Excellencies, Executive Director Fore, Distinguished Delegates, Dear Colleagues – it has been an extraordinary session. Our very first annual session held virtually. And belying all initial apprehensions, it was an extraordinary success. I sincerely thank everyone for their support, understanding and cooperation. And a special thanks to OSEB for their usual excellent support.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to the facilitators and our experts whose hard work and constructive approach made it possible to adopt six decisions at this session. Such dedicated efforts at every level to ensure business continuity enabled the Board to continue to exercise its oversight function, despite the challenges and constraints imposed by the pandemic. Indeed, the crisis has made the timely work of the Board even more critical to support UNICEF to carry out its work for children and families everywhere, especially the most vulnerable. And I thank you all for that!
I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of UNICEF not only to continue its work as planned, but to confront, with an innovative and can-do spirit, the impact of COVID-19 – whether in delivering supplies and services; promoting clean water and sanitation; supporting continued education and digital solutions; or ensuring child protection; UNICEF delivered. We know that we can count on UNICEF’s commitment to carry out its mission no matter the circumstances.
We were pleased to see the detailed report on the pandemic impact on the different programmes. We recognize the need for continuous monitoring of the situation and its impact.
As we have seen during this emergency, much can be achieved through effective inter-agency collaboration. And it is important that such efforts complement and support the work of national governments, through a consultative process.
We were pleased to hear of UNICEF’s collaboration with other United Nations agencies, as this is key to mitigating the crisis for children.
As requested by the Board, the experience of the past few months, as well as the lessons of the midterm review, the common chapter and the upcoming discussions on the QCPR, will inform the development of the next strategic plan.
Much will need to be rebuilt. We welcome UNICEF’s plans to support our Governments to build back better, with a more equitable, inclusive and greener society; with a focus on innovation, efficiency and value for money.
I fully concur with the four areas – the “equalizers” as the ED Fore mentioned in her opening remarks on Monday. Maintaining routine immunizations for children is a must as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. Safely reopening schools and scaling up digital solutions and connectivity must be a priority. Providing clean water and sanitation, which are critical to staying safe during the pandemic. And providing better mental health support and psychosocial programming for children, recognizing that they need our support in this area to cope with the anxieties and uncertainties of a world that has rapidly changed.
The thematic presentation of the country programme documents highlighted the vital function of social protection, with UNICEF having supported the Governments to strengthen and expand their social protection systems; more relevant now than ever in light of Covid-19.
We were pleased to hear the remarks made by our guest speakers, Ms. Zulu, Minister of Social Development, South Africa; as well as Ambassador Amde, the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia here in New York. We also welcomed the participation of UNICEF colleagues from the regional and country offices. It was important for us to get the perspective from the ground.
COVID-19 has shown the benefits of digital technologies in the fields of education and health. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, there are, however, many challenges for ensuring universal access to digital platforms in a safe and affordable manner in many developing countries. UNICEF can leverage on its comparative advantage of extensive field presence to help developing countries overcome access to digital platforms, and share good practices regarding online teaching materials and interactive tools for teachers and students.
The discussion on the Gender Action Plan and on the evaluation of the plan showed progress, but we also recognize where more progress needs to be made on the ground, such as HIV prevention.
During the discussion on humanitarian action, we heard about efforts by UNICEF to reach women, girls and boys in crisis-affected countries with gender-based violence services, a key priority for UNICEF and an important step in ensuring their safety and well-being. We also noted the longer term funding requirements for UNICEF to facilitate the linking of humanitarian and development programming.
We heard about the ongoing trend of declining regular resources; about its critical importance to the work of UNICEF, and the Member States’ concerns about possible long-term impacts in attaining programme implementation and delivering results for children.
We need UNICEF more than ever, to support countries to achieve the SDGs and to see that no one is left behind. I hope that countries will continue to prioritize the world’s children, through their continued financial support to the organization.
I would like to thank once again, the Executive Director for her support and leadership. I thank the UNICEF senior management team (Mr. Abdi, Ms. Suleiman) and other officials for being with us throughout this session. I thank my fellow Bureau members for their rock-solid support, and for always being there.
A special thanks to the UNICEF staff members around the world, some of whose achievements we celebrated through the Staff Team Awards. You are the core of this organization and we are grateful for your dedication. A special thanks to the Secretary of our Board and her excellent team for their tireless efforts to ensure that we have a seamless session, and for their support to us always.
I wish you all good health and look forward to our next session in September, hopefully in person. I thank you. Stay well, stay safe.