UNICEF Executive Board closes session with a look at the organization’s work in the field and adopts important decisions
NEW YORK, USA, 8 June 2012 – Wrapping up the final day of its Annual Session, the UNICEF Executive Board adopted a number of decisions on the work of the organization, including making all UNICEF audit reports publicly available on the Internet, starting later this year.
The Board members also discussed the reports of their recent field visits, which allowed them to witness UNICEF’s widespread achievements for children but also to better understand the continuing challenges the organization faces in carrying out its work in the field.
In separate field visits, Executive Board delegations travelled to Sri Lanka and the Pacific Island countries to assess UNICEF country programmes serving vulnerable children and communities there. Board members also undertook a joint field visit with partner UN agencies to Djibouti and Ethiopia.
Sustained efforts on behalf of children
Executive Board Vice President and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya to the United Nations Macharia Kamau briefed the Board on the visit to Sri Lanka, which took place in late February. The delegation, comprising members of the Executive Board’s Bureau, met with senior government officials and travelled to northern areas of the country still recovering from civil conflict.
The delegation observed that Sri Lanka has made rapid strides since the end of conflict, progress that can be attributed to its sustained efforts on behalf of children. “What was amazing to some of us was that during that civil war, the Government of Sri Lanka remained committed and made great efforts at continuing to support children…. They still sent money for vaccinations, for support to basic education and so forth, which was really a remarkable thing,” Mr. Kamau said.
“If you look at the basic indicators of Sri Lanka today, despite the – as I said – very difficult history of the last 30-odd years, Sri Lanka has clearly some of the best child health indicators in their region,” he continued. “And this is a remarkable achievement. There are lessons to be learned here.”
The visits also revealed continuing challenges. In March, members of the Board visited the Solomon Islands and Fiji, Pacific Island countries threatened by an alarming confluence of problems, including climate change, vulnerability to natural disasters, widespread poverty, as well as poor inter-island connectivity that impedes the provision of services.
“In many low-lying islands of the Pacific, there is no retreat to high ground, no safe haven,” said Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations.
Mr. Dapkiunas also spoke of one Pacific country the delegation was not able to visit: Kiribati. “We couldn’t make it there… a perfect illustration of the nature and acuteness of challenges that the people of the Pacific – and those who help them – have to deal with... challenges from logistics, planning, cost of delivery and the sense of an ever-looming disaster.”
Focus on collaboration
The joint visit to Djibouti and Ethiopia – made with members of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), UN-Women and the World Food Programme (WFP) – underscored the importance of close coordination among all development partners.
“The two countries are making progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but they also facing tremendous challenges... and require continued and sustained support,” said Economic Minister of Bangladesh Nojibur Rahman, who serves as co-team leader of the delegation. “There is need for coordination among all development partners – national and international, between governments and ministries and between governments and the UN system.”
Highlighting the equity agenda
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake closed the session by reaffirming the organization’s renewed focus on equity. “We are working to serve all the more the most disadvantaged children… which is at the heart of the equity strategy both beyond and within UNICEF.”
Nina Nordström, Minister Counsellor of Finland and Executive Board Vice President, echoed these sentiments. “UNICEF aims to become more effective in reaching the poorest families and the most vulnerable children who need our help most. This is what the organization’s focus on equity agenda is about: to bridge the vast gulf between the rich and poor… We have had genuine exchange between UNICEF, members of the Executive Board, and among Board members on a wide range of issues. Seven good decisions have been discussed and adopted … including a ground-breaking decision towards greater transparency and accountability.
“This year’s field visits of the Executive Board to Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Ethiopia and the Pacific Islands also allowed us to witness the challenges in implementing the equity approach in the field … [and] the importance of supporting such an equity-focused approach,” she said. “We must continue to work together to meet our commitments toward a future we want for all by creating a world fit for children.”