Bangladesh.
In her opening remarks, Ambassador Fatima emphasized the importance of the UNICEF mandate. “Its mission is to protect the rights of children. Central to that is the nurturing they need to develop into happy, healthy and productive adults.” This includes proper care in the early years to give children the best start in life, a cross-cutting theme of four new country programmes that were presented to the Board for approval this morning.
Ambassador Fatima underlined the importance of the Board keeping certain issues front and centre during the coming year, including mental health, children with special needs and disabilities, climate change, and the continuing gender gap in education.
“Twenty-five years ago in Beijing we made a promise to the girl child to empower her, and we must keep that promise,” she stated, referring to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore expressed her satisfaction on hearing of the President’s planned focus on girls’ empowerment and education. “This has been at the core of our work for 70 years and remains at the heart of our programming and Strategic Plan”, she said. When I meet girls and young women in refugee camps, in urban slums, in rural areas – they tell me of their dreams to become scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs, innovators, presidents and prime ministers, and their dreams and rights demand our unwavering support.”
>> Watch: UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore's opening remarks at the 2020 Executive Board
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Juliet, 16, participates in UNICEF's innovative tablet-based learning activities in Burundi. "[The] games on the tablets have taught us that there are no differences between boys and girls..."
2020: A year to take stock and take action
The year 2020 marks the midpoint of implementation of the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018-2021, and five years since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a timely moment to evaluate and course correct to accelerate progress in several priority areas – from the humanitarian-development continuum and the Generation Unlimited partnership, to real-time data collection, strengthened partnerships and climate change. The midterm review of the UNICEF Strategic Plan in June will enable the organization to consider lessons learned, take into account new developments and make course changes.
The Secretary-General has called for the coming decade to be a decade of action towards the Goals,” said Executive Director Fore. She emphasized that “it must also be a decade of acceleration.”
Ambassador Fatima stated, “as UNICEF gears up to accelerate progress over the next decade, the Board will focus on how best it can help in that effort.”
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner co-host The Big Think Challenge aimed at identifying innovative solutions that will generate greater efficiencies in the agencies’ combined programmes and operations (February 2020).
Innovation within UNICEF and across the United Nations
A key factor identified for acceleration is innovation. “As an organization with profound significance” and operations in more than 190 countries and territories, “UNICEF must always be open to innovation and adaptive to change, building upon the good progress made so far,” remarked Ambassador Fatima.
She said that UN reform has provided a mandate to improve the Board’s working methods, while the Board itself will continue to support innovative processes. She welcomed the progress that had been made on this issue during the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board session during the previous week.
Executive Director Fore reaffirmed that UNICEF would continue to make progress on its own working methods, including by becoming nimbler, faster and simpler, while also ensuring that the Board has the information and briefings it needs.
She also emphasized how UN reform is critical to achieve results for children, particularly how UNICEF works with other agencies to support countries. “Working as a more efficient and effective 'one UN' development system is, in many ways, the most important accelerator of all,” she added.
Delegations remarked that enhancing the working methods of UN funds and programmes should maximize efficiencies; ensure quality oversight; and strengthen cross-Board coordination. The central role of Member States in driving the reform process was also underlined by speakers.
Ms. Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for the West and Central Africa Region, shared her experience with the implementation of UN reform in the region, where a new Resident Coordinator (RC) system is being put in place to build a stronger UN country team (UNCT).
"A number of country offices have highlighted the positive ways in which the RC is raising the profile of the UN,” she remarked, “by taking on an advocacy role on behalf of the UNCT and mobilizing resources for the country team, for example with the SDG Fund."
Delegations welcomed the effort to build on the UN reform momentum and strengthen cooperation with other UN agencies, with many highlighting the midterm review as a key moment to prioritize areas that need acceleration.
UNICEF was encouraged by a number of delegates to keep up the momentum generated by 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2019, and to bring a sharper focus to address the rights and needs of the girl child.
The need to accelerate progress to achieve the rights of every child is urgent. “We must accelerate progress in making all children’s rights real. Boys and girls. No matter where they live,” said Executive Director Fore in her prepared remarks.
“We must commit to bold and immediate action,” said Ambassador Fatima, “because their future cannot wait.”
The Executive Board session will continue through 13 February. A total of seven draft decisions are being considered by the Board for its adoption.