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UNICEF Executive Board

UNICEF approach key to achieving results for children and building peace

© UNICEF Video
Opening remarks by UNICEF Executive Board President H.E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake at the Executive Board's first regular session of 2017.


By Anna Grojec

“We will never stand by when children’s rights are violated. Indeed, we will stand up — and speak up — for these rights. … We must remain politically impartial — but we will never be neutral about violations of children’s rights.”
— UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake

NEW YORK, 8 February 2017 – The UNICEF Executive Board opened its first regular session of 2017 yesterday. Executive Director Anthony Lake welcomed the new members and officers elected this year, including Board President H.E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson, the Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations. Ambassador Webson, who last year served as a Vice-President on the Board, is one of five officers on the Board’s Bureau, which in 2017 also includes delegates from Belarus, Burkina Faso, Norway and Saudi Arabia, each representing one of the regional groups.

In his opening statement, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake asserted that the organization must take a non-political approach to its work and advocacy, in order to deliver results for children and thereby contribute to building peace. In a world he described as increasingly divided, Mr. Lake insisted that UNICEF must “avoid letting our work fall victim to these same divisions.” Only by doing so could the organization fulfil its mission to serve every child.

Mr. Lake pointed to the deep roots of this approach, citing the insistence by the organization’s first Executive Director, Maurice Pate, that the organization serve children from “ex-enemy” countries after World War II. Mr. Lake said that UNICEF will continue to approach its work “from the only perspective that matters: ‘the best interests of the child’, as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

By acting in this way, Mr. Lake continued, UNICEF also serves the purpose of the United Nations of building peace: “There is no better way to build a peaceful future than by serving today’s children,” as they are tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers.

Investing in children includes investing in their willingness to shape a peaceful future. Children, Mr. Lake observed, “aren’t born to exclude or to hate other groups. Political, ethnic and religious divisions are unwelcome gifts that we bestow on them.” While prejudice is something that children learn first from the words and actions of adults, they are also the first to suffer from its consequences, he said.

Mr. Lake affirmed that the organization will continue to “stand up – and speak up” for children’s rights in a “fair and factual” way.

Characterizing UNICEF’s approach as a key requirement for delivering results for children, Mr. Lake moved into a discussion of UNICEF’s new Strategic Plan for the next four years, 2018–2021, stressing that it will focus on achieving results that will make the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development a reality. He noted UNICEF’s internal efforts towards results-based management and efficient use of resources, to enable its work “in increasingly high-risk – and therefore high-cost – regions of the world,” while noting that, externally, the organization will continue to work in collaboration with a range of partners.

Mr. Lake recalled his previous week’s visit to Bogota, Colombia, and congratulated the country on its peace agreement. Reflecting on the work ahead in “a new process building peace” there, he circled back to UNICEF’s mission: “Through our work, in everything we do, UNICEF is building peace,” he said, thanking the Executive Board for its contribution to “reaching every child, everywhere, across every kind of division.”

>> Watch: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake's opening statement

UNICEF Image: Young man with a big backpack pushes boy in wheelchair up a slope
© UNICEF/UN012728/Georgiev
A man helps a boy in a wheelchair to the train outside Vinojug Transit Centre near Gevgelija, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where refugees and migrants from Iraq and Syria register their intent to seek asylum and board a train to Tabanovce, at the border with Serbia, to continue their journey.

Board President calls for addressing needs of children with disabilities, including in crises

Ambassador Webson’s opening remarks focused on UNICEF’s commitment to equity in the context of a world in which nearly one in four children live in countries affected by conflict and disaster. Mentioning his own longstanding commitment to promoting the rights of people with disabilities, he reminded the Board that, “When we speak of disadvantaged children…children with disabilities are among the most disadvantaged.”

Remarking on UNICEF’s strengthened focus on equity under Mr. Lake’s leadership, and its work championing the rights of children with disabilities, Ambassador Webson pointed out that UNICEF’s commitment to inclusion extends to humanitarian contexts.

