Partnerships crucial to get back on track & achieve results for every child
First regular session of 2023
NEW YORK, United States of America, 13 February 2023 ─ The UNICEF Executive Board concluded its 2023 first regular session last Thursday after two and a half days of discussions and deliberations on topics that highlighted the diversity of UNICEF partnerships to accelerate the achievement of results for children.
The session was opened by Ambassador Marie-Louise Koch Wegter, Deputy Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations and President of the UNICEF Executive Board in 2023. Ambassador Wegter highlighted the importance of partnerships and collaboration in everything UNICEF does. “We all play our small part in something big, namely changing the lives of children around the world. And the better we work together and the more conscious we are of spending our time and resources wisely, the more children we will help,” she said.
In her introductory remarks, Executive Director Catherine Russell touched on the diverse partnerships that allow UNICEF to advance its universal mandate for children. From its coordination with humanitarian partners, under the leadership of the Government and local authorities, to provide earthquake relief in Türkiye and Syrian Arab Republic, to its key role in the ACT-A/COVAX initiative, UNICEF engages with a multitude of partners to accelerate achieving results for children.
“UNICEF is planning to achieve lasting systemic change for the world’s children in 2023,” said Executive Director Russell, “but we cannot do it alone”. UNICEF and implementing partners need the right support to deliver programmes, and “timely, predictable and flexible funding” enables the organization to respond quicky, anticipate future risks, and provide countries with support contributing to their long term resilience and development.
Fostering partnerships to achieve results for every child
On Tuesday, the Board considered the Private Fundraising and Partnerships (PFP) workplan and proposed budget for 2023. Despite challenges in 2022, UNICEF was able to continue to nurture engagement with its private sector partners. The latest estimates indicate that net revenue in 2022 will be approximately $2.5 billion – 54 per cent higher than the target.
Working together with National Committees and country offices, the PFP workplan aims to engage 22.8 million individuals in 2023, raising a total of $1.87 billion from individual donors, philanthropists, membership- and faith-based organizations, foundations and businesses.
Looking ahead, addressing the climate crisis, strengthening health systems and using digital education to close the learning deficit were selected as the PFP focus areas for fundraising and partnership proposals.
The Board also received the latest update on the World Bank instrument that allows UNICEF to access additional financing for investment in private sector fundraising, for which early results indicate that the fund exceeded performance expectations in 2021 and 2022.
On Tuesday, the Chair of the Standing Group of National Committees updated the Board on the work carried out by the 33 National Committees for UNICEF. She reported that they jointly provide one-third of UNICEF global funding and make specific efforts to raise unrestricted funds. She cautioned however, that unrestricted income is under pressure, and that to address the current and future needs of children the entire ecosystem needed to be made “future proof”.
She called upon the Executive Board to play its part, saying that it “has a key role to play in increasing unrestricted funds for children.” “Together we have the responsibility to find new ways to reverse the trend of decreasing core funding”, she said.
The critical importance of partnerships with the international financial institutions (IFIs), such as the World Bank, the IMF and regional development banks in leveraging financing and influence for children is noted in the Strategic Plan, 2022–2025. On Thursday morning, the Board heard an update on UNICEF work with IFIs across every region, in more than 60 countries, and its development of a global strategic action plan that outlines the collective action needed to further strengthen these partnerships.
Fulfilling children’s right to safe and clean water
On Wednesday, the Board approved 15 new programme documents from five of the seven UNICEF programme regions. A panel representing the diversity of UNICEF partners, with speakers from Government, the United Nations, youth and academia, discussed the theme “urgent action to realize the human right to water and sanitation in the climate crisis.”
The UNICEF Director a.i., WASH and Climate, Environment, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction, reported that “UNICEF works in 130 countries on WASH with over 700 technical WASH staff.” The organization provides “direct support to families and communities with WASH services, while also working with governments and partners to strengthen systems,” he said.
The Director a.i. emphasized the need to prioritize water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) both to increase resilience in the ongoing climate crisis and to tackle child health, malnutrition and poverty.
Progress towards universal sanitation is alarmingly off track. With 2 billion people lacking safely managed drinking water, 3.6 billion lacking safely managed sanitation, and 2.3 billion lacking basic hand-washing facilities with soap and water – WASH needs remain enormous. These gaps hit the most vulnerable children the hardest and, without concrete action, climate change will further erode current gains.
During the session, speakers highlighted the urgent need to accelerate action to ensure that every child has access to clean water, particularly the most marginalized. These discussions were timely, given the upcoming UN 2023 Water Conference in March, which will provide an important opportunity to prioritize WASH budgets and services to close the gap to the unreached, particularly children and adolescents.
Working together against COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS
An update on work of the COVID-19 Global Delivery Partnership highlighted uneven vaccination coverage and unmet global targets in 2022. At the same time, it acknowledged that many countries made significant progress with COVID-19 vaccination – especially low- and middle-income countries, where in 2022 coverage went from 28 per cent in January to 52 per cent in November.
The Partnership was set up as a temporary entity to support countries by providing urgent, time-bound and specialized support. For this reason, it will gradually reduce its activity to account for the current shifting landscape, while taking stock of a key learning: investing in primary health-care infrastructure and community health is critical for future pandemic preparedness.
The report on UNICEF follow-up to the decisions and recommendations of recent UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board meetings was presented by UNICEF Director of HIV/AIDS. Tremendous progress has been made in the HIV response globally since the HIV virus was discovered 40 years ago. Despite this, the world has fallen short of the shared goals it had hoped to achieve by now.
One of the most glaring disparities of the AIDS response is failing to provide life-saving treatment to children and adolescents living with HIV. While 76 per cent of adults living with HIV had access to treatment in 2021, only 52 per cent of children did. To address this, in 2022 UNICEF and partners launched the Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children. The Alliance aims to ensure that no child living with HIV is denied treatment, and to prevent new infant HIV infections.
By the end of the session, the Board had adopted five decisions: on 15 new programme documents; the extension of five ongoing country programmes; an evaluability assessment and formative evaluation of the UNICEF positioning to achieve the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2022–2025, and management response; UNICEF financial report and audited financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2021 and report of the Board of Auditors, and management response; and Private Fundraising and Partnerships: 2023 workplan and proposed budget.
In her closing remarks to the Board, Executive Director Russell said, “we heard many examples of how much we can achieve for children through successful partnerships”, mentioning collaborations such as the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partnership, joint work with WFP to reduce the global burden of child wasting, engagement with the international financial institutions, and partnership with the National Committees for UNICEF.
She emphasized that “moving forward, we would need to strengthen and expand our partnerships to reach the most vulnerable children and to help them successfully navigate a world of crisis.”
In her concluding remarks to the Board, Ambassador Wegter said “I know that I can count on your continued support and steadfast commitment in pursuit of our common goal – which remains to improve the lives and well-being of children.”
The Executive Board will meet for its annual session of 2023 from 13 to 16 June.