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Closing Statement of Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF at the Executive Board Annual Session

NEW YORK, 9 June 2006 – Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.  I would like to begin by commending once again the excellent skill that the President has demonstrated in running this meeting over this past week.  We appreciate your ability to manoeuvre through some difficult issues while always keeping your wonderful sense of humour.

And my sincere thanks to all the Delegates for your good discussions and work.  There has been frank dialogue, sometimes difficult dialogue.  But we have, I think, had a very productive meeting this week.  And I’d particularly like to add my thanks to those of the President to the people who have served as facilitators during some difficult discussions this week.

We also appreciate the active participation on the part of program countries, including some Ministers and other senior officials who have come from capitals.  And, we are honoured by the participation of special guests.

I also would like to offer my appreciation for the outstanding work that is being done both in the field and at the National Committees, much of which has informed our discussions on this Annual Meeting.

In my first 13 months as Executive Director, I have appreciated the opportunity to gain firsthand insights into the unique perspectives of so many countries.  In fact, I have visited a total of 27 countries, including 11 National Committees, in Africa, in Asia, in Europe, in Central America.

Everywhere I go, I see that UNICEF’s people are the lifeblood of the organization, and I have been incredibly moved by so much of what I have seen.  They are not just vital to the work that we do, but they are also a source of great pride.

I’d also like to add a special thanks to another person that is here for his last Board meeting; you heard from him earlier this week, and that is Tom McDermott, who is now in his last Board meeting and has been the Regional Director for Middle East and Northern Africa.  He began with UNICEF in 1972 and has served in several positions in both the field and at headquarters.  We will miss his expertise and his leadership, and we thank him for his service.

And, of course, I would like to add my word of thanks and praise to Ndolamb Ngokwey, the Secretary of the Board, who has done such an outstanding job.  He has been the Board’s direct link, and he has fostered open dialogue and he’s fostered teamwork, and for that we’re very appreciative.  But he’s not going too far, as you know, and we are very proud to have a UNICEF person in his new assignment as Resident Coordinator in Mozambique.  We know he’ll do a tremendous job.

All of the efforts of the UNICEF team, with the Executive Board as vital members, are helping contribute to UNICEF’s culture of continuous improvement and achieving results for children.

Children are at the heart of the international agenda.  We have had several opportunities this week to discuss how the work of UNICEF contributes to real results for children, and the need to continue working for sustainable development and on behalf of their rights.

As many of you know, today is the opening day of the FIFA World Cup in Germany.  And I wanted to tell you that UNICEF is proud to share this global stage with FIFA in the “Unite for Children, Unite for Peace” campaign.  The effort aims to promote non-violence, tolerance and peace, along with the benefits of sport for development.

Sport teaches not just important values such as teamwork, fairness and communication, but it also teaches the importance of interdependence.  All of these concepts are at the heart of development.

Last week, UNICEF also hosted players from the National Basketball Association and NBA Commissioner David Stern to launch a new public-service campaign in support of “Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS.”  I was struck by something Commissioner Stern said during that event.  One of the most important things that sport teaches children, he said, is not how to win, but how to lose.

In humanitarian and development settings, we are often dealt setbacks, but there will always be another opportunity to meet the needs that exist, improve ourselves and to move forward.

It is this kind of improvement that will be sought throughout UNICEF’s organizational review process.  But let me be clear that the overall review and the function-specific reviews will not be excuses for complacency or inaction.  When we identify changes that will strengthen the organization, then we will work to put them in place immediately.

The adoption of the new policy on cost recovery is a strong message of support in our quest for continuous improvement, to make our business processes more flexible and attuned to a changing aid environment.  The 50-post rotation and recruitment process I mentioned on Monday is another example.  The review process is just that: a process, it is not a destination.

This week, there has also been a special focus on child protection issues, in particular concerning violence against children and women.  UNICEF is committed to this ongoing mission, and to addressing child protection.  UNICEF will implement the conclusions in the forthcoming UN Secretary-General’s study on violence against children in our work with partners and in our cooperative programs with Governments.

We expect great things as UNICEF’s 60th year advances.  I am pleased that the State of the World’s Children 2007, which will be released in December, will focus on a topic that is critically important: the linkages between the condition of women, and what that means for children.

We are finding that a lot can be learned about a country’s children, its socio-economic development, and its future by how it treats its women.  Concepts such as gender parity and gender equity cannot be abstract; they must be energetically implemented, because they will yield vast benefits.

I am also proud that the first State of the World’s Children report launched during my tenure focused on excluded and invisible children, and critical protection issues, such as trafficking.

I often speak on the need achieve the Millennium Development Goals, but doing so would be a hollow victory if it were accomplished at the expense of disparities, inequities and vast numbers of children left behind.  That is why, as I have often said, our focus must be on results for children, and how we get to them: integration of programs and services, strong partnerships and leadership.

In order to get results, it is vital that we have credible data so that we can measure our progress.  That is why I am pleased to announce that we are increasing the frequency of country-level Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, moving from a five-year rotation to a three-year rotation.  These surveys are critical in filling data gaps, and they will become increasingly important as the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals approaches in 2015.

As we go forward from this Board session, we must endeavour to sustain the momentum that will be needed to produce results for children, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Each of us has the power to help shape UNICEF as a vigorous agent of change for children, and as an architect of a better world.  Thank you very much, Mr. President.