Building back better: Executive Board focuses on inclusive recovery with new Strategic Plan

Second regular session of 2021

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13 September 2021
2021.09.07-Day 1-AM-32

NEW YORK, United States of America, 13 September 2021 ─ The second regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board came to a close last Friday. The highlight of the meetings was the Board’s endorsement of the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2022–2025, a framework for the organization’s work over the course of the next four years, paving the way to achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In opening the session on Tuesday morning, H.E. Mr. Rytis Paulauskas, Executive Board President and Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations, stressed that while the past year had been challenging, it had “also brought opportunities for innovation [and] new approaches to working”, including in the area of remote learning for children and adolescents.

“Today we are confronted with a true child rights emergency in which COVID-19 and other crises are combining to deprive children of their health and well-being”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore.

Yet, the organization’s response to the pandemic has shown that it is “resilient and prepared to shift priorities at a moment’s notice, and to do so at a global scale,” she said. “Despite the impact of the pandemic on the global economy, UNICEF is reaching an historic number of children and families.”

UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2022–2025

The new Strategic Plan, 2022–2025 comes at a time when the human rights of all children are under threat to a degree that has not been seen in more than a generation. Regaining lost ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals will require strategic, concerted action. The Plan provides a framework for such action, building back better to achieve the rights of every child.

“The Plan reflects our unreserved commitment to promoting the rights of all children, everywhere, as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi, in introducing the agenda item on Tuesday afternoon. The new Strategic Plan, 2022–2025 comes at a time when the human rights of all children are under threat to a degree that has not been seen in more than a generation. Regaining lost ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals will require strategic, concerted action. The Plan provides a framework for such action, building back better to achieve the rights of every child.

The Plan is a bold and ambitious framework towards systemic change for children – especially the most excluded, including in humanitarian crises and fragile situations.

With measurable, long-term results, it is the first of two coherent plans towards ‘Agenda 2030’, by which time UNICEF envisions a future where every child has access to nutritious diets; safe water, sanitation and hygiene services and supplies; quality primary health care and nurturing practices; digital learning; mental health and psychosocial support and justice; and inclusive social protection to live free from poverty.

In short, a future where no child is left behind.

UNICEF

Strategic approach

In this new Strategic Plan, more than 200,000 children and young people from around the world were listened to, thanks to an unprecedented process of wide-ranging consultations. Their concerns and expectations were reflected in the Plan.

Several delegations expressed their appreciation for the consultative process used to develop the Plan, as well as their support for its overall direction.

Anchored in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other key human rights instruments, the Plan builds on the midterm review of the Strategic Plan, 2018–2021 and the evaluation of the current Strategic Plan, incorporating key findings from the formative evaluation of UNICEF’s work to link humanitarian and development programming, the evaluation of the UNICEF Gender Action Plans and other evaluations and reviews.

Additionally, UNICEF has carefully integrated across all areas of the Plan the mandates arising from the 2020 QCPR (quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system).

Collaboration with other United Nations entities, governments, private sector, civil society and other partners continues to be a cornerstone of UNICEF’s work, including in the new Plan. UNICEF is shifting focus from what the organization can do alone to mobilizing partners – with the aim to bring about the systemic changes needed to address the underlying causes of children’s vulnerabilities.

Cross-cutting themes

Several cross-cutting programmes will help UNICEF to achieve the plan’s ambitions. They include disability inclusion, climate action and environmental sustainability, peacebuilding, resilience, and gender equality – and have all been incorporated into the Plan’s indicators.

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UNICEF/UN0482228/Satu
The winners of the UNICEF and Bangladesh Football Federation Women’s Football Championship celebrate in June 2021. The partnership aims to empower girls through sports and end child marriage.

Gender equality is at the heart of everything UNICEF does. During the session, the Board also reviewed UNICEF’s new Gender Action Plan, 2022–2025, which prioritizes all caregivers to model a vision of gender equality that children can take inspiration from as they grow into adults. Besides setting bold targets in each of the Goal Areas of the Strategic Plan, the new Gender Action Plan consistently prioritizes the leadership, rights and well-being of adolescent girls, who continue to be left behind.

