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Conseil d'administration

UNICEF Executive Board hears ‘no compromise’ in fight to end violence against children

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© UNICEF video
The independent expert on the UN Study on Violence Against Children, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, tells the UNICEF Executive Board about the report to be presented to the General Assembly in October. Beside him is UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah.

By Rachel Bonham Carter

NEW YORK, USA, 8 June 2006 – The UNICEF Executive Board has heard a renewed call to end violence against children. The independent expert appointed by the United Nations to lead a global study on the subject, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, updated delegates on collaboration between the UN, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and UNICEF.

“There can be no compromise in challenging violence against children,” said Mr. Pinheiro. “The Secretary General’s report will call on states to act now, and with real urgency, to fulfill their obligations. It will recommend that every state develop an explicit foundation and framework of law and policy in which all forms of violence against children, in all settings, are prohibited.”

The UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children  will be finalized in the coming months and presented to the General Assembly in October.

Middle East and North Africa programmes

In other business today, the fourth day of the Executive Board’s Annual Session, board delegates approved Country Programme Documents or funding recommendations for 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia and Yemen. They were presented to the board by UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Tom McDermott.

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© UNICEF video
The delegate from the Syrian Arab Republic thanked the outgoing UNICEF Regional Director Tom McDermott for his work in the post.

“The main issues for the Middle East, of course, have to involve war and conflict – Iraq, Palestine and Sudan being the three big crises at the moment,” said Mr. McDermott. “And of course, education is a major story for the region. We have issues of health, having just gone through an epidemic of polio. We certainly have an enormous challenge ahead on issues of youth, HIV and social protection, including issues like child trafficking.”

Mr. McDermott is retiring from UNICEF next month after more than 30 years with the organization and more than 5 in his current regional post.

‘Education is the bedrock’

“It’s a region I love,” he said. “I have so many happy memories of children, of people who work with children and people committed to improving the lives of children. It’s been an experience of rapid change. We’ve seen very, very high enrolment rates of girls and big participation of women in government.

“We’ve seen many changes happen, so there is always hope for the changes that still need to come.”

The delegate from the Syrian Arab Republic, who joined other representatives from the region in giving Mr. McDermott best wishes, turned to a Chinese proverb to describe UNICEF’s work in his country: “If you want to plan for one year, plant rice; if you want to plan for 10 years, plant trees; if you want to plan for 100 years, educate your children.”

Mr. McDermott noted that the trees in the proverb could symbolize the Millennium Development Goals and agreed that “education of children is the bedrock of a secure future.” He went on to congratulate Syria on its regional leadership in moving toward lifting reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Maurice Pate award selection

Also at today’s meeting, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam presented the Executive Board with a review of the selection process for the Maurice Pate Leadership for Children Award.

The award, named for UNICEF’s first Executive Director, was originally designated to honour institutions in developing countries that provide exemplary services for children. It was established from proceeds of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to UNICEF in 1965.

Mr. Gautam explained that in the intervening years, the process has been revised several times, becoming complex.

“We believe that the new proposal retains the original intent and purpose of the award,” he said. “It maintains the dignity of the award and the robustness of the selections process, but provides for greater flexibility.”