Executive Board: Accelerating action for adolescent development & resilience, with a focus on girls
Second regular session of 2022
NEW YORK, United States of America, 12 September 2022 ─ The UNICEF Executive Board’s second regular session of 2022 wrapped up last Thursday. The Board welcomed H.E. Ms. Maritza Chan Valverde, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations, who on 15 August took over the duties of H.E. Mr. Rodrigo A. Carazo in the role of President of the UNICEF Executive Board.
A highlight of the session was the adoption of 22 new country programme documents. Cutting across all the programme documents were the common threads of resilience and adolescent development, with a special focus on girls.
Opening the Board’s final formal session of the year, Ambassador Chan highlighted the criticality of regular resources to achieve UNICEF’s strategic objectives and, more broadly, the Sustainable Development Goals.
“As President of the UNICEF Board, but also as a representative of a country programme who has seen first-hand the results achieved through the key partnership between UNICEF and our Government throughout the years, I cannot sufficiently stress the need to support the UNICEF mandate by strengthening contributions of core, unearmarked resources. These funds will help UNICEF to innovate and to find creative solutions; to respond rapidly when disasters strike; to deliver at scale; and to build resilience among communities,” she remarked.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine M. Russell put the spotlight on ongoing crises –including in Pakistan, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, Ukraine, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Madagascar, and Yemen – as well on the tremendous secondary impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children: disrupted routine immunizations and learning.
“Data published recently by WHO and UNICEF show that in 2021 alone, 25 million children did not receive the basic vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis – a marker for immunization coverage in general,” she said. “This is the largest sustained drop in the rates of routine childhood vaccinations in a generation….The cost of inaction will be measured in children’s lives.”
Resilience and adolescent development
On Wednesday, the Board was presented with 22 new country programme documents for Bulgaria, Croatia, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, the Republic of Moldova, Yemen and Zambia.
Centred around two themes “resilience” and “adolescent development”" – with a focus on girls, two panel discussions on the country programme documents were preceded by an overview by Ms. Genevieve Boutin, Deputy Director of the UNICEF Programme Group. She highlighted specific ways in which UNICEF programmes promote adolescent development and build resilience. This includes a pressing need to support the empowerment and agency of adolescents, particularly girls, and to work together with adolescents to ensure they successfully transition to adulthood. On resilience, Ms. Boutin outlined UNICEF support for climate action, inclusive shock-responsive social protection, social cohesion and disaster risk reduction to build the resilience of children and their communities.
Among the panellists were representatives from Government, academia, the United Nations system and the private sector, as well as youth leaders.
On resilience, speakers highlighted how risks and vulnerabilities are increasingly complex and interlinked. With emergencies recurring, the world cannot afford to wait for a time without crises to build resilience. Emphasis was placed on child- and gender-sensitive risk-informed programming, integrating climate change into national curricula and supporting families to withstand shocks, including with child-sensitive social policies.
To build resilience, UNICEF is calling on Governments to take action in three areas: prioritizing investments in equitable basic social services, which are the foundation of sustainable development; supporting children, adolescents and women as agents of change so that every child can grow up with health, safety and opportunity; and enhancing data to prepare and respond to crises.
On adolescent development, speakers emphasized the need to invest in adolescent-led solutions, address social injustice, fight discrimination and violence and, importantly, support and empower adolescents and particularly girls to improve their own lives and the communities in which they live. Technology, migration, climate change, conflict and public health emergencies are but a few factors reshaping society today, forcing adolescents across the globe to adapt to dramatic changes in their lives, education and work.
Yet, adolescents continue to show incredible resilience and leadership. UNICEF volunteer for the Ukraine response, Ms. Julia Siudek, said “We take part in many movements to address social injustices, racial inequalities, gender issues and ending violence. We speak out on the climate catastrophe, we organize local clean-up actions and we share information on our social media, because we are worried, worried about our future and the future of our planet earth,” she said, adding that young people like herself “have the power and desire to change the world.”
Investing in adolescent development is a proven strategy to address intergenerational cycles of poverty. This is why UNICEF is urging Governments to support adolescents as change agents, with particular emphasis on supporting girls who have tremendous potential to become leaders for change.
Accountability, oversight, COVID-19 and funding trends
During the session, the Board considered a report on the UNICEF updated accountability system. Ongoing efforts to improve the structures underpinning responsibility and accountability were also reviewed – all to better serve the needs of children and families. The report highlighted the primacy of country programmes of cooperation in achieving results for children, while emphasizing UNICEF’s commitment to a value-based, diverse and inclusive organizational culture, with a focus on individual empowerment and accountability.
Responding the Board’s request, UNICEF shared an update on oversight matters – specifically an overview of the functions of the UNICEF Office of Internal Audit and Investigations and an assessment of the independence of that office. In the management response, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Hannan Sulieman, affirmed UNICEF’s dedication to continue supporting the independence of the internal oversight systems, and shared key elements of the organization’s approach to internal controls and risk management.
The Board also received an update on the work of the COVID-19 Global Delivery Partnership. Despite a rise in COVID-19 vaccine coverage, including in the 34 countries with the lowest coverage rates, inequities persist. In his presentation, the Global Lead Coordinator for COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery, Mr. Ted Chaiban, cited stretched health systems and vaccine delivery in humanitarian settings as the two major challenges to vaccine delivery. He briefly outlined the approaches being used by the Partnership to increase vaccination coverage and to close the equity gaps, including unlocking policy bottlenecks, focusing on high-priority groups, providing delivery funding and technical assistance, and ensuring sustained outreach to humanitarian partners.
A presentation on the structured dialogue on funding the results of the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018–2021 provided an update on both UNICEF and Member States’ commitments towards the United Nations funding compact; presented examples of how core resources were leveraged to achieve sustainable results for children; and issued a call for joint action to reverse the trend of declining core resources as a percentage of total income.
On the final morning of the session, the Executive Board adopted five decisions: on the 22 new country programme documents and the extensions of 18 ongoing country programmes; oversight matters; the structured dialogue on financing the results of the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018–2021; and updated financial estimates for the Strategic Plan over the period 2022–2025. Executive Director Russell thanked the Board for its adoption of the decisions, remarking that it had been an extremely productive few days.
She thanked the Member States who had expressed their understanding of the critical role of core resources in helping UNICEF to support children, especially those who are most vulnerable. She also called on them “to help change the alarming trajectory of decreasing regular resources as a percentage of total resources” and urged for increased contributions of those critical flexible funds.
Echoing these remarks as she brought the session to a close, Ambassador Chan pointed to the discussions during the session that had “reaffirmed the importance of predictable regular resources…as well as the importance of having flexible thematic funding.”
She spoke of the collaborative process that had led to the consensual adoption of the decisions and commended “the constructive engagement of delegations to reach understandings and agreement in support of the mandate that UNICEF holds.”
The Executive Board’s first regular session of 2023 is scheduled for 7 to 10 February.