UNICEF is committed to doing all it can to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in partnership with governments, civil society, business, academia and the United Nations family – and especially children and young people.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks at the second regular session of the 2016 UNICEF Executive Board at UNHQ. Seated next to him (left-right) are the President of the Executive Board (and Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations) H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson and Secretary of the UNICEF Executive Board Nicolas Pron.
By Leah Selim
NEW YORK, United States of America, 19 September 2016 – The 2016 second regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board came to a close last Friday, 16 September. Over the course of the two-and-a-half-day session, the topics discussed ranged from financial reports to updates on humanitarian action and new country and multicountry programmes.
A common thread throughout all of the presentations was the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In remarks made during the session, Executive Director Mr. Anthony Lake repeatedly called for a focus on results, which will be measured against the Sustainable Development Goals.
Coordination in action: Joint field visit to the Kyrgyz Republic
From 2–7 May of this year, a delegation of 21 members of the Executive Boards of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/the United Nations Population Fund/the United Nations Office for Project Services, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the World Food Programme visited Kyrgyzstan for a joint field visit. The visit, which was coordinated by UNDP, had a special focus on inter-agency collaboration and coordination in helping the country to implement its national development goals within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Members of the delegation had the opportunity to meet the high-level Government officials, including the Prime Minister. They also met with the United Nations country team (UNCT), members of the donor community, several civil society organizations, as well as representatives from the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Aga Khan Foundation and the World Bank.
A girl holds up text books that were printed for schools in southern Kyrgyzstan with the support of UNICEF. From 2-7 May of this year, UNICEF participated in a joint field visit to Kyrgyzstan to see the United Nations' work in action.
Since 2010, Kyrgyzstan has been a ‘Delivering as One' country, meaning all United Nations agencies in the country work closely to consolidate their common services and operations in the pursuit of one set of goals. H.E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and Vice-President of the UNICEF Executive Board, noted that the delegation was “exceedingly pleased” by how well the UNCT functioned as a team, with a clear strategic vision, high level of coordination, respect, and willingness to do more together. In fact, the delegation recommended further studying the Kyrgyz case to identify success factors, incentives and bottlenecks in implementing the ‘Delivering as One’ approach, so that other UNCTs might achieve the same levels of partnership and collaboration.
Two days of field visits to remote areas in the north and south of the country covered a total of 30 project sites. Many of these were small- to medium-scale pilots, including the 'School without Violence' project, the school meals project and youth centres. The delegation recommended that the United Nations agencies develop clear plans to support the Government in scaling-up these projects across the country.
The delegation noted the success of the activities implemented with the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, which in the report of the field visit was noted to demonstrate “a convincing case of the integrated work of peacebuilding and development in a joint programme of several United Nations agencies.” The delegation recommended documenting the approach, lessons learned and good practices. Many of the delegation’s interlocutors expressed their appreciation for the support provided by the United Nations, led by UNDP, to the parliamentary elections in October 2015. Although this work is sensitive, the delegation recommended continuing electoral support as it represents a contribution to longer-term peace, stability and sustainable development.
Further recommendations from the delegation included supporting the Government of Kyrgyzstan in its wish to work more with neighbouring states in the region; encouraging United Nations agencies to broaden their donor bases by considering fundraising with international private sector and philanthropic organizations; and supporting the Government in training and knowledge-sharing for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in an inclusive manner.
Equity, scalability and sustainability in WASH programming
On the second day of the session, the Executive Board heard a report on a synthesis of multiple evaluations of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming and UNICEF’s management response. The review focused specifically on rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and WASH in Schools – all of which have been high priority areas in the WASH sector for the past decade and will remain so during the Sustainable Development Goal period.
By distilling lessons from more than 70 WASH evaluations and sustainability check exercises completed from 2007 to 2015, the report gave valuable insight into the successes of UNICEF’s WASH programming, as well as gaps in understanding and practice that must now be addressed. The resulting recommendations aim to address three cross-cutting concerns in the sector: equitable access, especially for the most excluded populations; going to scale to attain the maximum necessary coverage; and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the positive changes achieved.
Children at a primary school in Aurangabad, India, show their hands after washing during lunch break. During this second regular session, the Executive Board heard a report on multiple evaluations of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming.
