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UNICEF Executive Board

Annual Session of UNICEF Executive Board closes with focus on field visits and equity


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© UNICEF/UN068044/Nesbitt
From left to right: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Board President and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda H.E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson, and Secretary of the UNICEF Executive Board Nicolas Pron at the 2017 Annual Session of the UNICEF Executive Board on 13 June 2017, at United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ) in New York.

 

NEW YORK, United States of America, 19 June 2017 – The Annual Session of the UNICEF Executive Board ended late last week, bringing to a conclusion three days of presentations and discussions on major programme, policy and oversight issues.

The session ran from 13 to 15 June. The final day included the presentation of reports on two field visits respectively made by the Bureau of the Executive Board and the members of the Executive Board earlier this year in order to see UNICEF’s equity approach in action.

Bureau visit to Lesotho and South Africa

© UNICEF Video
Field visit to Lesotho by UNICEF Executive Board, March 2017

 

Members of the Bureau of the UNICEF Executive Board visited South Africa and Lesotho from 3 to 10 March 2017.

In Lesotho, the Bureau visited a UNICEF-supported project under the Child Grant Programme – an unconditional cash transfer programme that reaches the most vulnerable (the poor, elderly, people living with HIV and people with disabilities), with a focus on children. The beneficiary households are trained to construct self-sustaining keyhole vegetable gardens and receive financial education on responsible borrowing.

Visits to two schools were on the delegation’s itinerary. The first was in the Maluti Mountains, where most boys spend their days herding livestock. The school holds classes at night, where boys learn numeracy, literacy, English, health and life skills. The second was a 355-student primary school in Bakaneng, where a UNICEF-supported project has installed latrines separated by gender, trained teachers and implemented water purification measures and hygiene practices for students. The intervention has ended open defecation, dramatically improved hygiene practices among students and increased school attendance among girls.

Despite progress in social protection services over the past decade in Lesotho, there are still significant disparities. An estimated 57.1 per cent of the population of 1.88 million lives under the poverty line. Schools and education face several challenges, including unqualified teachers and low enrolment rates, despite the existence of free and compulsory primary education. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools is another area of concern, with 30 per cent of schools in need of support. UNICEF is working with partners to improve equity and support in the areas of maternal and child health, WASH, education, HIV/AIDS and child protection.

In South Africa the delegation travelled to Ndwedwe village to visit a Safe Park – a secure space where children can go after school and on weekends to do their homework, play, and participate in sports and learning activities under the supervision of a child and youth care worker. UNICEF has been a key implementing partner of more than 400 Safe Parks in South Africa, as part of the larger ‘Isbindi initiative’ for a community-based care and protection intervention for children. The Bureau was encouraged by this programme and hopes that the Government will continue to endorse the care and protection model.

South Africa has made strides in adopting progressive laws and policies in the field of child rights, but still has one of the highest rates of inequality in the world. The UNICEF programme focuses on bridging the equity gaps in the areas of nutrition, WASH and education, where children from poor families are significantly disadvantaged compared to children from wealthy families.

In both countries, the Bureau was pleased with the meaningful impact made by UNICEF-supported programmes, the excellent cooperation between UNICEF and government institutions and within United Nations country teams, and the clear focus of UNICEF on the most vulnerable population groups and the most disadvantaged geographical areas. The Bureau welcomed UNICEF’s emphasis on national ownership, and observed that both national Governments were open to new ideas and willing to commit resources to programmes that could enrich children’s lives. However, the Bureau noted that in both countries, more work needs to be done to address persistent sexual violence against children as well as child marriage.

Executive Board visit to Lebanon and Egypt

© UNICEF Video
Field visit to Egypt & Lebanon by UNICEF Executive Board, March 2017

 

A delegation of Executive Board members visited Lebanon and Egypt from 21 to 30 March 2017.

In Lebanon, the delegation visited several schools to see UNICEF programmes in action, including the Min Ila project, a cash transfer project that aims to help children to stay in school. A positive aspect of the programme is that if beneficiaries do drop out of school, they do not get removed from the project; instead, they receive a household visit and referral to services to help the child return to school.

One of the key challenges facing Lebanon today is the high influx of refugees: it is estimated that the country is host to as many as 1.5 million refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic, along with thousands of Palestinian refugees and Lebanese returnees. Many children are unable to access formal schooling for a variety of reasons, including the obligation to work, or a lack of school readiness. The crisis has meant that greater numbers of poor and marginalized Lebanese and Palestinian refugee children than ever before are at increased risk of exclusion and exploitation.

UNICEF focuses on a holistic systems approach in child protection, which addresses the full spectrum of risk factors and underlying vulnerabilities in the lives of children and their families. For the most vulnerable children in Lebanon, including Syrian refugees, this means working both with lawmakers to improve child protection legislation, as well as key actors at the community level to offer vocational training, counselling, community-based mobile services, and child-friendly and women-safe spaces.

In Egypt, UNICEF is involved in a multi-year partnership with the Ministry of Health and Population that includes an Integrated Perinatal and Child Health and Nutrition programme focused on the most deprived districts. In Manfalout district, the delegation saw some positive impacts of the programme during a visit to a family health unit. UNICEF is helping to improve the quality of services and strengthening the unit’s performance capacity through staff training and use of a data system that allows for monitoring, bottleneck analysis and decision-making geared towards equity-focused approaches.

At the Mohamed Farid Primary School in the El-Sahel area of Cairo, the delegation witnessed how UNICEF is improving equity in and the quality of education. Teachers and school staff are trained on identifying disabilities, child-centred learning, inclusive classroom management, and examinations specifications for children with disabilities. UNICEF has also provided resource rooms that include a wide range of educational materials to support student learning.

The proportion of people living below the national poverty line was higher in 2015 than in 1990. Child protection issues are at the top of the UNICEF agenda as violence against children remains very high, including in households and schools. UNICEF also supports programmes focusing on maternal and child health, child nutrition, education, adolescents and youth.

Throughout the field visit, the delegation appreciated UNICEF’s clear focus on the most vulnerable population groups and the most disadvantaged geographical areas, including refugees, children with disabilities, and children living in rural areas. The choice of two middle-income countries provided important insights about their challenges, which included high levels of income inequality, an overstretched public service and a youth bulge and youth unemployment.

Closing of the 2017 Annual Session of the Executive Board

The Board adopted six draft decisions over the course of the session: the draft UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018-2021; the Annual Report for 2016 of the Executive Director; Internal Audit and Investigations; Evaluation reports and management perspective and response; a new country programme for Cameroon (2018-2020); and the one-year extensions of ongoing country programmes for Lesotho, Liberia and Nicaragua.

Executive Director Anthony Lake commended the Board for its tireless work over the course of the session and the year, stating, “I recall that all of this is to serve our single purpose: which is to reach as efficiently and in as timely a manner as possible all the children with the results they need for their protection and their rights.”

In his closing remarks, H. E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson, President of the UNICEF Executive Board and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations stated that the Board looked forward to continuing close engagement with UNICEF as the Strategic Plan was finalized. In earlier comments, he noted that “in the spirit of ‘one UN’ and in response to the mandate of the new QCPR, the UNICEF Strategic Plan has been harmonized with the strategic plans of UNICEF’s sister organizations: UNDP, UNFPA, UNOPS, UN-Women and WFP.”

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The second regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board will take place from 12 to 15 September 2017. Several important documents will be up for review and approval during the session, including the final Strategic Plan for 2018-2021 and Integrated Budget supporting implementation of work for that period, and the Gender Action Plan, 2018-2021.


 

 

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