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Ann M. Veneman biography

© UNICEF/2010/Markisz
Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director, 2005-2010.

Ann M. Veneman became UNICEF's fifth Executive Director on 1 May 2005. Appointed by the United Nations Secretary General, the Executive Director works on behalf of the United Nations children's agency to help children around the world survive and thrive by advocating for and protecting their rights. UNICEF's mission is accomplished by over 11,000 staff on the ground in more than 150 countries, advancing programs that support child health and nutrition, quality basic education, the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and access to clean water and sanitation, among other priorities.

At UNICEF, Veneman oversaw annual programme resources of around $4 billion, funded entirely from voluntary contributions. She stressed a culture of continuous improvement to help achieve lasting results for children. Under her management, UNICEF launched initiatives to improve business practices, transparency and collaboration to ensure that the agency's programmes reached those most vulnerable and that its resources were utilized efficiently to protect, save and improve the lives of children around the world. These strategies included establishing a results-based approach to programme management and scaling up the use of integrated packages of interventions to the health and development of children.

As Executive Director, Veneman travelled to more than 60 countries to review the plight of children and UNICEF's work to assist them. She gained first-hand knowledge of how children's lives were being saved and improved as a result of programmes and assistance provided by UNICEF and its partners. Veneman witnessed the devastation caused by natural disasters, conflict, disease and exploitation. These experiences redoubled her sense of hope, passion and urgency in advocating for children when administering programmes, meeting with government leaders, international agencies and strategic partners, or speaking at conferences such as the World Economic Forum and Clinton Global Initiative. Veneman co-chaired Mothers Day Every Day, a campaign launched by CARE and the White Ribbon Alliance supporting access to basic health care and maternal services for women around the world.

Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), overseeing 110,000 employees and an annual budget of $113 billion. Among her responsibilities at this diverse agency was the management of the nation's food and nutrition programmes, including services for food stamps, school lunch programmes and nutrition assistance for women, infants and children. In 2003 she hosted the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology, bringing together leaders from 120 nations to explore new approaches to global hunger and the better use of science and technology to reduce hunger and poverty in developing countries. Veneman held various other positions at USDA, including Deputy Secretary, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs and Commodity Programs, and Associate Administer of the Foreign Agricultural Service. She also served as Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

A lawyer by training, Veneman has practiced law in Washington, DC and California. Earlier in her career, she served as a deputy public defender. Veneman earned her bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Davis; a master's degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley; and a juris doctorate degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law. She has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from several universities and colleges.

In a personal capacity, Veneman serves on the Board of the Close Up Foundation, a non-partisan civic youth education organization. She has previously served on a number of advisory councils and committees, particularly those involving children and higher education. Veneman has received numerous awards and distinctions throughout her career, including the Outstanding Woman in International Trade Award; Food Research and Action Center Award; Dutch American Heritage Award; Junior Statesman Foundation Statesman of the Year Award; California Council for International Trade Golden State Award; Goldman School of Public Policy Alumnus of the Year Award; History Channel Save Our History Leadership Award; Main Street Partnership John Chafee Award for Distinguished Public Service; American PVO Partners Award for Service to People in Need; Richard E. Lyng Award for Public Service; Sesame Workshop Leadership Award for Children; and Rotary Club Honorary Membership.

Veneman's leadership and vision at UNICEF were recognized both nationally and internationally. In 2009, she was named to the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list, ranking #46.



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