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UNICEF Executive Board

Executive Board session opens with Executive Director’s call for a focus on results

© UNICEF Video
Watch: President of the Executive Board, H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Estonia and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake deliver opening remarks at the 2016 second regular session of the Executive Board.


by Anna Grojec

NEW YORK, United States of America, 16 September 2016 – The UNICEF Executive Board opened its second regular session of 2016 on Wednesday.

In his opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, presiding over his final session as President of the Executive Board for 2016, touched upon a number of key issues, including UNICEF’s development of its new Strategic Plan for 2018–2021 and the need to more aggressively respond to such challenges as climate change, the refugee and migrant crisis, and complex humanitarian emergencies. He commended UNICEF for its efforts on behalf of displaced children, but emphasized that much more needs to be done, exhorting Governments “to say ‘enough’ to the ongoing suffering of millions and to back up the statement with action.”

Expanding on President Jürgenson’s call for action, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in his opening statement pressed for an “unrelenting” focus on achieving results. “Practical actions,” Mr. Lake maintained, are what bring to life the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Charter. Their absence reduces UNICEF’s mandate to promote children’s rights to “mere rhetoric,” which can lead to “not only a loss of faith in the institutions founded as an expression of human rights, but in the rights themselves.”

Mr. Lake connected this loss of faith to what he termed “an uneasy truth”: a gap, which in many places is widening, “between rights proclaimed and what people around the world actually see in their daily lives.” Citing widespread conflict, environmental degradation, inequalities and rights violations that have compelled millions of people to flee their homes, he characterized today’s world as “more chaotic and brutal than at any time since the Second World War.”

© UNICEF/UN032220/Nesbitt
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks at the second regular session of the 2016 UNICEF Executive Board at UNHQ. Seated next to him is the President of the 2016 UNICEF Executive Board (and Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations) Ambassador Sven Jürgenson.

In this context, Mr. Lake argued, the only way to demonstrate that a better world is possible is “not through words, but through results.” To that end, he described “a virtuous cycle” whereby improved efficiency and coherence lead to better results, creating incentives for donors to contribute more resources that can then be invested in additional programmes to achieve “more results for more people.”

Mr. Lake pointed to the upcoming QCPR – the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system – as an important step forward in improving coordination among agencies. He outlined a number of practical proposals made by UNICEF to the broader United Nations family, including the adoption of an online, real-time information system across agencies; more disaggregated data to reveal vulnerabilities affecting the most marginalized children; and more flexible funding and greater coherence across development and humanitarian efforts.

Alongside the importance of strengthening cooperation among agencies, Mr. Lake also asserted the need to preserve each agency’s comparative advantages, avoiding “redundant conformity” or additional layers of bureaucracy. Mentioning some current and continuing internal operational efficiencies within UNICEF, he reported that the new Strategic Plan will be built around achieving the results called for by the Sustainable Development Goals.

The consensus around the Goals, said Mr. Lake, “provides the best opportunity in decades to build practical hope by changing people’s lives for the better.” Achieving lasting results for people in every society, he concluded, is the best way to restore people’s faith in global institutions and the values that have shaped them.

Achieving results for children across diverse country contexts

On Thursday morning, the Board successfully adopted a decision covering the 23 new country programme documents and 2 multi-country documents that were presented for their approval. These cover a total of 37 countries and territories at different income classification levels and represent six of the seven regions in which UNICEF has programmes of cooperation with national Governments.

© UNICEF Mongolia/2016/Altangerel
A girl walks to school in Ulaanbaatar amidst what appears to be fog, but is actually air pollution. The Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Karin Hulshof, noted that addressing the impacts of air pollution on child survival and development is a new area of focus in Mongolia's country programme.

Several documents for the session reflect UNICEF’s general call for an increase in regular resources, an issue also raised by President Jürgenson on Wednesday. The proportion of this type of funding declined to only 23 per cent of total revenue in 2015, but is expected to show an increase as of the end of this year, due to a focus on growing revenue from pledge donors and expanded legacy funding. Regular resources – funds contributed without restrictions on their use – enable UNICEF “to respond adequately to evolving needs in a flexible and effective manner,” as President Jürgenson stated. These funds are also key to strengthening UNICEF’s efforts to provide equitable outcomes for all children, and to bridging the divide between separate financing streams for humanitarian action and development work.

Such coordination, as discussed by both President Jürgenson and Mr. Lake in their opening statements, is needed to secure children’s rights in the face of increasingly complex, often protracted crises. Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Director Ms. Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala echoed the importance of mainstreaming emergency preparedness and response “to promote resilience and alignment between humanitarian and development approaches,” citing the impact of El Niño on children’s nutrition security in Mozambique, and the impact of environmental degradation on rural and pastoralist children.

The Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Karin Hulshof, also underscored the need to address disaster risk and climate change. She presented new country programme documents for five countries, including Mongolia, which has experienced rapid urbanization and environmental degradation. Showing a photograph of a girl walking to school in Ulaanbataar amidst what appears to be fog – but is actually air pollution caused by the burning of coal for heating and cooking – Ms. Hulshof noted that addressing the impacts of air pollution on child survival and development is a new area of focus in the country programme.
To build resilience and advance equity, many country programmes emphasized the need to strengthen systems, infrastructure and institutions to deliver high-quality services that reach excluded and vulnerable children. The Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Ms. Marie-Pierre Poirier, cited the need to “drive further systemic changes to achieve results for children.”

© UNICEF/UN028424/Esiebo
Children waiting for assistance at Banki displacement camp, Borno state, north-east Nigeria. West and Central Africa Regional Director Mr. Manuel Fontaine highlighted the great vulnerability of the region’s children as a result of unfolding humanitarian crises.

A continued focus on equity

Equity was a constant across all country programmes. While many of the country programme documents presented spotlighted considerable progress across key indicators of children’s well-being in recent years, they also pointed to persistent disparities that have left behind children from poor households, those living in rural areas or particular regions, and those with disabilities or belonging to ethnic groups facing discrimination. Ms. Poirier indicated that as the overall situation improves, further progress becomes harder to achieve, because “it will require reaching children living at the margins of society.”

Ms. Marita Perceval, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, remarked on the high level of inequality in the region and drew attention to multidimensional child poverty and the situation of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. She presented four new country programmes and two multi-country programmes, covering issues including the Zika epidemic, climate change and urbanization. Ms. Perceval also spoke about the need to address homicide, to which the region’s children and adolescents fall victim at rates that are three times higher than the global average.

West and Central Africa Regional Director Mr. Manuel Fontaine highlighted the great vulnerability of the region’s children as a result of unfolding humanitarian crises spurred by violent extremism and exacerbated by natural disasters, climate change and disease outbreaks. Yet, he also noted the warm welcome accorded to displaced people by host communities, which are often themselves poor.

Mr. Geert Cappelaere presented country programme documents for four countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, including Lebanon, which hosts one of the world’s largest populations of refugees in relation to its national population – about one in five people.

In a country where “social exclusion is the norm for too many,” said Mr. Cappelaere, this affects all communities. He also remarked on a need to focus on the most disadvantaged children in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco and Oman – but stressed that all of these countries have made significant progress in improving children’s well-being. “The underlying narrative,” he concluded, “is that in the midst of a region in crisis we have several oases of hope for the future.”



UNICEF Photography: UNICEF’s Executive Board

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