The main findings show that sanitation is the sub-sector that best
reaches these cross-cutting objectives of equity, scalability and
sustainability. The evaluation also found that WASH interventions are
achieving some, but not all of the desired social goals outside of the
sector. When analysing how the sector expects to realize the goals of
equity, scalability and sustainability, the evaluation showed that
UNICEF programmes need stronger, more consistent conceptual
“Perhaps the most important [conclusion] is the need for
closer attention to aspects of design, to anticipate commonly occurring
problems,” said Mr. Colin Kirk, Director of the Office of Evaluation. He
cited the need for more knowledge-sharing, especially the “tacit
knowledge that has been gained over time through learning by doing.”
The management response to the review notes that the most recent UNICEF country programming at the regional and headquarters levels has already addressed several aspects of the recommendations made by the evaluation. Mr. Ted Chaiban, Director of Programmes who presented the management response, stated that there are three main areas for action going forward: strengthening the evidence base; better understanding theories of change and developing guidance to direct programming; and improving design and results frameworks of WASH programmes.
Mr. Chaiban said, “[the evaluation] comes at a very timely moment… [it] will help serve as a springboard for action to mobilize efforts to maximize the opportunity provided by the 2030 Agenda, and the opportunity for UNICEF to help make a difference for children.”
Closing of the 2016 second regular session of the Executive Board
In closing, H.E. Mr. Hiroshi Miniami, Vice-President of the Executive Board and Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, who delivered remarks on behalf of the President, highlighted the many achievements of the year, including the adoption of draft decisions on the midterm review of the Strategic Plan for 2014-2017 and the midterm review of the Integrated Budget, both informing the development of a new Strategic Plan for 2018-2021.
During this year’s second regular session, the Executive Board had the first opportunity to review the road map to the new Strategic Plan, which outlines how UNICEF will operate over the four-year period from 2018–2021. An updated road map and draft of the Strategic Plan will be presented to the Board in early 2017, and the new plan will be presented to the Board for adoption at the second regular session in September 2017.
By the final day of the session, the Board had successfully adopted five draft decisions. One decision approved 23 new country programmes and two multicountry programmes from six of the seven regions in which UNICEF operates – an unprecedentedly large number of country programme documents approved in one session.
A girl swings during a break between classes at her school in the rural city of Las Brujas in Uruguay – a high-income country where UNICEF has maintained a programming presence.
In its decision on the "UNICEF Strategic Plan: updated financial estimates, 2016-2019", the Board requested that UNICEF continue to strengthen the structured dialogue on financing with Member States throughout the year. The structured dialogue aims at increasing and securing core funding and soft earmarked funding for UNICEF. The decision also reflected the Board's analysis of the Report on the independent assessment of the implementation of cost recovery (joint paper of UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN-Women), and requested that UNICEF, in collaboration with other funds and programmes, present all requested information on cost recovery so that it would be considered during informal consultations on the new Strategic Plan and Integrated Budget at the annual session of 2017.
The Board also adopted a draft decision related to the review of UNICEF experience in high-income countries and in countries transitioning from upper-middle-income to high-income status. While reiterating the importance of focusing the majority of support on the least developed countries and sub-Saharan African, the decision recognizes that UNICEF's engagement in high-income countries can contribute to increased and diversified funding for the entire organization.
The adoption of the draft decision is a further endorsement by the Board of UNICEF's universal approach to child rights: the organization recognizes – and acts upon – the harsh reality that there are children in need and at risk in every country of the world – no matter their level of income or stage of development.
The decision invites UNICEF to continue to use the most appropriate engagement approach in each high-income country depending on its context, for example, working with other UN agencies, with UNICEF National Committees, through UNICEF country or multicountry offices and programmes, through the Global and Regional Programme, or through other modalities, as approved by the Board.
Other decisions endorsed the extensions of ongoing country programmes; and the Board’s programme of work for 2017.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Lake reiterated his call for an unrelenting focus on achieving results. He also praised the Executive Board for its ongoing discussions on how to continually improve UNICEF’s work. Mr. Lake welcomed, in particular, the approval of the draft decision related to UNICEF’s forthcoming work in high-income countries, and the approval of the many country programme documents, stressing that these actions will improve UNICEF’s work where it matters most: on the ground, in countries and “always on behalf of country priorities, for the sake of the children”.