New leader opens key UNICEF meeting in New York

UNICEF's Norwegian Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson applauds Executive Director Anthony Lake. Photo: Mission of Norway/Emma K Lydersen

UNICEF's Norwegian Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson applauds Executive Director Anthony Lake. Photo: Mission of Norway/Emma K Lydersen

UNICEFs new leader Anthony Lake opened his first annual Executive Board meeting by thanking those gathered and the UN Secretary General for having given him what he called “the greatest opportunity of my life”. Lake urged everyone to increase their efforts to secure the rights of every child, not least “the forgotten child” who is marginalized because of gender, ethnic identity or class affiliation.

The annual Executive Board meeting takes place in New York from June 1-4.

During his opening remarks, Lake spoke of the progress that has been achieved in large part because of UNICEF:

• In 2009, UNICEF procured nearly 3 billion doses of life-saving vaccines, averting an estimated 2.5 million deaths each year

• Worldwide 34 million more children are attending school today than 20 years ago

• The under-five mortality rate has been reduced by more than 50% since 1970

Despite great strides globally and nationally, Lake cautioned that statistics can conceal large regional and local differences. As an example he used Brazil which on average has achieved great results in terms of reducing child mortality. The results are much more uneven when you analyze the numbers region by region. The picture would be the same for many other countries. Lake warned that results that rely on averaging alone could yield “a statistical success, but a moral failure.”

Lake emphasized the importance of having a gender perspective in all UNICEF activities, both internal and external. He said that it makes economic sense for society to ensure that all children, especially girls, can access quality healthcare services and gain a proper education.

Like Lake, Norway’s UN Ambassador Morten Wetland stressed that educating girls is good economics. Norway is the largest donor in terms of UNICEF’s education programs and has contributed NOK 1 billion (USD 155 million) over two years towards education for girls.

Ambassador Wetland also referred to the fact that Norway has taken a particular responsibility in terms of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 that deal with reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. So far there have been few positive developments, and the Ambassador urged other countries to raise their level of support, in particular by supporting the Secretary General’s Joint Action Plan to Improve the Health for women and Children.

Anthony Lake will visit Norway on June 14-15 and will hold political talks with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, the Development Minister, Defense Minister and the Norwegian parliament, the Storting.

Source: Norway Mission to the UN

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