UNICEF is committed to doing all it can to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in partnership with governments, civil society, business, academia and the United Nations family – and especially children and young people.
NEW YORK/GENEVA, 27 April 2005 -- UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy completes her ten-year tenure with UNICEF this week, bestowing to her successor a legacy focused not only on child survival, but on protecting children from exploitation and abuse and ensuring their well-being through adolescence.
“Leading UNICEF has been an honor and a privilege,” said Bellamy, who often called her position “the best job in the world.” “I can think of no work that is more vital to humanity than working to ensure that children everywhere survive their early years and grow up with health, dignity and peace.”
Originally appointed in 1995 by then-UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Bellamy was granted a second five-year term in 2000 by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Under UN policy, agency heads may serve no more than two five-year terms.
Bellamy’s successor as UNICEF Executive Director is Ann M. Veneman, who prior to joining UNICEF was the United States Secretary of Agriculture. Ms. Veneman begins her tenure next week.
While continuing UNICEF’s tradition of excellence in such areas as child immunization and nutrition, Bellamy was instrumental in putting issues of child exploitation on the global agenda. She spoke out for the rights and protection of the most marginalized and vulnerable children – child victims of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking, children without families, children affected by conflict, children in prison. She broke taboos on speaking about issues like child sex tourism, child labour and the trafficking of children to industrialized countries.
“Protecting children from abuse is not only a moral imperative in itself, but fundamental to achieving the world’s long-term development goals,” Bellamy said.
Until children have a safety net that protects them from abuse, any progress made globally toward reducing poverty, illiteracy or child mortality will be undermined, she said.
Throughout her tenure, Bellamy was fearless in confronting leaders who were failing to protect children, traveling to Sudan, Sri Lanka and Sierra Leone to push for the demobilization of child soldiers and meeting with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan about their refusal to educate girls.
Overseeing UNICEF during years when the world saw an increase in violent conflicts, Bellamy better prepared UNICEF to respond to humanitarian emergencies. UNICEF was instrumental in getting children back to school after years of war in Afghanistan, monitoring and attending to severe nutritional needs of children affected by war in Iraq, and helping to ensure immediate sustenance and protection, as well as a return to school, for children affected by the South Asian tsunami.
Bellamy made restoring schooling in emergencies a hallmark of UNICEF’s work, recognizing that getting children back into a learning enviroment as soon as possible allows children to be children again and gives them a friendly space to escape from the hardships and chaos they have endured.
Bellamy embraced education of all children, but especially girls, as the key to facing the threats such as those posed by HIV/AIDS, exploitation and extreme poverty. During her tenure, UNICEF became one of the world’s strongest advocates for getting as many girls as boys into school, arguing that educating girls yields spectacular social benefits for the current generation and those to come.
“As women are the primary caretakers of children around the world, the better off women are, the better off their children are,” Bellamy said. “When women are educated, when they are moderately empowered to earn an income, and generally healthy, their children are more likely to survive, go to school, and grow to become productive citizens themselves. That is why educating girls and ensuring the rights of women is central to the mission of UNICEF.”
UNICEF’s focus on ensuring girls’ right to education was a reflection of Bellamy’s belief that by addressing and advocating for children’s rights, it was possible not only to tackle the root causes of such things as child mortality and disease, but to effect lasting improvements in the lives of future generations of children.
Expressing her pride in UNICEF’s achievements, Bellamy said she leaves UNICEF with a deep awareness of how much more needs to be done for children, particularly as they face the threats of HIV/AIDS, conflict and extreme poverty.
“It is impossible to finish the work of protecting children and guaranteeing them the rights they deserve,” she said. “It is a job that never decreases in importance or urgency.”
Bellamy leaves behind a fiscally sound organization with strong internal controls. During her tenure, she doubled UNICEF's resources from roughly $800 million in 1994 to more than $1.8 billion in 2004.
Notable advances for children during Bellamy’s tenure at UNICEF include:
A 16 percent drop in child mortality worldwide since 1990, with progress in every region except sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS and conflict have devastated health systems and community coping mechanisms
A 99 percent reduction in polio since 1988
A 40 percent reduction in measles since 1999
A 50 percent decrease in diarrhea deaths since 1990
A greater number of children in school than ever before
The enactment of national laws and policies in dozens of countries to better protect and service children
After leaving UNICEF, Bellamy will take a new position as CEO and President of World Learning and President of its School for International Training. World Learning, based in Vermont, is one of the world's first private, non-profit, international educational organizations.
Attention to Broadcasters: Video news package of Carol's talk today will be available through APTN on UNIFEED today. Visit www.un.org/unifeed Broadcast time is: 21:45 - 21:55 GMT and re-feed 2:45 - 2:55 GMT.