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Press release

Ann M. Veneman becomes UNICEF Executive Director

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Begins Work at UNICEF Today

NEW YORK/GENEVA, 2 May 2005 – Ann M. Veneman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, assumed the leadership of UNICEF today, becoming the fifth Executive Director to lead the UN children’s agency in its 60-year history.

“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to lead UNICEF, which is truly one of the world’s great institutions,” Ms. Veneman said Monday on her first official day at UNICEF headquarters in New York.  “Too many children in the world face hardships and challenges that should never be a part of childhood.  I look forward to continuing UNICEF’s mission of serving children around the globe.”

Veneman, who was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to succeed outgoing Executive Director Carol Bellamy, said that among her top priorities will be ensuring that UNICEF works to advance the Millennium Development Goals.

“The Millennium Development Goals reflect the wishes and the will of governments around the world,” Veneman said. “And because they place such important emphasis on the well-being of children, UNICEF has a vital role to play in helping meet the goals.”

Key to UNICEF’s continued success will be strengthening existing partnerships and building new collaborations with governments, fellow UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups and communities, Veneman said.

“Strengthening our collaboration with partners around the world can advance the goals of reducing poverty, malnutrition and disease, as well as helping to protect children from abuse and violence,” she said.

Having directed one of the largest and most complex departments of U.S. government, Veneman arrives at UNICEF with vast experience in leading a far-reaching global agency that engages with thousands of partners and governments.

As the 27th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to joining UNICEF, she directed a department of 111,000 employees; a program level of $113 billion that would rank sixth-largest if it were a U.S. corporation; and one of the most diverse and challenging missions in government.  During her tenure, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the first time received a clean financial audit, a status it then attained three years in a row.

While at the USDA, Veneman directed programs that included school meals, nutrition assistance and nutrition education, foreign food aid, and development assistance both at home and abroad. 

Much of Veneman’s career has been focused on child nutrition, public health, and alleviating hunger, including new approaches to help fight malnutrition around the world.
She previously served in various positions at USDA and in California state government, and has practiced law in Washington, D.C. and in her home state of California.

Ms. Veneman earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Davis; a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley; and a juris doctorate degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

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For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF works to advance the Millennium Development Goals by supporting child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, access to clean water and sanitation, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals.

For further information, please contact:

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York: (+1-212) 326-7261





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