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Statement to the United Nations and Vice-President of UNICEF Executive Board


Mr. President,

On behalf of the African Group members of the Executive Board, I would like to congratulate you on your election to lead this important Board. I am confident that under your able leadership, we shall achieve our objectives for this and the coming sessions. Allow me Mr. President to salute the hard work carried out by the bureau in 2011 under the excellent leadership of Ambassador Sanja Stiglic. I also thank the Executive Director, Mr. Anthony Lake, for his comprehensive and insightful report this morning.

Mr. President,

UNICEF’s work has over the past half century continued to be a shining example of how the United Nations and, indeed, the broader multilateral system, can be responsive to the real needs of development, the poor and the marginalized, while maintaining an openly constructive critical and progressive stance towards developing nations, and the broader multilateral system.

What we have heard from the Executive Director today falls in that tradition. A thorough self-critical analysis of what needs to be done better, juxtaposed as a series of propositions for innovative and, hopefully, transformative ideas.

We are pleased to hear how UNICEF intends to better innovate and carry out improvements in programmes that promise a better delivery capability. Equally, we learnt that UNICEF intends to innovate on its product line to ensure that better programme content, supplies and related goods reach the most needy. Thirdly, we were told that UNICEF intends to seek better outcomes from its programmes and products by innovating its processes in a manner that we expect will improve efficiency and effectiveness. Lastly, the Executive Director explained to us how he expects UNICEF will innovate partnership relationship in a manner that will not only improve “delivery as one” as we know it, but hopefully, bring increased resources to bear on the problems that face children in the world.

Recently, the SG presented his vision to his second term in presenting his five-year, five-point plan the Secretary-General of the United Nations made clear and unequivocal commitments to define his success in terms that speak, to a large measure, to areas that UNICEF has been a champion of for decades. To have the Secretary-General join the broader, global partnership for children in this manner was not only unprecedented but a welcome development that UNICEF should seize on and exploit. Having said this, the African Group remains deeply concerned with the slow progress and the enormous challenges that still face children today, especially in Africa.

Sadly, the majority of MDGs which in fact are a low threshold set of targets appear not to be achievable for many countries, including a large number in Africa. This is an unequivocal indictment not only of the countries themselves but of the global partnership that is committed to the achievement of MDGs and that would include UNICEF.

Mr. President,

All the innovations promised by the Executive Director today, will amount to very little, if the MDGs, particularly those directly impacting children, are not met in time in a firm and sustainable manner.

What this suggests for the African Group is that UNICEF, together with its global partnerships must raise its level of ambition. The Secretary-General was unequivocal in his call to accelerate progress on the MDGs by meeting poverty reduction targets by focusing on eliminating inequalities, eliminating deaths by top killers, implementing the global strategy on women and children’s health, ending stunted growth, and catalyzing the achievement of quality and universal education. The African Group believes that UNICEF too needs to raise a clarion call to advocate and make commitments that not only make the MDGs achievable in time and sustainably, but where possible, surpasses them in order to produce transformative health, education and protection outcomes among others. Those of us from Africa want to believe that if the will is there, these outcomes can be achieved. The African Group recognizes that resources are an integral part of the achievement if these outcomes that we seek on behalf of our children are to be realized.

Mr. President,

In a period when the on-going financial and economic crisis is resulting in a decline in regular resources for many agencies, the African Group would like to commend the efforts of UNICEF for increasing the regular resources by 13%. As we march towards the target date of 2015, we must continue to mobilize sufficient and predictable financing in order to consolidate the modest gains made so far. Cost effectiveness should be viewed in the context of efficiency and equity. It should not be used to cut down on programming. The African Group is grateful to UNICEF’s leadership for aggressively strengthening partnerships that have witnessed a greater participation by non-traditional donors. We urge UNICEF to maintain and sustain the excellent work and court more donors for further revenue growth.

Mr. President,

In the past year, Africa was hit by various crises that complicated humanitarian intervention. The African group would like to express its appreciation to UNICEF and the entire UN system for the work they carried out particularly during the drought in the Horn of Africa and the crisis in North Africa. While the crises are stabilizing, thanks to the combined response by the governments of the region, the United Nations organizations and the international community, there are still many pockets of populations particularly children and youth that are suffering. Long term malnutrition leading to hunger and starvation are the gravest threats to the public health concerns of children and indeed the two largest contributors to the illness and death of children. The situation in Somalia, however, is still far from being brought under control due to a vicious terror group that continually impedes humanitarian activities in parts of that country. Alarm bells are currently ringing in West Africa’s Sahel region due to an impending famine. The African Group challenges UNICEF, by virtue of its unique place both as a humanitarian and developmental agency to put in place a comprehensive strategy and programmes address the crises.