Noting that the increasing number and duration of emergencies means that “humanitarian and development interventions are inseparable, especially for children,” Ambassador Webson called upon UNICEF to commit itself to “addressing the needs of children with disabilities at all times, in all places, no matter how dire the situation.” Equity, he concluded, demands that they have “the same opportunities as other children to thrive, to learn and to become full, contributing members of society.”

Board adopts PFP budget and workplan for 2017 and two new country programmes

On Tuesday afternoon, the Executive Board considered the Private Fundraising and Partnerships (PFP) workplan and budget for 2017, as well as new country programme documents for Haiti and Botswana.

The PFP workplan and budget was presented by Mr. Gérard Boquenet, who explained that the budget covers the costs associated with the generation of private sector revenue and partnerships activities, including non-financial engagement with the private sector and advocacy for children’s rights.

In 2017, total private sector revenue is projected to reach US$1.49 billion. This is 2 per cent higher than the medium-growth scenario outlined in the UNICEF Strategic Plan 2014–2017 and 3 per cent higher than the target approved in the 2016 budget – in spite of the challenging fundraising environment and the negative impact of exchange rate fluctuations. Expenses for 2017 are projected to amount to US$181 million, representing an increase in US$11.2 million, or 7 per cent, compared with the 2016 budget. PFP strives to contain its operating costs and stay on track towards Plan goals through prudent budgeting, business rationalization and efficient operations, while continuing to grow revenue.

Next, Leila Pakkala, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, presented the programme for Botswana, an upper-middle-income country. While government investment in health, education and infrastructure has reduced extreme poverty, Ms. Pakkala noted that Botswana is one of the world’s most unequal countries, with 63 per cent of children living in multidimensional poverty. The country also contends with the effects of land degradation, pollution and climate change.

The country context, Ms. Pakkala noted, “presents many opportunities for scaling up effective interventions that support children’s rights.” UNICEF aims to support the Government of Botswana in reducing child poverty; preventing and treating HIV, especially among adolescents; and making programmes more efficient and effective. Actions to build resilience will be integrated into each part of the programme, said Ms. Pakkala, to address the impacts of climate change.

UNICEF Image: Three children sit on a hilltop overlooking a landscape with ruined houses and the ocean in the background, against a sunset sky
© UNICEF/UN038071/LeMoyne
Mylove Théogène, 8, sits with two other girls near her home in Jérémie, Haiti, which collapsed when Hurricane Matthew struck. Her family took shelter in a schoolhouse. "I thought I was going to die. I thought my family would all die," says Mylove, who dreams of getting back to school, something she's hasn't been able to do at all for over a year.

Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Director Marita Perceval presented the new country programme for Haiti, a low-income country with nearly 70 per cent of children under 5 living in poverty. Despite improvements in the situation of children in recent years, Ms. Perceval noted that progress has been slow and uneven. Under-5 mortality and malnutrition rates are high, and a significant percentage of households lack access to improved water sources and sanitation facilities.

The island nation’s vulnerability to natural hazards and the negative impacts of climate change compound these challenges. Ms. Perceval spoke of her visit to areas hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew, which struck in October 2016 and affected 900,000 children and adolescents. Such emergency situations, she argued, demonstrate the need to strengthen disaster risk management mechanisms as part of the humanitarian response.

Ms. Perceval outlined five priority areas in which the new country programme aims to support children and families: strengthening the health system; supporting the response to malnutrition; strengthening government capacities in water, sanitation and hygiene interventions; supporting free education and quality learning for all children; and strengthening the prevention and reduction of violence against children.

The Board session is expected to continue through Wednesday, with the presentation of additional items on the UNICEF financial and audit reports, evaluation and follow-up to the recommendations and decisions of the UNAIDS Joint Coordinating Board meetings.



UNICEF Photography: UNICEF’s Executive Board

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