Crucial to achieving the goals set out in the new Strategic Plan is funding – especially flexible funding. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how critical flexible resources are to mounting an efficient, swift and agile response to sudden-onset emergencies, as well as to support communities to build their long-term resilience.

To translate strategy into action, the Strategic Plan is accompanied by an integrated budget. To effectively support the results of the Plan, Member States are urged to fulfill their United Nations funding compact commitments to increase regular resources to 30 per cent of their total contributions; to double their current share of thematic contributions in their total other resources contributions; and to increase multi-year funding.

In presenting the Plan to the Board, Ms. Vidhya Ganesh, UNICEF’s Director of Data, Analytics, Planning and Monitoring, said that “cognizant of the multifold acceleration needed and the lessons we are learning from COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF will focus on measurable systemic changes at country level that are critical to addressing the underlying causes of children’s mortality, poverty, vulnerability, gender inequality and exclusion in all settings, and particularly in  humanitarian crises and fragile settings. We hope this approach will be a game changer in our work and that of our partners.”

New country programmes

On Wednesday, the Board considered 12 new country programme documents and approved them on a no-objection basis. An engaging session included panel discussions with the participation of government ministers and other representatives, a youth advocate, a non-governmental organization, United Nations resident coordinators and UNICEF senior management and experts. The discussions focused on two aspects of maternal and child nutrition that cut across varying country contexts: undernutrition and the poor quality of children’s diets and micronutrient deficiencies; and overweight and obesity in children.

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UNICEF/UN0515019/Volpe
Luis Fernando Funes Carrillo, one year and 5 months old, has his arm measured at home in Guatemala as part of his recovery from acute malnutrition.

The focus on nutrition in the 12 country programmes aligns with Goal Area 1 of the new Strategic Plan, which includes access to a nutritious diet for every child as one of the means through which UNICEF will help to ensure that children and adolescents survive and thrive.

The UNICEF Nutrition Strategy, 2020-2030, launched in 2020, acknowledges the changing face of child malnutrition and focuses UNICEF’s work on addressing these issues. “With 10 years remaining in the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is time for renewed action on ending child malnutrition in all its forms, everywhere”, said Mr. Sanjay Wijesekera, Director of the UNICEF Programme Group.

Following the panel discussions, delegates from the CPD-presenting countries – including nine Permanent Representatives and two Deputy Permanent Representatives to the United Nations – took the floor, many expressing their commitment to the rights and well-being of children and their appreciation for the work of UNICEF.

Executive Board session closes with an eye to the next four years

Looking ahead to 2025 and beyond, the agenda is ambitious. But so is UNICEF.

By the end of the session, the Board had adopted seven key decisions,

These decisions – on the four-year Strategic Plan and Integrated Budget; new and ongoing country programmes; financing the results of the Strategic Plan; the private fundraising and partnerships financial report; and an evaluation of humanitarian and development programming integration as well as the 13 other decisions adopted earlier this year – will contribute to the achievement of those ambitions.

In her final remarks, Executive Director Fore said, “this is a Plan built to help children tackle the complex challenges of the world today – climate change, conflict, poverty, barriers to learning and skills training, and an ongoing pandemic – while planting the seeds of development for tomorrow.”

She expressed her appreciation to the Executive Board for its adoption of the Strategic Plan, stating: “Your endorsement of the Plan and its budget is a critical first step in guiding our work for children and families over the next four years.”

Ambassador Paulauskas closed the session by congratulating the Board members on their efforts which, he said, “helped to pave the way to the consensual endorsement of the inclusive and ambitious” Strategic Plan. “I have full confidence that the membership will continue to work hand-in-hand with UNICEF, in its usual open and constructive manner, for full implementation of the Plan,” he added.

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The Executive Board will next convene during its first regular session of 2022, from 8 to 11 February 2022.