Remarks for Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At a UNICEF Board Meeting

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
June 1, 2010




AS DELIVERED

Let me begin by thanking Ambassador Abdul Momen for his continuing leadership of the UNICEF Executive Board and the other Bureau members for their important contributions as well.

Allow me also to warmly welcome UNICEF’s new Executive Director, Tony Lake. The United States is grateful to him for his myriad contributions. He is a truly distinguished public servant with vast global experience. He will be a great champion for the world’s children and UNICEF’s causes and programs, including vaccines, nutrition, education, child protection, pandemic preparedness, and the Water and Health Partnership.

In his public remarks over the past month and in his presentation this morning to the Board, the Executive Director has set out his vision for UNICEF. He has echoed the Secretary-General’s view that women and children – especially girls – must be at the very heart of all of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

He has also stressed the need to focus in particular on the “forgotten children” who have been left behind simply because they were born poor, or female, or in the wrong social group, or in the wrong country or region.

The United States believes that UNICEF has a critical role to play as a global advocate for these “forgotten children” and agrees with the Executive Director’s observation that addressing their urgent needs is a moral and strategic imperative. His emphasis on putting their face on the MDG’s should be a powerful theme for UNICEF’s public outreach.

Considerable progress has been made globally towards achieving the MDG’s over the past decade, but the gains are far from sufficient and have been extremely uneven among and within regions and countries. Progress has been particularly disappointing on the cluster of MDG’s most directly related to children: health, hunger and education. We support the Executive Director’s emphasis on addressing the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and agree that reaching the poorest twenty percent is crucial to our efforts to achieve the MDG’s in a sustainable manner.

As President Obama reiterated last September in his speech to the General Assembly, the United States is deeply committed to achieving the MDG’s by 2015. We favor a holistic approach that aims to make progress on all of the MDG’s. This requires an emphasis on crosscutting issues such as governance, security, national ownership, gender and human rights. But there is also considerable evidence that targeted local and national policies that improve the lives of children can have powerful spillover effects and promote progress across many MDG’s.

These include, in particular, initiatives that empower girls and women by improving their health, educational level, and social integration.

Over the next six weeks, the member states of the General Assembly – including those represented on this Board – will be negotiating the outcome document for the September MDG Summit. This document needs to provide a concise and powerful statement of the global community’s determination to make much more rapid progress on the MDG’s over the next five years.

It should also underscore the need to focus more on gender and children’s issues as part of our broader approach to development.

Moreover, after years of discussing this issue, we are now much closer than ever to reaching agreement on a resolution that would establish a new gender entity and would bring greater coherence to the governance and funding of the UN development system. This would bring important benefits to both donor and recipient countries and would be a major step forward in mainstreaming gender issues across all of the UN’s agencies, programs and activities.

Unfortunately, these negotiations could still falter at the final hurdle if we do not demonstrate sufficient political will. I urge the members of this Board to push for the negotiations to be wrapped up by the end of this month. Failure cannot be an option.

As UNICEF moves forward with its critical efforts to meet the needs of children, especially the “forgotten,” it can build on important organizational strengths and the major internal reforms it has already undertaken. It leads the UN development system in implementing new and innovative partnerships that team up with governments, foundations, NGOs, and the private sector.

In doing so, it has leveraged its valuable brand name, built from its long history of producing results, and has generated hundreds of millions in private contributions. Today, roughly a third of UNICEF’s resources come from private sources, an extraordinary testament to the respect it has achieved and its ability to inspire.

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.

This year’s Haitian crisis underscored the importance of UNICEF receiving adequate core financing. Because it already had a strong base presence on the ground, UNICEF was able to ramp up its program rapidly. Private American donors also continue to contribute generously to UNICEF’s vital work. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF raised more than $480 million in private funding and in-kind contributions in 2009.

Mr. President, during last fall’s General Assembly session, the United States was pleased to join consensus on the Rights of the Child resolution, reflecting our deep commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of children in the United States and around the world.

While the United States has signed but not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we are a party to its Optional Protocols—the tenth anniversary of which will be commemorated at this week’s Board meeting. Consistent with the goals of the Convention, the United States uses its extensive network of federal, state, and local programs to provide strong protections for children.

In conclusion Mr. President, UNICEF has a proud tradition of accomplishment and has improved the lives of millions of children around the world.

We look forward to discussing more this week Executive Director Lake’s plans for building up this tremendous foundation and preparing UNICEF to meet the challenges that still lie ahead. As always, he will find the United States an active and committed partner.

Thank you.

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PRN: 2010/111