Mr. President,

Under-five Child mortality is still unacceptably high despite the efforts being put in place by African Governments to arrest the situation. Advances made in HIV/AIDS and malaria over the last decade are in danger of being clawed back by declining resources and competing priorities. In order to address these challenges, African Governments are currently expanding health facilities and ensuring that the same are equipped with medicines, equipment and personnel. The African Group supports UNICEF’s collaboration with the Global Fund and its partnership with agencies as well as a cross section of the civil society and other partners in efforts to reduce cases of HIV/AIDs, malaria and Tuberculosis transmission. It is in this regard that essential PMTCT programmes go hand in hand with comprehensive pediatric care.

During the last session, the Board was informed of the new joint partnership initiative that is enabling UNICEF to strengthen its technical and financial support to PMTCT programmes funded by PEPFAR. The report identified poverty and exclusion as important issues that stand in the way of achieving MDG 4, 5 and 6. Indeed, without comprehensively dealing with poverty, it will be nigh impossible to achieve any of the MDGs. The African Group would therefore, like further information on how the PEPFAR partnership is opening up opportunities to address poverty and health-related MDGs.

Mr. President,

The African Group appreciates the progress made pertaining to the roadmap to an integrated budget by 2014. Profound gratitude goes to all the agencies involved for their efforts as we are well aware of the complicated nature of the exercise. We believe, however, that this is an important process, and that it is crucial that we are kept updated to ensure the eventual smooth transition to the integrated budget. The bottom line is that we would like to see a clear nexus between objectives and processes on one part, and results and outcomes on the other.

On human resources, the need to achieve the widest geographical representation in UNICEF’s recruitment is an important aspect that has to be continually emphasized. This position is predicated upon the fact that certain regions are under-represented and that competent and qualified personnel can be recruited from all regions and trained on the specificity of the demands of the task and the uniqueness of UNICEF.

Mr. President

In Late June 2012, the world will focus its attention on Rio+20 Conference. We have heard preparatory briefings on the engagement by various agencies on the important subject of sustainable development and how it impacts on the various mandates of the agencies. We believe that children and youth have a lot at stake on the outcome of the conference. It is in this regard that UNICEF has to involve itself deeply in the process leading up to the conference and even probably engage with the board on how issues of its constituency can be best articulated and captured and addressed. One way is to hold a thematic discussion on sustainable development, including the Rio+20 processes and its impact on children.

Mr. President,

At the end of 2011, African heads of state and government took the bold and timely decision to bring further spotlight on FGM. It is time that this practice was stamped out of our communities. This year, the African Group together with partners will present a resolution in the General Assembly to firmly deal with FGM. We hope UNICEF will engage in this matter

Mr. President,

For Africa, the importance of education cannot be overemphasized. Not only does education have its intrinsic value that we all know about and appreciate, but it also has a very important social regulation and cohesion value. Educated children know not to pursue early marriage or indulge in harmful practices, but rather aspired to success and even leadership while shunning violence and abuse in the home and in the society. For these and many other related reasons, the African Group urges UNICEF to enhance its work in education in partnership with other agencies.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, by way of emphasis. The deadline of 2015 looms large. But more important, the daily toll of death and suffering of children remains unacceptable and an indictment on us all. MDGs must therefore be met. Failure is simply not an option. The contribution of diseases on child mortality must be eliminated or brought close to zero. The knowledge and technology exists. Resources can be found. The policy and development imperative is self evident. Therefore, the level of commitment must match the ambition just as the ambition must be equated to the level of need and deadly urgency that faces children especially in Africa.

UNICEF as the global standard bearer must set the bar high and must mobilize the global partnership for children to respond accordingly. The historical moment is upon us. We can bring together innovative programmes, products, processes and partnerships in a way to transform opportunities for children. And to do this, UNICEF must not only maximize the realization of MDG 8 and the resources contained therein but it must devise strategies and tools to leverage and mobilize local resources available nationally for children in consistent, predictable and determinable ways. Our actions have also to be matched with the opportunities that exist in the resourcing context of the South-South and Triangular cooperation. Having taken into account the promise of institutional excellence through innovation, the African Group is seeking to get a sense of how UNICEF will innovate around the clarion call for a higher level of ambition by partners and governments to deliver for children.

Finally, I would like to thank UNICEF under the stewardship of Mr. Anthony Lake and the Executive Board under President John Ashe. UNICEF is the face of children and the African Group is proud to partner with it both at the regional and headquarter level. The African Group shall continue to support and collaborate with UNICEF in order to deliver on our promises to children.

I thank you!

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