Statement by Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, at the UNICEF Executive Board

Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
U.S. Representative to ECOSOC 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY, United States
June 5, 2012


Thank you, Mr. President and thank you members of the Bureau, for your engagement, dedication and commitment to improving the lives of children around the world. I also want to warmly thank Executive Director Lake for his annual report and outstanding leadership of UNICEF, Geeta Rao Gupta for her presentation and leadership and to all the UNICEF staff worldwide for their dedicated work.

UNICEF continues to be at the forefront of major advances in children’s heath and well-being, including the significant decrease in under-5 child mortality and new efforts to better address the needs of children with disabilities and to implement innovative uses for new technologies. Every day, we see better policies, better governance, and new technologies bearing fruit.

Yet despite this progress, much remains to be done. We still live in a world where, every year, over 7 million children never reach their fifth birthday, where children suffer needlessly from malnutrition and diseases for which we have vaccinations and cures, and where children are affected by conflict and natural disaster. We must do more to ensure that all children have access to education and opportunities and can benefit from the full range of life-saving interventions.

That is why in April the US Agency for International Development launched the “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” awareness-raising campaign, and why the Governments of Ethiopia, India, and the United States, are working in close collaboration with UNICEF to convene the Child Survival Call to Action next week in Washington. The Call to Action will be an invitation for leaders from around the world to come together with leaders from the private sector, civil society, and faith communities to chart a global roadmap for newborn, child and maternal survival.

This roadmap will outline a vision of what can be achieved. It will call attention to innovative approaches that countries have pioneered to reduce child deaths more quickly. It will use indicators and improved monitoring to reinforce mutual accountability and hold all parties to account, and it will build on strategic shifts in how we “do business” that can move us closer to ending preventable child deaths globally. The world now has the knowledge and the technology needed to reach this goal. All countries need to look to the latest data in order to determine the right mix of interventions and strategies to have the greatest impact on saving children’s lives. Countries must chart their own paths in scaling-up proven, cost-effective interventions that will enable new tools and technologies to reach the children and families who need them most.

We need to join together to meet global challenges more broadly. The United States remains the largest government donor to UNICEF. Over the past year, we have contributed more than $132 million to UNICEF’s core funding and $213 million in regular resources, including large contributions to emergency appeals and to support worldwide immunization efforts. We are proud of the tremendous generosity shown by private American donors committed to UNICEF’s lifesaving work, including more than $86 million provided by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in 2011.

We are encouraged that UNICEF has continued to grow its fundraising and partnership efforts by successfully leveraging direct contributions and new partnerships with non-governmental organizations. Yet major funding gaps remain and we must all do more collectively to increase contributions to UNICEF.

Mr. President, increased oversight and transparency in UNICEF’s operations remains a priority for the United States, and we fully endorse the UNICEF leadership’s proposal for full public disclosure of internal audits in 2012. UNICEF’s plan for increasing transparency will safeguard sensitive information while preserving the independence of the Office of Audits and Investigations, and we look forward to the adoption of a decision to permit public access to UNICEF’s audits at this Board meeting. This will allow the broader public to see more clearly how UNICEF uses donor contributions to help the children, families, and communities who receive UNICEF lifesaving services, and it will be crucial to building and maintaining public confidence and support for the organization, as well as broadening its donor base. When governments and private individuals around the world are able to read audit findings and management's responses, recipient countries in particular will be able to exercise greater ownership of UNICEF programs, a goal that everyone shares.

In conclusion Mr. President, UNICEF has a proud record of achievements and has improved the lives of millions of children around the world. As always, you will find the United States an active and committed partner in addressing the needs of the world’s children. We look forward to working together in the coming days to advance the essential work of this organization. Thank you very much.