Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to address the UNICEF Board this morning—both to underscore the great importance the United States attaches to UNICEF’s mission and work, and to herald the important accomplishments of UNICEF Director Ann Veneman.
For several years, I have had the privilege of working with Ann Veneman and witnessing her unwavering commitment to the cause of saving, protecting, and enriching the lives of millions of children worldwide. From your very first days in office, you underscored UNICEF’s crucial role in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
As the head of UNICEF, you have energetically championed many of the most important causes facing humanity—from child survival, nutritional security, and combating violence against women and girls to preventing the spread of diseases such as polio and HIV/AIDS.
In 2008, under Director Veneman’s leadership, for the first time in history, the absolute number of child deaths under the age of 5 fell below 10 million. Recent figures suggest a continuing downward trend.
A 2009 UNICEF report notes a 20 percent increase in exclusive breastfeeding in 16 developing countries. The number of children receiving Vitamin A supplements in Least Developed Countries has more than doubled, to almost 90 percent. And throughout Asia and Africa, rates of stunted growth have significantly declined.
President Obama repeatedly stresses that America’s security and wellbeing are inextricably linked to the security and wellbeing of people everywhere—a point exemplified in his affirmation of America’s commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals. To achieve these essential goals, we must begin with improving the lives of children. America’s commitment to the UN and especially to UNICEF and its mission has never been stronger than it is today.
The U.S. government and the American public have long been generous supporters of UNICEF, and the United States remains the largest donor to UNICEF. Last year, the U.S. government contributed $130 million to UNICEF’s core funding and an additional $170 million in non-core funding, including large contributions to emergency appeals and to support worldwide immunization efforts. We are also proud of the tremendous generosity shown by private American donors committed to UNICEF’s lifesaving work. The U.S. National Fund raised more than $480 million in private funding and in-kind contributions in 2009.
In the past few years, UNICEF, like many UN funds and programs, has experienced a significant increase in available resources, both through direct contributions and new and evolving partnerships with non-governmental organizations.
This has opened enormous opportunities, but it has also meant considerable challenges—both in terms of management of the organization and in terms of ensuring that resources are being used most effectively to help those most in need.
Under Ann Veneman’s leadership, UNICEF, in close collaboration with its Executive Board, has made considerable strides toward modernizing itself as an organization, instituting greater transparency and accountability, and demonstrating that its resources are having the greatest impact in improving the lives of children. She led a major organizational review and encouraged greater use of innovative technology to find new ways for UNICEF to more effectively deliver on its mandate.
I want to personally thank and commend Director Veneman for her leadership, her commitment, and her dedicated service.
As an Executive Board, it is our responsibility to continue to build on the strong foundation that she has helped lay. In particular, we should strive to forge better understanding, cooperation, and partnership among ourselves to better guide UNICEF’s efforts to support the development goals of program countries.
We also need to work together as an Executive Board to ensure that recent institutional reforms are preserved, built upon, and engrained into UNICEF’s organizational culture. This is especially crucial at a time when national budgets are constrained and donors facing tough choices are, more than ever, demanding value for their contributions.
The United States is pleased that UNICEF now has in place credible and independent audit, investigations, ethics, and evaluation functions, as well as a new and more appropriate accountability framework. These are all critical elements worthy of a well functioning international organization of UNICEF’s stature.
The Executive Boards of UNICEF and UNDP and UNFPA last September took an important step forward toward improving transparency and accountability by mandating the transition of these agencies to integrated budgets by 2014. Integrated budgets should make it easier to draw linkages between resources to the achievement of management and development results. It is important—now more than ever—for funds and programs to demonstrate they are achieving results. This is the key to continued and increased funding, and to improvements in the balance between core and non-core resources.
As we look to the future, we are reminded of all the millions of children’s lives this great organization has helped save and touch. Each of those lives is precious beyond all measure. No work could be more important. And I look forward to the great things this great organization will continue to accomplish.
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